The FNB Joburg Art Fair 2014 has been and gone in a flurry of drunken schmoozing and millions of rands exchanging hands. The usual lineup of galleries exhibited works from their stable of artists – some new and interesting works, but lots seen before. The special projects and arts platforms were the most interesting exhibits as they presented new projects, artists and curatorial trajectories. The Goethe’s Peregrinate: Field notes on time travel and space beautifully captured and engaged with different micro-experiences of everyday life in South Africa and Kenya. Three photographers – Thabiso Sekgala and Musa Nxumalo from South Africa and Mimi Cherono Ng’ok from Kenya – took on the role of the artist-flâneur, wandering their respective locales exploring the potential and possibilities of photography as medium to both capture their individual experience, and connect them to each others’ world. The exhibition succeeded beautifully in revealing this dislocation and creating unity through the curation. Each collection of images transported you into an intimate temporal world, and the gaps in between cast you adrift into the geographical vastness of space.
Painting featured at numerous booths at the fair, or, I was particularly attracted to these works, as is my natural penchant. Scattered in amongst prints, sculptures and works in other mediums, paintings always attract they eye – to the surface texture, colour, the trace of the artists’ hand moving across the surface of the canvas; the personal-ness of the work. But, at a fair like this, paintings also get lost – as all artworks do in a sense – lost in the scale of the overall exhibit. Art Fair provides a nice snapshot of the contemporary art being created in SA; a temperature; a one-a-piece for each artist, providing a taste of things to come; an advertisement. The winner of FNB Art Prize, Zimbabwean artist Partia Zvavahera’s paintings were a beautiful expression of the medium and of personal mythologies and symbols. The nebulous figures, pattern and bold colours of the works form an overarching visual language that signifies some personal narrative, but this story is left ambiguous – dissolving into dream-fantasy.