Jan Rupert Art Centre

AbstRacT – the hidden synchrony

17 May 2024 - 10 January 2025

  • AbstRacT – the hidden synchrony

This exhibition takes a closer look at the synchrony in the Synchromies series by Swiss psychiatrist, psychotherapist and later turned photographer Oscar Forel (1891-1982). This was published in 1961 and forms part of the Huberte Goote Art Foundation Collection. The study of trees, their growth, their bark and identifying signs of events the tree had witnessed were the crucial aspects in this series – that are truly fragments of a larger whole.

As you encounter over 30 macro photographs differing in size and scale, projecting their harmonious and natural colours, they might visually draw comparison to iconic artworks found the world over or evoke personal nostalgia. These images were taken of different tree species found across the world. Their wonderful textures portrayed by Forel’s photographs were captured by using an ordinary reflex camera on Kodachrome film, with a wide lens at 10-15cm.

Nature, from the soil to the sky, has been the inspiration for many artists over time and still is today. This is evident with the selection of South African artists from the Rupert Art Foundation Collection, who explored the wonders of textured conscious abstract innovations from the late 1950s. The South African art world was slow in accepting Abstract art – a movement characterised by its freedom from the representational and known for celebrating line, form and colour in its pure form.

The selection of abstract works in this exhibition have been paired with Synchromies, to find harmony or reciprocal synergy. These pairings enhance the ‘synchromy’ – which Forel termed – derived from “symphony” with ‘phonos’ (sound) being replaced by ‘chromos’ (colour). The bark of spruce, fir, pine, and beech, at different times of the year, invaded by fungus, seared by fire, coerced by their location into tortured, twisted shapes are similarly the types of marks, dynamic colour combinations and encrusted surfaces masterfully explored by artists such as Bettie Cilliers-Barnard (1914-2020), Christo Coetzee (1929-2000), Dirk Meerkotter (1922-2017), Georgina Ormiston (1903-1967), and Gunther van der Reis (b1927) to name a few. Just as the painters chose to free themselves from tradition by creating abstract marks on canvas, so Forel found abstract line, form and colour already existing in nature.

As for contemporary engagement, dialogue and response to AbstRacT – the hidden synchrony, we see the interventions of Land artist Strijdom van der Merwe (b1961) and multi-disciplinary artist Karla Nixon (b1990). The selected set of the forms from A Study on Curvature, made from 3mm bended plywood by Van der Merwe, recreates the feeling that Forel summons with his photographs – magnifying the minute details of the seemingly overlooked abstract art found in nature. Every curvature or shaving is a fragment of the whole – each curved form is a celebration of the freedom in movement of the line.

Nixon’s delicate installation, Where You Are, crafted from torn and reassembled painted paper, echoes the celebration of movement and intentional fragmentation of form as synchrony between the works in its surrounds. The artist invites the viewer to explore the delicate balance between chaos and harmony, fragility and strength, and to consider the moments where these dichotomies meet. Intentional discords and harmonies in shape and colour can be observed and the use of paper serves as a versatile medium – allowing the boundaries between two-dimensional and three-dimensional space to be blurred; to be painting and sculpture, collage, and textile.



Artists and creatives from any creative industry, platform or profession are invited to take inspiration from this exhibition and enter the Rupert Museum’s third Open Call.