Gallery 4

AbstRacT – the hidden synchrony

the hidden synchrony

10 March 2023 - 17 April 2024

  • AbstRacT – the hidden synchrony

This exhibition takes a closer look at the synchrony in the complete Synchromies series by Swiss psychiatrist, psychotherapist and later turned photographer Oscar Forel (1891-1982), published in 1961. 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 the 53 macro photographs differing in size and scale, projecting their harmonious and natural colours; they might visually draw comparison to famed and iconic artworks found the world over or evoke personal memories or nostalgia. These images are taken of different tree species found the world over. 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 today. This is evident with the selection of South African artists, from the Rupert 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 charactrised 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 up 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 Gunter van der Reis (b1927) to mention a few.

As for Forel: he treated each surface as a rare discovery, he would wipe and clean the chosen bark with brush and sponge, sometimes this would polish and bronze the surface, highlighting and revealing an array of colours and textures. He noted that Synchromies could have been subtitled natura pinxit – painted by Nature. As the painter chose to free themselves from tradition by creating abstract marks on canvas so Forel found abstract line, form and colour already existing in nature.

Today, a better understanding of plant life, its behaviour, growth and decay has become vital to the rehabilitation of our ecosystem. This study posits a close look at a very topical issue while inviting you to explore the enchanted forms and colours that reveal the ‘art’ hidden in nature.

12 January – 17 April 2024

The second of the artist interventions with ‘the hidden synchrony’ features Durban-based artist Karla Nixon (b1990) who conceptualized a three-part installation. This ranges from Plexiglass to the most delicate paper strips to encapsulate and echo the celebration of movement and intentional fragmentation of form as synchrony between the abstract artworks and Oscar Forel photographs in its surrounds.  

These installations draw inspiration from, and reflect on, the significance of textiles as materials and objects that create a sense of security and personal expression in our lives. With these installations, and the spaces they create, Nixon is inviting the viewer to explore the delicate balance between chaos and harmony, fragility, and strength, and to consider the moments where these dichotomies meet.  

The overarching conceptual underpinning of Nixon’s art practice has evolved with lived experiences, exploring diverse themes such as middle-class white suburbia, philosophical concepts around transience, and the impact of capitalism on the concept of home. However, a common thread of space and place runs through these explorations—relating to the human urge to define and find sanctuary in. 

On exhibition from the artist collection: 

Everyday Wear, 2023 – Plexiglass, steel cable 

Suspended above the viewer’s head, the billowing form captures a moment in time. This piece, transparent and ethereal, establishes a sanctuary, a haven where viewers are enveloped in the interplay between color and light; mimicking stained glass and evoking a ritual-like experience that invites viewers to connect with something larger than themselves. 

Where You Are, 2024 –  Acrylic paint, paper, glue, and string 

If I Could Piece Together, 2024 – Acrylic paint, paper, glue, and string 

Both pieces meticulously crafted from torn and reassembled painted paper, present delicate, lace-like forms that embody the essence of fragility and deliberate reconstruction. These paper creations showcase intentional discords and harmonies in shape and color. 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.

View a virtual walk through of this exhibition here. 

16 May – 5 October 2023

As an introduction to the first of the artist interventions with ‘the hidden synchrony’ acclaimed Land Artist Strijdom van der Merwe conceptualized the installation, A Study in Curvature, made from 3mm bended plywood. It is in conversation with and inspired by the photography of Oscar Forel, consisting of sculptural fragments that form part of the larger whole of the exhibition.

The approach was to recreate the feeling that Forel summons with his artworks – magnifying the minute details of the seemingly overlooked abstract art found within nature. A Study in Curvature is an attempt to elicit this sense of smallness by means of visual aid. In this instance the humble wood shaving is used as a vessel to emphasize this feeling of smallness. 

Every curvature or shaving is a fragment of the whole.
Each curved form is a celebration of the freedom in movement of the line.
These shapes become sculptural in its appearance and change identity from nature to pure abstraction.

View a virtual walk through of this exhibition here.