Five Years in Print: 2008 – 2012

Posted by on Mar 1, 2013 in Exhibitions | No Comments

16 March – 11 May 2013 

text by James Macdonald

When master printer Zhané Warren returned to South Africa in 2007, after an extended period in Antwerp, Belgium, it was with a vision: to start a dynamic printmaking studio in Cape Town. In her own words, “print, as a medium and collaborative process, has a way of opening new areas for an artist, new opportunities – something I hoped to facilitate in establishing the studio.” Five years later, Warren Editions – almost certainly the most progressive printmaking studio in South Africa – has opened just such an area of creative opportunity for more than a few local and international artists.

Five Years in Print: 2008-2012, as the inaugural show of Warren Editions Projects – an exhibition space and platform for the studio’s print collaborations – is something of a retrospective survey. As a journey in print, the exhibition tracks the evolution of the studio; from its inception in January 2008 and it’s first artist collaboration with Hentie van der Merwe, to its most recent interactions with artists like Christian Nerf and Marlise Keith. From monotypes and etchings to picture books, the exhibition reflects the technical commitment of the studio as well as the creative and individual manner in which artists engage with the medium. For the viewer, it opens an opportunity and area in which to engage with both a diverse selection of fine art prints, as well as the intersecting narratives of the artists represented.

Michael Taylor, tipped as one of Modern Painters top 100 young painters, has since the early days of Warren Editions exercised his bent for ironic visual storytelling in a number of studio collaborations. His ambiguous process of “interpreting humanisms”[1] is exemplified in At Bay (2008), a monotype and deadpan conundrum in which the prostrate repose of a human figure is confined, or is it conveyed, in a casket-cum-coracle. In Georgina Gratrix’s Bad Feminist (2012) – a bold three plate spitbite aquatint – the flushed and busty, full frontal ‘centerfold’ presents a kind of blasé post-feminist self-critique. The female body is again problematically exposed in Atlantis (2009); a large-scale two colour etching in which a watery and idealised nude lies submerged beneath a surface covering of emblematic ‘body art’: Elvis, a heart and dagger, the ubiquitous swallow and with phrases like, “Bokkie”, “klein bietjie wyn” and “Don’t be Cruel”.

With the decorative black splat of The President’s arsehole rendered in the Renaissance style (2008), you have to wonder whether the ANC art police did their homework. Predating the controversy surrounding his painting the Spear (2012)[2], artist Brett Murray produced at Warren Editions this subversive aquatint, along with an equally contentious pair: Mrs. Entitled (2008) and the significantly endowed Mr. Entitled (2008). Another noteworthy pairing, this time curatorial, is that of Anton Kannemeyer’s, Z is for Zuma (2008) and Ina van Zyl’s evocative Regop (2011).

As a printmaking studio, Warren Editions works with both new and established artists, as well as select illustrators – as in the case of 13 (2010). This limited edition box-set of prints, produced by renowned illustration and design studio Am I Collective, articulates in a series of thirteen paradoxical (and distinctly sardonic) scenarios something of the South African experience. As part of the exhibition the box is opened, and the prints displayed as a thought-provoking narrative sequence. Another area of possibility facilitated by the vision of Zhané Warren, and realised in the collaborative matrix of print.

 


[1] Michael Taylor, interviewed by Kim Grové for House and Leisure (April, 2012)

[2] Brett Murray’s satirical painting, the Spear (2012), a Leninesque portrayal of South African president Jacob Zuma, but with his genitals exposed, incurred the wrath of the ANC. The ensuing and mediated legal furore undermined, for many, the party’s avowed commitment to freedom of expression.

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