Skhot so Artby Setumo-Thebe Mohlomi / 03.10.2013
First Thursdays is an initiative that organises for the galleries, studios and creative spaces of chosen neighbourhoods to be open until as late as 9pm. The event usually falls on the first Thursday of each month and has the buy-in of Creative Cape Town, Name Your Hood, AVA Gallery, Brundyn + Gonsalves and some other very influential art scene Guptas. A route is planned and mapped out which encourages the public to walk between the exhibition spaces. An exception was made for the August/Septmeber bodas mandes (month end) with a route being planned for spaces to the east of the CBD on 29 August, and one for the CBD spaces on 05 September.
For the uninitiated palette, the Cape Town art scene can be as daunting as a blindfolded champagne taste test for a Black Label beer drinker. There is a clear distance between the one sipped and the other swigged drink. Part of what makes a bari (one uneducated in certain things) in Cape Town art circles is not knowing what to look for, and not understanding the processes that go into creating certain kinds of art. The First Thursday initiative gave many art baris around the city a chance to cop some art swag, literally and figuratively.
The 29 August route showcased some spaces that have existed for years beyond the radar of many Capetonians. By disaster or design, this route had a mix of ‘high art’ spaces and more middle ground creative outlets.
Studio 41 on Harrington Street hosted an exhibition that included countless small canvas pieces, a handful of sculptures, a mixed media installation, and a bass and acoustic guitar duo to wash it all down with. Blankspace is the shop version of a two slice and sells the work of some of Cape Town’s most recognised graphic designers. The store’s wares feature the designers’ work on posters, stationary, crockery and t-shirts. Above Blankspace, Muti and Mingo Lamberti had a discount sale of their sometimes mainstream, sometimes avant- garde printed t-shirts. With Cape Town’s faddish obsession with all things vintage, one might have thought that designers of this calibre had taken to hiding in caves and growing their beards.
Warren Editions is a few metres walk up Roeland Street in the pall rain typical of Cape Town but it’s a world apart from the Blankspace and Studio 41 spaces. The floors and wall in the exhibition space are a pure and angelic white. A churchly silence imposes itself on visitors who coax understanding of the print art by stroking and rubbing their chins intermittently. Warren editions is the brainchild of master print maker Zhane Warren and it’s been around for five years building a street cred for itself as legit as that of its internationally renowned owner. It’s a struggle to understand the art here without a knowledge of what printmaking involves. Luckily Morne Visagie who works at the gallery is there to explain the methods and processes of printmaking. He does so in an informative, down to earth, and accessible manner. His patience with ignorance is like Agnes Matabane from Isidingo’s patience with Zeb’s stupidity.
Seven sleeps later and the CBD is carrying a five- to Friday verve that’s almost electric. There has just been a jazz performance on Greenmarket square and already the streets are teeming with art pantsulas van toeka af and wannabe young art skhothanes. There is a photographic exhibition on Church Street which documents single sex couples and their children that makes some people smile endearingly and some people turn their foreheads into what Dickies khakis look like when they’re creased.
Work in Progress on Church Street has the look, feel and sound to their space which shows parallels between it and Studio 41 the previous week. They have a duo pushing passion (doing anything for the sake of passion and romance) with their music, and many different kinds of pieces filling most of the wall space, almost competing for one’s eye. The previous week Roscoe Reid Masters was in his paint splattered apron at Studio 41 ever willing to explain some pieces and putting a few strokes on a canvas whenever the mood took him. At Work in Progress a week later Javier Quinapanta and a host of others are doing the same. Both spaces felt like an art bazaar or like Marabastad at bodas mandes only with paintings and sculptures.
Further up Church Street and to the right on Loop Street is Brondyn + Gonsalves gallery. This gallery has an under street level floor which is like a bargain basement. The main exhibitions seem to be gracing the exhibition space just above street level. Of all the works Mohau Modisakeng’s is most captivating. He interrogates South Africa’s violent history without being Rainbow Nationey. His work grabs the eye’s attention and doesn’t let go until it’s finish en klaar.
By the point in the evening when seeing more art seems scarier than Lisilo (Main character in a popular nineties South African series), a Shreklike bearded man in shorts asks me to keep him a skyf. Very soon we are arguing outside Stable gallery about how he thinks that this whole First Thursday thing is false and how I think it doesn’t matter because it’s at least achieving something. I get where he’s coming from, the idea of getting people together to appreciate so many different kinds of art within a few hours can have a bad effect on how people internalise the art they experience. I pass the smoke to him and stop myself before I sound like an art Gupta.
The next First Thursdays event is tonight, 3rd October.
* All images © Setumo-Thebe Mohlomi