UPDATE: It’s official, Johannesburg Art Gallery reopens for business!

ANCIENT: Exhibits of the Meyer Pienaar extension, which the South Facing exhibition zones in on, during construction in 1989.

In a bid to address decades-old structural decay, a temporary three-month closure to the over 100-year-old Johannesburg Art Gallery (Jag) was announced on 1 February.

However, on 7 May, the South Facing exhibition by the Lisbon-based artist and lecturer, Angela Ferreira officially lifted the lid on the gallery’s temporary hiatus.

According to Ferreira, the exhibition aimed to interrogate the inherent structural problems within the gallery by critically examining colonial-era mining in South Africa and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The narrative particularly focused on the contentious barrel-like copper-vaulted roofs that constitute Jag’s infrastructure.

REPLICA: Artwork by Angela Ferreira, mimicking part of the Meyer Pienaar extension, is displayed in a room at Johannesburg Art Gallery on opening day.

“Given the controversy and history of the gallery, the Meyer Pienaar extension (constructed in 1989) seemed in many ways a source of some of the problems. It became for me a symbolic part of the gallery that could be explored visually to open up the discussion, in a constructive way, about the value of the art gallery,” explained Ferreira.

The artist, holding her maiden solo exhibition at a public institution in South Africa, added that she adopts a research-aligned approach to her work in order to deepen people’s appreciation. “The quality and finish of my work is on a research level that I think is worthy of a good exhibition… which any good gallery should present, and that’s the kind of respect that I displayed to [outline] what Jag could be,” said Ferreira.

INFAMOUS: Artwork by Angela Ferreira, mimicking a copper-like part of the structurally frail Meyer Pienaar extension is displayed in a room at Johannesburg Art Gallery during the South Facing exhibition.

She added that the most concise way to describe the exhibition is to draw visual criticality from her dual African-Portuguese identity, which results in a body of work that is rooted in South Africa, Mozambique and Portugal. “Working out what relationships exist within these countries, whether they are colonial, post-colonial or neo-colonial, is what most of my work is about.”

Click here to listen to the interview 

Share your thoughts on how you see exhibitions such as this one deepening people’s understanding of visual creativity versus practical reality on the City Buzz facebook page.

Tshepiso Mametela

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