UJ Arts & Culture presents an exhibition entitled ARTOMS: Histopathology, Regeneration and Other Cases – Continued with works by celebrated artist, Sandile Zulu.
It will be on display at the University of Johannesburg Art Gallery from 29 January to 19 February 2014.
This show hosted in collaboration with SMAC Art Gallery and curated by Baylon Sandri, follows on from the initial exhibition first shown in Stellenbosch in 2012. The exhibition includes older works from the first show and newly produced works, showing Zulu’s ongoing interest and investigations into the visual and metaphysical interconnectedness of all things physical.
A “visual explorer” and “pyromancer”, Zulu translates his investigations onto canvas in the archetypal mediums of fire, water, air and earth. His use of fire in particular, as both “image and process”, encourages the viewer to think about the nature of this volatile element. The paradox of fire as a creative and destructive force, as well as Africa’s history with fire, underpins this exhibition. It is the same intriguing element of risk involved in the controlled burning of veld fires that is at play in his compelling works on canvas.
Zulu has a deep interest in biology, sociology, astronomy, philosophy, history and psychology. The word ‘histopathology’ from the exhibition title, refers to the microscopic examination of tissue undertaken to study the manifestations of disease. Here, Zulu acts as a pathologist, so to speak, looking at the universality of our human biology as a metaphor for exploring what he understands to be a “diseased society”, where our lived human experience is far from the one of the universality which our cells, tissues and muscles would suggest it to be.
Having been brought up in rural Ixopo, KwaZulu-Natal, and having experienced forced fencing and continual encroachment on his own family farm, issues surrounding inequality have always been central to his work. It is not only the ignorant who Zulu sees as responsible for our common disease, but also those who are aware of the inflictions in society and turn a blind eye. Zulu says that it is the social issues that negate us from one another: “It is not about pointing fingers, it’s about how I raise my perceptions as far as society is concerned from a creative or visual point of view”.
Zulu’s large-scale fire scalded canvases look like biological specimens or blood samples compressed between contact plates and put under microscopic view. His flat fire forms are strangely fluid. The DNA spiral structure seen on canvas and sculptural form, Rorschach-like burns, and scorched colon-like spinal columns form unusually beautiful images. The recurrent burnt patterns in this body of work point at our human biology as equal. Zulu remarks: “We come from one source, one genome, we are not different”.
Sandile Zulu was born in 1962 in Ixopo, KwaZulu-Natal. He currently lives and works in Fordsburg, central Johannesburg. Sandile Zulu has exhibited across South Africa, Europe and the United States. He was awarded an artist residency in Dachau, Germany in 2004 and has received several awards including the 1998 The President’s Award at the 6th Biennale of Contemporary Art, Seychelles and the Civitella Ranieri Fellowship Award in 2000. He also featured in the Artists in Dialogue Series at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African Art, Washington DC. After returning from Washington, SMAC Art Gallery presented ARTOMS: Histopathology, Regeneration and Other Cases in Stellenbosch in 2012. This was Sandile Zulu’s first show in native country in over five years.