Johannesburg’s city buzz is no new phenomenon to its dwellers and those who frequent it from neighbouring suburbs. Frome buses traveling from one pillar to post, and pedestrians commuting from one location to the next, the city is always abuzz and a place where many have either come to love or loathe it. But for resilient visionary and artist, David Koloane, this was the beginnings of revelations and inspirations in his artworks that heavily resembled his lived experience and those he met along the way in Johannesburg.


This was how Wednesday morning (13 November 2019) unravelled for Friends of Standard Bank who were invited to an exclusive and immersive walkabout of the city through the eyes of David Koloane. This as part of the bank’s second invigoration of the current exhibition being shown at the Standard Bank Gallery. Titled A Resilient Visionary: poetic expressions of David Koloane, the exhibition was curated by Dr Thembinkosi Goniwe and launched in Johannesburg a few months after Koloane’s passing and will run until 06 December 2019 as commemorative tribute to his life and work. It and therefore stands. 


The exhibition is not only a showcase of a lifetime survey of the work of the renowned South African artist, but also marks his enormous contribution to the South African visual art landscape. “Koloane was not only an important figure in South Africa’s visual art landscape but was also a critical voice that has shaped its contemporary moment. With over five decades working in the visual art space, Koloane has had an illustrious artistic career that has cemented him as an influential figure in visual art and legendary in the role he played in creating space for Black artists,” says Dr Same Mdluli, Standard Bank Gallery Manager.


In curating the show Goniwe, has made a selection of artworks by Koloane from the artist’s own personal collection, works that belong to the artist’s estate. The exhibition is thus modelled as a as a pictorial monograph that sheds panoramic insight on his creative and intellectual trajectory.


“Foregrounded is Koloane’s artistic practice, particularly his aesthetic inclinations and visual vocabulary with which he interrogates the socio-political and existential human condition. Thus, the significance of his unrelenting search for a visual language that is expressive, evocative and poetic in articulating his preoccupation with the urban life of Johannesburg, a disparate city constitutive of suburbia and townships. This is a Johannesburg that Achille Mbembe and Sarah Nuttall dub the elusive metropolis, owing to its enduring restlessness, influx, mutation, affluence, indigence, ambivalence and challenges” adds Goniwe.


In prioritising Koloane’s artistic practice, this exhibition investigates his discursive sensibilities characteristic of a socio-politically reflective modernism whose imagery intersects scenes of everyday rituals, distortive figurations and abstractive forms all of whose renditions give life to novel worlds of artistic representations. Of significance is Koloane’s struggle and triumph, not only in search of a poetic and reflective visual grammar, but also what it means to be modern Black subjects under colonial apartheid and democracy.


These endeavours, in effect, bear testament to Koloane as both witness and participant in the ongoing transformative struggle to make the (art) world a more hospitable place for Black artists. Not to mention his focus on the national and cultural struggle to bestow on South Africa the greatest possible gift which Steve Biko defined as “a more human face.” It is this gift that Koloane has shared with the world at large, a gift he continued to espouse until his passing at the age of eighty-one years. And it is his creative and intellectual gift in the form of artworks and written excerpts that this exhibition presents.

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