Colloquium at Rhodes University in Grahamstown,
Hosted by the Fine Art Department
March 27-28, 2010
Colour in the South African context has immediate connotations with race and identity and these associations have had extended exposure within post-apartheid art making. But as an ongoing trajectory of exploration, once the observations have been made, the tonal variety of this commentary becomes increasingly flat.
Diversity - such a buzz word of the political transitional head-space - is, in general, sorely absent from much of our recent artistic output when what we mean by diversity, in the artistic colour palette, means a full spectrum of colours as well as their complex symbolic, cultural and emotive resonances.
Black and White, the Monochrome of High-Modernism, served well within the apartheid struggle period to subvert grand narratives. There was little appeal to delve into the complexity of the colour palette at a time where in our context ‘right’ and ‘wrong’; ‘justice’ and ‘injustice’ seemed so clearly and immediately definable. Now we come to a point in which we must question how in fact might we use or be using colour to express the complexity of human existence. If we look at the contemporary art of the rest of our continent, bright colour has oft been used to express profound and painful observations. Why then here, do we relegate bright colour to the realm of the merely decorative, the primitive, denying its complexity and consider the monochrome persistently as sophisticated? Why are primary tones relegated to the primary school art-box?
But it is not merely the bright or colourful which we wish to consider. Colour after all has the ability to be as technically multifaceted as that which it expresses. Colours all mixed together have a specific tone: greyish, brownish mud and what is that mud if not a grand space for new creation?
We invite thinkers, writers and critics to submit 500 word abstracts on the theme of colour as pallete, with specific attention to its applications or innovations in South African art.
Deadline for submission of Abstracts: February 8, 2010
Deadline for Final Submissions: March 13, 2010
Duration of paper: 15minutes
|In a somewhat questionable marketing endeavour, the Eastern Cape Region has been sign posted, ‘Frontier Country’ and indeed this is what it is. Historically it is the site of the 9 Frontier Wars and much brutal conflict and living here presently can still seem the edge of nowhere by comparison to many major South African metropols. With Grahamstown at the heart of it, it is also a cosmopolitan space not without vestiges of past pain but - like many colonial outposts in a post-colonial time - it is no longer a satellite to an absent motherland, a mere microcosm of elsewhere, but also a world unto itself.
A potential space of intellectual, debate rather than military conflict – geographically isolated from metropolitan trends – a melting pot of many places, a crucible. In more recent history, this frontier space has been a site of culture, of experiment. Home to an annual arts festival, how is it that Grahamstown with a population of just under 140 000 can command so much creative imagination in novels, plays, poetry and art? Frontier, Border, at the end of the world but not about to fall off – merely at a vantage point to observe a view to come.
- Rat Western