Photographs by Thomas Weisshaar
1 December 2018
On Mystical Form was my one-day-only final exhibition towards the Master of Visual
Arts program at the University of Stellenbosch, where I focused on sculpture and installation.
The work that made up the exhibition used different components of a full size colonial-era snooker table passed into my care from my maternal grandmother. In Tropical Good Times, cues bundled together become struts on which to balance a lyrical wooden crossbeam I found on the slope of Signal Hill behind my home in Sea Point after a storm. From the beam I hung bolts salvaged from the snooker table and a dried out pineapple. Goofball presents a red snooker ball at the fulcrum of a bundle of cues set in planter bags, within which morning glory plants grow, adding flowering chalices of colour to a piece that is at once whimsical and unconcerned with its own success. The sense of play that is central to the snooker table itself continues
in Teabag Stoke, which balances a Shoprite quality boogie board, a skim board and a carved segment of the billiards table on top of one of its inverted legs.
Ambition, repurposed a length of the table as a planing horse in the Japanese woodworking tradition of the the shokunin (itinerant woodworker). Whether by carefully planing away the varnished exterior of table segments to reveal their exquisite
quality, or attacking them with an axe to emphasise the brittleness of the antique wood, Ambition is a site of devoted action with its material in mind. In Match-Rematch, a video piece with accompanying the sculptural installation, I enact two bouts with a segment of the table suspended from a tree in my garden. Terrifying and hilarious, Match-Rematch is a no-nonsense allegory of an artistic pursuit of the unknown.
On the floor I placed potted flax plants grown from linseed, transferred to the gallery from my garden. I arranged objects generated from the process of obtaining linen from flax by hand throughout the exhibition. These objects described the passing of time and the work required to complete On Mystical Form, a small hand woven piece consisting of the 6400mm of handspun linen I managed to derive from the flax I grew in my garden.
The exhibition was open to the public for one day only, on Saturday 1 December from noon to three, with a closing performance at 2pm. The exhibition was accompanied by a thesis (available on request) of the same name, On Mystical Form, within which I formalised my practice within the academic context as an ongoing enquiry into the nature of form. Through a discussion of my own work and that of Dan Rakhoathe, John Constable, Marcel Duchamp, Ernest Mancoba, Pierre Huyghe and Christian Marclay as informed by Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev’s call for a redefinition of artistic practice today and Lynn Gamwell’s encyclopedic understanding of the shared cultural history between mathematics and art, On Mystical Form zeros in on an agnostic working definition of mystical form as forms wherein doubt, imagination and ambivalence are of primary importance to artistic practice. It is a cohesive refutation of a new academicism in contemporary art that gradually yet continuously positions the spiritual and transcendent social function of artistic practice as being critically and commercially valueless.