Fairy tale meets reality

THE world of visual arts will wake up in a big way at one of the most prominent art spaces in the country.

THE world of visual arts will wake up in a big way at one of the most prominent art spaces in the country.

Brodie-Stevenson will this month and next moth present two exhibitions that will have tongues wagging.

The first one, called In the Red/In the Black, is by Sean Slemon and comprises installation, drawing, print and video.

It opens on January 14 and runs until February 13 at 373 Jan Smuts Avenue, Craighall, Johannesburg.

The exhibition takes its title from a site-specific work located in the project space of the gallery. A dead tree has been resurrected to perform as signifier and stand-in.

Gilded with gold leaves and suspended in the centre of the room using red and black ribbons, the tree is a marker of the relationship between nature and finance, a metaphor for the mode of consumption that dominates both realms. It makes subtle reference to the terms 'in the black' and 'in the red' which describe the financial status of a company or an individual.

African Scenery and Animals, a solo exhibition by Daniel Naudé, opens on January 26 at the same gallery.

In his first solo show Naudé presents a fairy-tale world, a fictional place. There is a donkey with the gracefulness of a show horse. Alongside an impossibly beautiful rainbow, a white mule almost turns into a unicorn.

The hills and veld that Naudé invites us to traverse are filled with wonderful creatures.

But small details reveal that this is in fact our own imperfect world. The donkey is tethered by its leg. The Nguni bull urinates. The unicorn-like mule wears a red-rope collar.

Humans view other species largely in utilitarian terms. We rely on cows and donkeys for sustenance or labour. The tricolour Nguni cow and the symmetrically patterned goat are prized for their appearance.

The feral dogs that first captured Naudé's attention live a parallel existence to their human neighbours (though some are used to hunt).

In Naudé's eyes, however, each animal is perfect in itself and the donkey is as important as the Nguni.

Naudé possesses a sense of awe and reverence for nature that has been eroded, or at least reduced to a recreational activity, in our urban existence.

To create a sense of heightened perception, he pulls his images apart and puts them back together in a digital process until, in his words, he "sees on his screen what he saw out there".

The title of the exhibition is taken from an early 19th century folio, African Scenery and Animals, by Samuel Daniell, who arrived in the Cape in 1799 aged 25. He was appointed secretary and draughtsman of an expedition to the then Bechuanaland.

In his enlightened approach to the natural world, two distinct and at times conflicting impulses were at work. As a result of the period's revolt against unscientific belief systems, nature had to be indexed, studied and understood. On the other hand, colonial projects revealed entire new worlds, giving rise to an almost religious sense of wonder.

Naudé's scenery is distinct from Daniell's in its embrace of the complexities of Africa. The horse in the series is indigenous to North America, where it was used long before the arrival of Europeans.

It was introduced in South Africa because of its ability to thrive on rough terrain. Nguni cattle are native to southern Africa and the African dog is said to have migrated from Egypt, adapting to different circumstances and cross-breeding along the way.