The NEWWORK exhibition at the Wits Art Museum will run until 25 November. Mark that in your diaries please. I was lucky enough to be invited to the opening night of this show, by Wits fourth year Fine Arts students graduate class of 2012, which showcases the new work of the graduating Fine Arts class from The Wits School of Arts (WSOA) Division of Visual Arts (DIVA).

It has been said that an artist’s graduation is the most important moment in their life. What makes this particular exhibition even more special is that it is the first time it has been shown in the new Wits Art Museum. Also a first this year for the NEWWORK is the involvement of the fourth year Arts Management students from the WSOA Division of Dramatic Art in marketing the exhibition.

NEWWORK 12 is diverse, innovative and challenging. The art portrayed a shift in thinking and self identity which spanned all media such as printmaking, painting, photography, sculpture, and installation. Personal, political, formal or colloquial, the work can be seen as a snap shot, a provisional incursion into the creative concerns that shape a moment.

Some of the artists that stood out for me were Anneli Maartens. Her art work of lost memories and the after-effects of that. Anneli says: “I attempt to delve into mundane or seemingly insignificant issues and memories that make up such a big part of our everyday lives.”


It seems that identities, personal space and capturing a moment in time are the main focus of this year’s theme. Michelle van Straaten’s piece is made from acrylic resin and symbolises discarded thoughts.


Another artist who delved into the unknown was Mary Mandivavarira – an oil canvas depicting dream spaces.


And then there was Carissa Strydom’s sculpture of anxiety, made using materials such as hollow fibre, steel wool and mutton cloth, all fitted in the manner of a straightjacket.


The media played a big part in this year’s inspiration. Victoria Wigzell art statement “money on wheels” presented a video and a pikitup bin, Jennifer Emily Thomas spy cam piece, and Mbali Khoza’s interpretation of famous controversial Zimbabwean writer Dambudzo Marechera, zooming in on the wrong ways of the leaders.


Josephine Matla’s view on the deaf society was depicted by a TV with burning images and a deaf person in the centre: “It’s about reliving the memory over and over what a deaf person goes through every day and I wanted people to get a glimpse of that.”


Paul Samuel’s frank view on how it felt like living in Edenvale and having to live up to a stereotype of ‘tattoos and hard core’. His photos portray a body of work of the middle white class which has been branded the brotherhood. His intimate photography shows the dropping of that image behind closed doors. “It shows the relationship of people and the struggle of identity.” Paul has a bright future ahead of him with exhibitions in New York and Portugal.

One of the main feelings and messages that I got, viewing this year’s art, was the combination of what is real, what is false and our own identity being mixed up in our search between the spaces of lost thought and facts. What am I in relation to the world? And to question that solidly when it comes to our media, environment and upbringing.

The response I received when I asked the students what role fashion plays in art, was quite peculiar. They reasoned with the fact that art reflects back to the body, hence the expression ‘a body of art’, and what is mostly portrayed is the connection between the body and identity. They sculpture the body by using materials, cotton and clothes, which can give a commercial overglow by allowing the viewer to interpret the art. Matla comments: “Fashion is a form of expression that allows us to create and speak to the community through making a fashion statement.”

I left the art museum with a sense of inspiration to continue on my journey of self discovery whilst still questioning what I know to be fact, fiction and the truth in between that.

Guest post by Jodie Peter


Twitter: @jodiemaryberry

Images by photographer Jenna Peter.

Twitter: @jennaperpetual