Sketches for the Cathedral of Johannesburg, a solo exhibition by David Brits, is presented by Hazard Gallery and will run from 9 September to 2 October 2016.
For this show, Brits presents a set of designs for a fictional basilica in South Africa’s economic capital which include sketches and maquettes of stained-glass windows and chasubles (the embroidered robes worn by priests). Works are in the form of large silkscreen prints and glass wall hangings – the series a synthesis of these two different modes of working, where Brits blends his signature use of abstract snake forms and of halftone pattern. It is interesting to note that this is the first time the artist exhibits work using colour, having been born with partial colour blindness.
A number of aesthetic traditions serve as inspiration for Sketches for the Cathedral of Johannesburg, from the pre-Columbian art of Central America, to serpent carvings found in Hindu temples of Northern India. In particular, it draws on encounters with great cathedrals in cities such as Rome and Cologne, and the interventions therein by old and modern masters; a line that runs from Michelangelo and Bernini, up through Henri Matisse and more recently, Gerhard Richter.
The futility of this body of work is acknowledged as an experimental draft for a grand architectural project that will never be realised. Yet for Brits it is an opportunity to do what only the greatest artists of their time get invited to do; dream up images for a building dedicated to divinity. The role of the artist is contemplated not only as a translator of personal and inherited history, but as a custodian of the tradition of art itself.
Brits’s late maternal grandfather, John Wood, was one of South Africa’s most prominent reptile experts, snake catchers and snake show-men, and who, over a period of 60 years caught thousands of snakes, spiders, scorpions, lizards and frogs for both medical research and the development of snake and spider anti venoms. Brits’s series will be exhibited alongside two films from his grandfathers archive, who in addition was also a prolific poet, photographer and filmmaker.
Brits will utilise one of the gallery’s rooms during the exhibition as a studio in which to work and to execute a series of murals.
There will be an artist’s walkabout of the exhibition on Wednesday 14 September at 11am.
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