Goodman Gallery is pleased to present Line of Beauty, a new series of paintings, drawings and sculptural works by Clive van den Berg.
Line of Beauty takes its title from an exploration of the aesthetic current underpinning the political ideas and concerns present throughout van den Berg’s practice.
Landscape is one such recurrent theme. Van den Berg’s interest in this imagery relates to ideas surrounding the “distemper” of our lived experience. For the artist, land serves as a powerful symbolic marker for these anxieties, which are contained in both the personal and political. Van den Berg explains this further by separating the idea of land into two concepts: above and below ground.
“Above ground in our country has been important in many ways, from commercial uses to migration,” he says. “But below ground is where the heart of unresolved history lies. And we, as South Africans, try to create a modernist state and landscape, which denies that trauma and past.”
Van den Berg addresses this in his work by confronting the tradition of South African landscape painting. Historical depictions of land, which were primarily filtered through Western perception, sought to posses the territory by recording its surface image. In turn, Van den Berg “peels the surface off the land and makes the landscapes porous”. Surface and underneath, past and present, are simultaneously presented on the canvas.
“That relationship of surface to interior is one of the complexities of vision. And that is a political vision: What is on the surface and what does it conceal?” The result is paintings which contains various figurative elements, ghosts, witnesses, single and grouped figures.
This interest in the state of flux between past and present and the conscious and unconscious minds takes a different form in van den Berg’s sculptures. A gilded pillow, for instance, bears the imprint of its sleeper. Titled Lay your Head, a nod to the poet W.H. Auden, this simple object becomes a kind of memorial to the complex realm of rest, dream and conscience.
Of the exhibition title, van den Berg says, “Beauty is hard work. It harnesses the very opposite impulses to those whose result is fascism and bigotry. I strive for it”.
About the artist
Clive van den Berg is an artist, curator, designer, writer and teacher, who lives and works in Johannesburg, South Africa.
As a designer, van den Berg has worked both alone and with some of the nation’s top architects and civic planners to create unique buildings and public spaces in post apartheid South Africa. Combining museum design, curatorial practice and environmental art, van den Berg has worked to produce a distinctly South African aesthetic for numerous public spaces, which is both sensitive to local traditions and creative of new possibilities.
Among his major projects are Freedom Park, the Northern Cape Legislature buildings, the museums at Constitution Hill, and several major Mandela Foundation exhibitions. More recently, van den Berg was responsible for the exhibition design at the Johannesburg. Holocaust and Genocide Centre.
As a visual artist van den Berg is interested in both formal beauty and conceptual depth. His extensive body of work ranges in size and format, and includes paintings, prints, multi-media sculpture, landscape installation, and videography. His art is both known and respected internationally, being included in many public and private collections, and his work has garnered him several major awards and prizes.