Creative wellbeing in a time of crisis

By Elfriede Dreyer – 4min read

edg2020 Gallery launched last week (4 February 2021) in Kyalami. Several visitors commented that it was a brave step amidst the current new normals and closing of venues brought on by covid-19. Yes, it surely is, but covid lockdown has also been an exceptionally innovative and productive time for many artists and businesses. Consigned to the homefront in many instances, writers, musicians and artists turned more introspective and meditative, searching for new ways of thinking and doing. Creativity has been blooming and increased triple-fold.

Similarly, edg2020 was conceived in June 2020 during the first lockdown period as an online gallery and has launched now as a new baby in the big world of art. But we have a great future planned for our baby. For the inaugural Launch exhibition the selection of artists was done to provide an overview of our vision for the Gallery to showcase good quality contemporary work that engages with the diverse world of South Africans. Emerging as well as established artists are exhibited with a prospective of good investment. In future, this will also be done in the national and international arenas.

On the Launch exhibition we are showing the work of Alta Botha, Diane Victor, Gordon Froud, Jan van der Merwe, Lucas Thobejane, Lothar Böttcher, Mary-Jane Morris, Pascual Tarazona, Rosa Snyman-Wessels and Thabo Pitso.

Many of the works are engaged with vision and planning, sometimes turning out to be warped, inaccurate, faulty or disastrous as depicted in the work of Diane Victor (with the sinking of the Titanic as a core image in her work), Lothar Böttcher and Jan van der Merwe. Surely such concern with disaster can be connected to the experience of the calamities of the corona pandemic.

Rosa Snyman-Wessels engages with the impact of the covid pandemic in terms of how it has complicated and ruptured our very existence. In a way we have all become soldiers and heroes in our struggle with the virus, a human condition that has inspired Lucas Thobejane to create three tribute works.

One of these is his Tribute to Jackson Hlongwane (2021), a woodcarving sculptor that exerted a major spiritual and conceptual influence on artists around him in rural Limpopo from the the 1980s onwards, and especially by becoming a national and international figure in the art world. Hlongwane’s work carried messages of hope and reconciliation and Thobejane presents him as a kind of angelic figure with raised hands in the shape of wings and a frog on his head, a creature worshipped by some Xitsonga groups. Norval Foundation is currently hosting a tribute exhibition to Hlongwane entitled Alt and Omega: Jackson Hlungwani.

In his work on exhibition, Thabo Pitso presents issues of doubt and questioning reflected in titles such as Who told you and Reading between the lines. In his artist statement he says: “My work seeks to engage on issues of self purpose, who am I in this concrete jungle. Survival tactics requires one to read between the lines and adapt. The lines on my face reveal the paths I have travelled, experienced both good and bad hospitality. What is my role in this society?? What will happen today? Where will I go now? How will I feel then?”. Although already produced in 2018, these questions are even more relevant in our current time of crisis.

Some of the our artists that participated in the CAP workshops are currently included in Paper, an exhibition at Glen Carlou Gallery, namely Alta Botha, Inge Burman, Corrie van der Wath and Simone Redman.

The Gallery also has an educational leg and functions in association with the CAP Institute, providing skills training to emerging and established artists in the field of professional art practice, which includes the teaching and refinement of artmaking, thinking and exhibition skills. With a dedicated focus on education and the integration of theory and practice, curatorial walkabouts are provided in the Gallery and practical workshops will be conducted, besides the available CAP online courses.

American writer Jodi Picoult said: “Maybe it did take a crisis to get to know yourself; maybe you needed to get whacked hard by life before you understood what you wanted out of it.” Louis Netter of the University of Portsmouth said: “People are dying, critical resources are stretched, the very essence of our freedom is shrinking – and yet we are moved inward, to the vast inner space of our thoughts and imagination, a place we have perhaps neglected. Of all the necessities we now feel so keenly aware of, the arts and their contribution to our wellbeing is evident and, in some ways, central to coronavirus confinement for those of us locked in at home.
For some, there are more pressing needs. But momentary joys, even in dire circumstances, often come through the arts and collective expression”.

Our Gallery aims to make such a contribution.


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