Sunday, July 19, 2009

Cecil Skotnes: A Private View

Images from the archive of Cecil and Thelma Skotnes
Iziko South African National Gallery, Cape Town
Standard Bank Gallery, Johannesburg

Cecil Skotnes is, by now, an icon of the South African art world. Admired for his painting, he is well known for his pioneering role in art education in South Africa, for his part in the Amadlozi group which sought to work at the intersection of African and European art, for his generosity to, and nurturing of, young artists. His and his wife Thelma’s Johannesburg home was for many decades an ‘open house’ so that it became a hub for artists of all generations and from many parts of the city and, indeed, the world. In Cape Town, this spirit of creative hospitality continued. His work has encompassed many media, most recognisably the large coloured wood-panels that grew out of the making of blocks for relief printing, portfolios of prints, murals and public commissions, oil paintings, ceramics, tapestries and sculpture.
This exhibition, curated by Pippa Skotnes and Thomas Cartwright of the University of Cape Town’s Centre for Curating the Archive, focuses on the more intimate work that is part of Cecil Skotnes’s extensive production – the drawings, cartoons, prints and paintings on paper. Significantly, it includes letters and documents collected over 5 decades by Thelma Skotnes archivist extraordinaire (a selection assembled into a scrapbook by Cara van der Westhuizen), photographs by Paul Weinberg, personal memorabilia, and items from Cecil’s studio. It offers an insight into the creative community he was part of, the way in which he researched his subjects, constructed his own world and helped shape a vibrant period in South African art history. This show moves beyond the public face of Cecil Skotnes, the artist, offering a more private view.

The curators thank Thelma Skotnes for generous access to her archive, John Skotnes, colleagues at the Centre for Curating the Archive Cara van der Westhuizen and Paul Weinberg, Joe Dolby, Marilyn Martin, Russell Jones, Michael Fridjhon, The Aubergine, Stephen Inggs, Stuart Bird, Tim Leibbrandt, Willem Visage, Glen Fouton and the workshop team at Iziko South African National Gallery.