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Sunday, August 9, 2009


(Pic: Andrew Verster working on one of the wax panels)

Exhibition by Andrew Verster to open at the Durban Art Gallery on August 12.

Opening at the Durban Art Gallery on August 12, the exhibition Past/Present is a survey of works by Andrew Verster who turns 72 this year. The artist has been given two retrospectives by the Durban Art Gallery in 1987 and 1997. This exhibition takes the time frame from 1994 – the start of democracy in South Africa - and shows works from that time to the present. Verster places significance on this particular period as it has been a milestone in his life mainly due to the freedom which was enshrined in the new Constitution which gave equal rights to all. Speaking as a gay man, he claims that “For the first time in my life I became legal”.

His work reflects a sense of liberation and joyousness which seems to have recently burst forth. His Bodyworks series show life-size figures leaping and filling the canvases with an abandon. Their bodies are inscribed with designs referring to tattoos and at the same time referencing his earlier works as well as other cultures and eras. These tattooed bodies were also represented in his work shown at the 2007 Sasol Art Awards at the Johannesburg Art Gallery where he was one of the finalists. The wax curtains form an integral part of this show and seem to draw many threads of his past production together.

The past 14 years saw Verster’s work moving out of the gallery into new territory. He designed three large tapestries for Rhodes House in Oxford to celebrate the centenary of the death of Cecil Rhodes and the start of the new Mandela Rhodes Foundation. For the Constitutional Court, he competed for seven of the commissions for various art works. He did the carpets for the court chamber, the entrance doors which are eight and a half metres high, three neon chandeliers, and has three paintings and several graphics in the collection.

He was also a participant in the Durban Designer Collection in 2002, designed jewellery which was made up by Zulu beadmakers working for the African Art Centre and has been involved in numerous stage set designs and costumes for various productions such as Aida, La Traviata, Princess Magogo and Guys and Dolls.

The exhibition is a multi-media one consisting of paintings, drawings, stage sets, costume designs and wax panels. The intention is to show the diversity and constant creativity of one of the country’s most prolific and respected artists.

The exhibition opened at the National Festival of the Arts in Grahamstown in July 2008 has been shown at S.A. National Gallery, Cape Town, Standard Bank Gallery, Joburg and Oliewenhuis Bloemfontein. Its final showing is in Durban where the exhibition will be supplemented with works from the permanent collection of the Durban Art Gallery and some new works.

Andrew Verster will speak at the opening, and this will provide a poignant moment as his partner of 42 years will not be there to support him. A renowned artist himself, Aidan Walsh died last month after a long period of illness.

The exhibition is accompanied by a catalogue and an educational supplement for teachers. More information from the Durban Art Gallery on 031 311 2262/6