Gerard Sekoto – From the Paris Studio

Gerard Sekoto lasciò il Sudafrica nel 1947 per la Francia. Non è mai tornato a casa. Nemmeno un dottorato onorario conferito dalla Wits University nel 1989 poteva farlo tornare. Tuttavia, un decennio dopo la sua morte, avvenuta nel 1993, Sekoto è finalmente tornato indietro, i contenuti del suo studio parigino donati dal Dipartimento di Arti, Cultura, Scienza e Tecnologia alla Galleria nazionale sudafricana di Iziko.

Market-scene-senegal 1991, pen on paperGerard Sekoto left South Africa in 1947 for France. He never came home. Not even an honorary doctorate awarded by Wits University in 1989 could get him to return. However, a decade after his death in 1993 Sekoto finally found his way back, the contents of his Paris studio donated by the Department of Arts, Culture, Science and Technology to the Iziko South African National Gallery.Curated by Joe Dolby, From the Paris Studio compiles drawings and other paraphernalia from the artist’s Paris work environment. The exhibition chronologically surveys works spanning the entire length of Sekoto’s career, providing a nuanced look at the stylistic shifts that marked his artistic life. Looking at an artist’s drawings is like counting the rings on a felled tree; the shape and movement of the lines indicate the season’s experienced, the influences encountered. Judging from this exhibition, we are counting the rings of a tall, gnarled tree.This tree however was not indigenous to the place where it chose to take root and thus its lines reflect the ambiguity of Sekoto’s dislocation. A common recurring characteristic of Sekoto’s drawings is that his figures are very often represented from behind, at a distance, from an artist looking at a foreign world. Yet through this perceived distance, a gestural simplicity emerges, his incarceration at the asylum of St Anne’s in 1949 following a nervous breakdown allowing Sekoto’s line to achieve an economy that is reminiscent of Van Gogh’s Untitled (Man tending the garden).Man-tending-the-garden, 1949, pencil on paperClimatic changes also bear a great influence as shown by the angular turn of Sekoto’s drawings during his stay in Senegal in 1966. These sharply rendered figures indicate an assured and decisive eye whose unfamiliarity loses itself amongst the crowded street scenes.The last known drawing by Sekoto, a preparatory sketch of his painting The Smoker (1989-1991), shows the agonised maturity of an isolated artist, dark and shrouded in his own thoughts. The distance between the subject and the viewer seems more intense due to its confrontational demeanour, as if the man lighting the cigarette is daring the glance of the observer through his self enclosed ambivalence.The-smoker, 1991, pen on paper