The art philosophy of Barcleys L'Atelier regional winner 2015 Johandi du Plessis

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This year, the Barcleys L'Atelier Prize is thirty years old.

A hundred-and-two young artists were chosen as regional winners. Johandi du Plessis, one of the winners from the Free State, shares her philosophy and art with Naomi Meyer.

My art-making process entails extensive research, before, during and after an artwork, inasmuch that the research becomes the art: art as research, and research as art. Research and work carried out before the “final” work of art to be viewed in a gallery; the traces and remains thereof, usually go unnoticed, as do the spaces in which they are found: privileged spaces of artists’ studios. My work stretches across various media, in and between traditional and digital: drawing, sculptural, video, printmaking and photographic material, which culminate in large installations.

Micheal Ann Holly says that for all academics, curators and artists, research involves doing, seeing, looking, knowing and making – even if there is often uncertainty in such doing. Celeste Olalquiaga says that research is one of the most self-centred activities, and that the process of researching, which consists of looking further and deeper and more – is almost inevitably linked to an inner quest. Both researchers and collectors seem to be looking for something perceived as missing, something whose absence makes us feel incomplete, the search being designed to fill such a void. I delve into the idea of research as art, and art as research. My art can be read/viewed as a thesis, which seeks to question rather than provide answers. Furthermore, this questioning allows for the layeredness of research in which I explore a part of my identity as a “young Afrikaner” and the anxiety experienced in contemporary “Afrikaner” culture.

In Process rendered visible (2014), a triptych of entomology display cabinets explores preservation conceptually and visually. The three cabinets bind three interconnected layers: process (art as research, research as art), place (studio), and problem (issue, question). Pins do not only function as a means to secure specimens but are also used as a drawing tool. The individual cabinets are: Seeds of success; (voort)planting, lewe; and Studium fragmentum: solum verrere (Studio fragments: swept floor).

Seeds of success contrasts preserved hermetically sealed Afrikaner marigold seeds with the expiry date on the packet and documented label. A suggested “fertile” field is contrasted with the rigid order of planting and pinning. Consequently expiration is contrasted to the “voortplanting” of Afrikaners in (voort)planting, lewe. Studium fragmentum: solum verrere is a collection of fragments from my studio. Pinning the overlooked alludes to concepts found within still life.

The triptych can be read/viewed as a thesis; process rendered visible.

Seeds of success (display cabinet)

(voort)planting, lewe (display cabinet)

Studium fragmentum: solum verrere (Studio fragments: swept floor).

Seeds of success 2

• Johandi du Plessis was a student of the late Dot Vermeulen.

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