Standard Bank Learner Series resource
body art/body maps biography
Verster’s representation of the human form in ‘Past/Present’ is filled with
signs, symbols and icons. His time spent in India inspired many works
dealing with Indian religious and cultural symbolism. The Indianesque
series (2002), as well as Red Deity (2002) and Ritual (2008), all explore
fact file: Body Art And tAttooing educational activities extracted from the ‘Past/Present’ educational supplement, prepared by
this idea in different ways. for the bulk of his subject matter, Verster gives
carol Brown to accompany the exhibition on its national tour.
credit to “the two Indias” in his life: Durban, which he has called home for
In India, mendhi or henna painting is associated with Andrew Verster, born in Johannesburg in 1937, is one of the
EXH I B ITION more than 40 years, and the country, which he visited for the first time in
a learner resource recent years.
celebrations, such as weddings or other events linked with most prolific and diverse artists of our time. After studying art
on the art of PaSt/PRESENt Another of Verster’s preoccupations, which ties in with this interest in
transcendence or transformation. The art serves the purpose of
worship or work, rather than having anything to do with vanity. Choose a
at Camberwell Art School in the United Kingdom, he returned to
glossary word South Africa, where he has had more than 40 solo exhibitions, and
Standard Bank Gallery ritual, is tattooing and body art. A vast component of ‘Past/Present’ is Other cultures use tattooing to celebrate festivities, or to mark partner, and using body or mendhi is represented in numerous major public and private collections.
membership of a group. Body art has a strong connection paints, make a mendhi design on
Johannesburg the various pieces concerned with body art in different contexts. The
Bodyworks series features larger-than-life male figures adorned with motifs with identity, as a sailor’s tattoos might depict his travels, or a incongruous your partner’s hand. Cover their Verster has also designed costumes and sets for a number of
16 april – 23 May 2009 which range in origin from Greece, to Rome, to India. The Skin Markings teenager’s might show his allegiance to a particular band or - unsuitABle or entire hand, making reference to productions, as well as for fashion events, including the Durban
installation (2007) consists of tissue paper, wax, ink, pigments and pins, musical movement. The Maori people believe that a person’s life out of plAce Indian decorative tattoos. Designer Collection in 2002. Recently, the artist designed jewellery
by emile maurice
& rebecca dodd. and features fragments of the figures from Bodyworks, covered in the force, or ‘mana’, is displayed through their tattoos. Facial tattoos which was then made by beadmakers at the African Art Centre.
produced by the indicate a person’s heritage and status in the group, while other
h e r i ta g e a g e n c y c c Andrew Verster, Tattoo Boy II, 2006. Ink on paper. 29 x 20 cm
tattoos are given to symbolise important events in a person’s
“Democracy, of course life. Traditional Samoans covered the entire lower halves of
their bodies as a fashion statement. In Africa, the tradition of
has changeD so much body art has been traced back to mummies in both Egypt and
anD freeD us to work Libya. Clans in Africa usually make use of a form of tattooing
Andrew Verster (1937-) anD think Differently” called ‘scarification’, a process which involves puncturing the
is one of the country’s skin, then rubbing ash on the wound to heal it. This produces
most prolific artists, an embossed effect of scar tissue. These tattoos always have a
same symbols of serpents, gods, vases and sculptural heads. Verster symbolic purpose rather than just an ornamental one, and are
due to his impatience explains, “In my work I quote from myself often – that is from previous generally believed to guard the wearer against evil spirits, or to
and enthusiasm works”. The Tattoo Boy series (2006), a collection of ink drawings, appears demonstrate their courage.
for exploring and as an echo of Bodyworks, but in simplified black and white. Here, images
blend with serpents, egyptian gods and the foreign symbols used in
Bodyworks and Skin Markings.
techniques. Andrew Verster, Indianesque II, 2002. Oil on canvas. 100 x 75 cm
On the same theme, Notes on a Crucifixion – Black (2007), the Arm
‘PAst/Present’ is and Leg series (both 2008) and Hands/Feet/Stars (2007) all consist of
verster’s third brightly-coloured disembodied body parts decorated with intricate designs
inspired by other cultures. The subject is again confronted with playful
retrospective irreverence in Classical Graffiti (2008), a series of digital transfers to Andrew Verster, Classical Graffiti, 2008. digital transfer to canvas Andrew Verster. Photograph courtesy of the artist
exhibition. the works canvas, in which classical sculptures of nudes are reworked with detailed
on the exhibition patterns. some of these feature incongruous modern symbols, like the
‘Past/Present’ promotes an awareness of self
“unless painting is
are made from airplane, and eastern motifs, such as characters from the Japanese
and body image. For this activity, the class needs to be divided into
something more than
alphabet or drawings of geishas.
a variety of media, pairs. One person must lie on a large piece of paper on the floor, making pictures, i’Ve
from the traditional Also important in ‘Past/Present’ is Verster’s set and costume design. while the other traces around their partner’s body, making a life-size misseD the point”
The miniature models of his designs for the opera, La Traviata, and a body image. After this, partners swap so that the other person’s body
oil on canvas, to reconstruction of one of the costumes form part of the exhibition. It is The past 14 years have seen Verster’s work moving out of the
can be traced. When this has been done, each person gets their own
drawing, etching and the mark of a dynamic and adaptable artist that ‘Past/Present’ includes
body outline, and can then draw or paint motifs and patterns that
confines of the gallery into new territory. He designed three large
such a broad range of media and techniques, but Verster explains that tapestries for Rhodes House in Oxford to celebrate the centenary
mixed media. have meaning to them on it. of the death of Cecil Rhodes and the start of the new Mandela
this flexibility is a necessity: “Working as a fulltime artist for 25 years has
Rhodes Foundation. For the Constitutional Court he competed for
seven of the commissions for various artworks. He designed the
Andrew Verster, Bodyworks I, 2006. Oil on canvas. 180 x 180 cm Andrew Verster, Ritual, 2008. Oil on canvas with map pins, Indian wooden lattice frame. 47 x 41 cm carpets for the Court chamber, the entrance doors (which are eight
ast/ Present’ tells us about Andrew Verster’s concerns with how our past affects our fact file the south AfricAn meant that I have had to be versatile and develop a lot of other skills something to think about: and a half metres high), three neon chandeliers, and has three
paintings and several graphics in the Court’s collection.
so that I could take on a variety of commissions.” A number of the pieces you will see in ‘Past/Present’ can be defined
present. The timeframe of the show, 1994-2008, is important in that the first works constitution And Bill of rights as ‘erotic’ art. At what point do you think the line should be drawn Additionally, Verster is on the Film and Publication Review Board
were made at the time of the birth of our democracy.
“Verster was 1994 marked the beginning of democracy in South Africa. The Constitution of
Verster’s process of costume design does not include sewing or
between erotic art and pornography? Consider the intention or and is a trustee of the Durban Art Gallery, the Arts Work Trust,
About his work, Verster says, “In each work I write my own history, which in turn is entan- the first the Republic of South Africa, adopted in 1996, is the supreme law of the land and
making patterns. He rather sketches the designs and then pins the
fabric of his choice to mannequins in the shape of the design. At
message of each medium. Very Special Arts, Artists for Human Rights Trust and the African
gled with everyone else’s. We live several lives at once...Past and present rub shoul- artist that provides the foundation on which all other laws and policies are founded. It sets
this point, a dressmaker will extract a pattern from what Verster has Art Centre. He also serves on the committee of the National Arts
ders.” further, “I feel that my work in the last 14 years has taken a shift…Democracy, of course has maDe his life, out the rights of all South Africans, the principles by which the country is governed,
produced. “Where I lack specialist skills,” he explains, “I work with RefeRences
Festival in Grahamstown.
changed so much and freed us to work and think differently, so the exhibition intends to reflect this.”
his loVers and defines the roles and the responsibilities of the state. It is widely regarded as
those who have them”. Brown, C. (ed.) 2008. Past/Present: Works by Andrew
Today, Verster is still a relevant and dynamic artist. His work
The exhibition is a personal account of one man’s journey during a time of great change. for Verster, anD his sex being amongst the most progressive in the world.
Apart from the confrontational sexuality of the Rude Boys series,
Verster from 1994-2008. durban: Fishwicks.
Brown, C. 2009. “Past/Present: works by Andrew continues to push boundaries and surprise audiences. Verster
our new constitution, adopted in 1996, marked his ‘becoming legal’ as a gay man. Because of this, the subject The Bill of Rights, included in the Constitution, lists and affirms the democratic
‘Past/Present’ avoids neat categorisation by critics tempted to pin Verster from 1994-2008”. educational supplement. considers himself first and foremost a painter, and on the subject
many of the works reveal a preoccupation with the male form, which is treated with blunt matter-of-
factness in series such as Rude Boys (1994) and Bodyworks (2006). clive van den Berg, who was
of his work” values of human dignity, equality and freedom and mandates the state to respect,
the exhibition as part of a gay aesthetic or sensibility. The volume of
durban: durban Art Gallery.
iloveindia. African tattoos. [Online]. Available: http:// of his life’s work has this to say: “Unless painting is something
promote and fulfil these. It includes, amongst others, the rights to freedom of tattoos.iloveindia.com/tattoo-history/tattooing-in- more than making pictures, I’ve missed the point.”
taught by Verster at the University of natal in Pietermaritzburg in the 1980s, remembers him as “the work, coupled with the sheer diversity of skill and material, renders africa.html. [2009, March 11].
expression, sexual orientation, culture and religion.
first artist that made his life, his lovers and his sex the subject of his work”. Van den Berg also recalls labelling Verster as one thing or another impossible. Verster, in Verster, A. 2007. Profile. [Online]. Available: http://
response to such attempts at classification, believes that “boxes are www.andrewverster.co.za/profile.html [2009, March 9].
that Verster claimed responsibility for putting images, unashamed, of the male anatomy on view for These new freedoms are important to Verster, both as a gay man, and as an artist the exhibition is accompanied by a catalogue and an education supplement edited by
the curator, Carol Brown.
the public in south Africa at a time when extreme conservatism prevailed. interested in different cultures and religions. limiting – black art, wildlife art, women’s art – these sub-species
if you are unable to view this exhibition in person, you can take a virtual tour by
subvert appreciation for they demand different criteria”. Andrew Verster, Rico, 1994. Oil on canvas board. 36 x 25 cm visiting the standard Bank gallery website: www.standardbankgallery.co.za
resource Standard Bank Learner Series
2/2009 The recognition by european artists of the value
of traditional, or classical, African objects as
art was a vital influence on the development try out
Apart from those mentioned in
of european modernism. This led to a new the text, can you name other South African abstract glossary words think about this
formal language based, to a large extent, on the artists? Visit your local art museum, gallery or library edoArdo VillA
geometric-style surfaces of African sculpture. to research such artists. • Renowned art historian, Esmé Berman,
a learner resource EXH I B ITION This language combined with imagination,
expression, intuition and emotion as the new im-
Most visitors to South Africa visit only the country’s
Edoardo Villa was born in Bergamo, Italy, in 1915. - A french word used to descriBe Art
has suggested that Villa “transformed the
on the art of
South African viewers’ way of looking at
major tourist attractions – beaches, game parks,
pulses in art to make for an entirely new artistic While studying sculpture in Milan, World War II broke or Artists depArting from Accepted
the winelands and some historical sites, like Robben sculpture”. How, in your opinion, did Villa
MoviNG voicES out in 1939, and he was conscripted into the army. trAdition, or the norm. AVAnt-gArde
vision, evident in Villa’s work. Island. Over the last few years, the township tour has change the way viewers look at sculpture?
Artists use techniques, or deVelop
been added to the tourist menu, adding another ele- A year later, he was captured in north Africa, and
One european art movement that was greatly
Standard Bank Gallery influenced by traditional African art was cu- ment that informs the outsider’s perception of Africa. transferred to South Africa as a prisoner-of-war. During concepts of Art, thAt Are originAl. • Villa is regarded as an abstract artist.
these techniques or concepts Are
his imprisonment, Villa’s talent granted him welcome Read the fact file on abstract art and dis-
Johannesburg bism, the formal language of which can be As someone living in South Africa, what is your under-
spells of freedom, as he was commissioned to make
sometimes fAr-reAching, chAnging
standing of Africa? Collect source material – images cuss the concept with others in your class.
16 april – 23 May 2009 seen in Villa’s use of intersecting planes in
from newspapers and magazines, and postcards, portraits of local personalities and other works of
the course of Art.
by emile maurice many of his sculptures. Another crucial mod- art. Upon his release, Villa decided to make South • In the 1960s and 1970s, Villa sought to
for example – that represents Africa in one way or
& rebecca dodd. ernist influence on Villa was the development represent the “the spirit of Africa” in his
compiled by the other. Also make sketches on the subject in your Africa his home and pursue his career as a sculptor in
t h e h e r i ta g e of constructivist sculpture in europe, where the visual diary. Finally, make an artwork which repre- Johannesburg. - A method of mAking A sculpture, work. What do you understand by the
agency cc term, ‘African art’? What do you think
work is assembled from various components, sents your understanding of today’s Africa. whereBy wAste mAteriAl is remoVed
from the form until the Artwork is makes an artwork African? In developing
finAlly AttAined. your ideas, ask your friends and family
edoardo Villa, Confrontation, 1978. steel. 4.23 m. Collection: rand Merchant Bank
doardo Villa: Moving Voices’ reflects an alternative Villa sensibility, members what they think.
edOArdO VIllA: MoVInG often overlooked by the public. It pays homage to the tradition of small Villa initially developed an African presence in public sculpture on show in Johannesburg than
oeuVre edoardo Villa, elliptical Movement, Green, 2002.
sculpture. The show comprises three to four years’ work, which reflects his work by including elements from the highveld any other artist. Mild steel, paint. 50 x 102 x 50cm
VoICes’ is one of few indoor how the artist, in his maturity, has adopted a more painterly approach - the entire Body of work By An
landscape into his work, particularly plant forms, The decades-long span of Villa’s career has seen
exhibitions by the highly to colour and form, in contrast with his better known large-scale, stark, mechanical and his sculptures from the 1950s featured jagged
Artist, or the Body of work regArded
his work evolve from relatively conservative busts collectiVely.
acclaimed sculptor, and industrial derivative works. contours and intersecting flat and curved planes. As and reliefs to bare, modernist shapes and figu-
edoardo villa. Villa’s miniatures, like their enormous ‘cousins’, may appear non-figurative (ab- esmé Berman puts it, his work now began to speak
stract) at first, but all are characterised by a playful approach to the human form. “convincingly, not of the appearance, but of the phAllocentric
at the age of 93, villa even the most abstract pieces make some reference to human relationships, experience of Africa”. “Villa’s work speaks - referring to or implying the phAllus
(1915- ) is probably the circumstances, attitudes and postures. Villa’s works vary in mood and can be lighthearted, ‘not of the appearance, (penis) or mAle Attitudes
but of the experience
oldest working artist The exhibition highlights the developmental process from studio to gallery, from raw elegant or humorous. It is, however, in his more seri-
materials to the riot of shape and colour that celebrates Villa’s passion for life. The ous reflections on life that his search for an African
in the country. his work majority of Villa’s pieces have been created using spot welding, best likened to “gluing”, presence for his work shines through. An example edoardo Villa at work
spans nearly seven as opposed to the more traditional reductive carving technique of sculpture. here is Confrontation (1978), an enormous work in- rines, to the exuberant and colourful works which ABout these worksheets
Villa’s early work consists mostly of traditional
decades and comprises After his release from a prisoner-of-war camp at Zonderwater in south Africa (he was stalled outside the Rand Merchant Bank in sandton, typify the latter part of his oeuvre. While some of
figurative heads and reliefs. Although his best-known fact file ABstrAct Art This educational supplement accompanies the exhibitions,
Johannesburg. Made in the aftermath of the 1976 his sculptures are twisted interpretations of the
thousands of pieces captured during World War II, and imprisoned for four years), Villa came under the influ- work is very different from these demure figures, the ‘Past/Present’ and ‘edoardo Villa: Moving Voices’. In it
ence of radical shifts away from the tradition of replicating, or describing, appearances soweto uprising, it expresses Villa’s concern with the human form, others are sometimes startlingly phal- sharp definition and precise finish of these reliefs were In abstract art, the subject looks different artworks are explored by means of thought-provoking
dealing with sexuality, political conflict in apartheid south Africa. locentric. It is a testament to an active, creative and from how it appears when we look at it
questions, fact files, glossary words and practical projects.
in european art. He absorbed the lessons of modernism, as evident in the work of to be become one of the hallmarks of Villa’s work in Discussion topics help learners to develop a critical attitude
aggression, political sculptors such as Pablo Picasso, Henry Moore and David smith, and rose to become Today Villa’s easily recognisable public sculptures open mind that Villa, even after 90, still conceives the 1950s and 1960s. After the War, Villa created in life. The subject may, for example, be to art, rather than just a grasp of media, styles, subject mat-
unease and confrontation. arguably the foremost abstract sculptor in south Africa. dot the urban landscape of Johannesburg, com- and produces works which reflect sexual energy a multitude of works, and exhibited often. He soon distorted, generalised or fragmented, as in ter and themes. These worksheets are designed primarily
for grade 10-12 learners, but are easily adapted for younger
plementing the modernist buildings that partly and youthful vitality. became a well-known member of the Johannesburg early 20th century abstract art movements, learners. Together with the introductory text, they are a
give the city its particular character. He has more art circuit. From the mid-1960s, he received a such as Cubism, Constructivism, Fauvism stand-alone educational resource on the work of Andrew
Verster and edoardo Villa.
large number of commissions, and his work was and Expressionism. When an artwork is
edoardo Villa, Duo, Green - Blue, 2008. Mild steel, paint. 39 x 33 x 30cm
increasingly shown outside the country. completely abstracted, no recognisable Note on assessment
edoardo Villa, elliptical Movement, sky Blue, 2002. Mild steel, paint. 74 x 93 x 35cm forms can be detected: all we see are lines, We recommend that educators develop assessment activi-
rather than shaped, as per tradition, through
fact file cuBism The 1970s marked the beginning of a long-standing
shapes and colours. These express the ties based on this learning experience. Assessment ensures
relationship between Villa and various tertiary that learners integrate and apply knowledge and skills. It
the modelling, or carving, of form. Developed in Paris by Pablo Picasso and Georges emotions and sensations of the artist, such also provides teachers with indications of achievement.
institutions in and around Johannesburg. The Rand
Braque, Cubism was an early 20th century as pain, anger or joy. Abstract art is based When assessment is focused, say in the form of continuous
Villa was first exposed to modernist avant-garde Afrikaans University (now University of Johannesburg), feedback over a year, learners understand more clearly
movement. By rejecting naturalistic art, it on the idea that these lines, shapes and
developments in european art through his University of Pretoria and the University of the what they are required to know. self-assessment helps
revolutionised painting and sculpture. Cubism colours have aesthetic values in themselves,
friendship with two immigrants – egon Guenther Witwatersrand have holdings of his work on their learners set personal goals, evaluate performance and build
consisted of two phases. In the ‘analytical’ campuses, some obtained during exhibitions held irrespective of how they might be used to self-confidence. Peer assessment encourages a sense of
and Vittorini Meneghelli. They both collected responsibility. When planning an assessment programme,
phase the subject was depicted from a variety of there, others added over time, and some generously represent an object or figure. Russian-born
traditional African art, and were involved with the school teachers need to refer to Learning Outcomes and
viewpoints, and appeared fragmented and made donated by Villa himself. The sculptor’s work therefore Wassily Kandinsky (1866-1944) pioneered standards for the Visual Arts, as envisaged in the national
modern art scene in europe before arriving in
up of interlocking planes. As the aim was never forms part of the Johannesburg landscape. pure abstraction from 1910. Pioneers curriculum statement.
south Africa. Through his association with them
to paint a completely abstract picture, when the of abstract art in South Africa include Acknowledgements
in the Johannesburg of the 1960s and 1970s, Villa represented South Africa at the Venice Biennale
subject became nearly unrecognisable because of Walter Battiss (1906-82), Ernest Mancoba The authors wish to thank the artists, Andrew Verster and
Villa was exposed to traditional African art, which on five occasions, and received awards at the São
the fragmentation of the figure, Cubism evolved into (1904-2002), and Edoardo Villa. edoardo Villa; the standard Bank Gallery team - Mandie
was to have such a profound impact on his work. Paulo Biennales of 1957 and 1959. His work has van der spuy, Barbara freemantle, nhlanhla ngwenya, sue
its second phase, known as ‘synthetic’ Cubism. This
Guenther’s fascination with Africa and its spirit been shown in more than 100 solo and group shows Isaac and Kate Johns; Jo-Anne Duggan at the Heritage Agen-
phase was characterised by the use of stencilled cy; Design Infestation, and Philippa Hobbs for her input.
led to the establishment of the Amadlozi group, worldwide, including exhibitions in Europe, North and
lettering and also collage – the incorporation into
of which Villa became a leading member. Other South America, and Africa. The artist’s 80th birthday in Published by the standard Bank Gallery, 2009. no part of
painting of materials, which were stuck onto the this resource may be reproduced without permission of the
members of the group included cecil skotnes, 1995 was celebrated with the opening of the Edoardo
edoardo Villa, The Knot, 1981. artwork. Picasso’s constructivist sculpture evolved publisher.
cecily sash, sydney Kumalo, Giuseppe cattaneo Villa Museum at the University of Pretoria. He is best RefeRences
steel. 6.75 m. Collection: Iziko
from the use of collage. Here various materials were Berman, e. 2005. “Foreword”. In K. nel, e. Burroughs & A. Von standard Bank Gallery, corner simmonds and frederick
south African national Gallery and later ezrom Legae. They were dedicated to known for his large-scale steel sculptures, which are Maltitz (eds.), Villa at 90. Johannesburg & Cape town: Jonathan streets, Johannesburg. Tel: 011 631-1889
combined – these were stuck together – to make a housed in museums, universities and public spaces Ball Publishers with shelf Publishing. 1-13.
creating an African identity in art.
three-dimensional art object. around the country. www.standardbankgallery.co.za
edoardo Villa, Red Figure, 1967. steel. 2.35 m. Private collection