Something out of Nothing
Online viewing room
August 5 to August 27, 2020
David cannot make one mark, one stroke and something just comes to life,
he had to constantly search. My reading of that is both a struggle
but also this persistence of searching, of experimenting.
Goodman Gallery presents Something out of Nothing, the gallery’s first presentation of the work of David Koloane since his passing in 2019, curated from the various themes which he explored during his career. This online viewing room includes Koloane’s two lesser seen animations, The Takeover and Something out of Nothing; various works dedicated to the equally despised and loved mgodoyi (street dog), a deeply layered assemblage and a host of dynamic city scenes, all of which were included in his recent travelling survey show.
David Koloane’s style of mark making is distinct within the South African art canon. From what appeared to be rough sketches and scratches in charcoal, pastel and paint, Koloane would painstakingly pull out the essence of a form. This would manifest, for example, in the joining of two curved lines to represent the most economical form of a bird, or the layering of a few curved “scribbles” and shapes to represent a Johannesburg skyscraper with its windows lit up.
Koloane was invested in the process of making, the journey of getting there, just as much as the destination itself. This was exemplified by his daily encounters with the city while walking to and from the studio, building up a memory of the textures of the city, which inturn informed the way he built up marks on a surface.
His mark making approach can be described as an unfiltered encounter with the drawing medium onto a surface, be it paper, canvas or assemblage. However this analysis alone would omit the very academic inquiry also embedded in his practice, his degree in Museum Studies notwithstanding. This is to say that Koloane was concerned with knowledge making. This included a knowledge of himself, of the world around him and forging a new space of knowledge for fellow black artists, writers and curators when little to none had existed before. It was a concern with how to make something out of nothing.
 On David Koloane, Thembinkosi Goniwe and Justin Davy in conversation, FNB Art Joburg 2019
David Koloane (1938 – 2019) was born in Alexandra, Johannesburg, South Africa. Koloane spent his career making the world a more hospitable place for black artists during and after apartheid. Koloane achieved this through his pioneering work as an artist, writer, curator, teacher and mentor to young and established artists at a time when such vocations were restricted to white people in South Africa. A large part of this effort involved the initiatives Koloane helped establish, from the first Black Art Gallery in 1977, the Thupelo experimental workshop in 1985 and the Bag Factory Artists’ Studios in 1991, where he served as director for many years. Koloane also tutored at the Federated Union of Black Artists (FUBA) in 1979 and became the head of the fine art section and gallery from 1985 to 1990.
Through his expressive, evocative and poetic artwork, Koloane interrogated the socio-political and existential human condition, using Johannesburg as his primary subject matter. Koloane’s representations of Johannesburg are populated with images of cityscapes, townships, street life, jazz musicians, traffic jams, migration, refugees, dogs, and birds among others. Imaginatively treated, through the medium of painting, drawing, assemblage, printmaking and mixed media, Koloane’s scenes are a blend of exuberant and sombre, discernible and opaque pictorial narratives.
Koloane’s work has been widely exhibited locally and internationally. In 1999 he was part of the group exhibition Liberated Voices at the National Museum of African Art in Washington DC. In 2013, Koloane’s work was shown on the South African pavilion at the 55th la Biennale di Venezia and on the group exhibition My Joburg at La Maison Rouge in Paris. In 1998, the government of the Netherlands honoured Koloane with the Prince Claus Fund Award for his contributions to South African art. Koloane was also awarded an Honorary Doctorate twice, once from Wits University in 2012, and again from Rhodes University in 2015.
Earlier this year Koloane was the subject of a travelling career survey exhibition, A Resilient Visionary: Poetic Expressions of David Koloane, which opened at IZIKO SANG in June and will travel to Standard Bank Gallery and Wits Art Museum in October.
David Koloane’s work focuses on socio-political matters and contributions to the furtherance of disadvantaged black South African artists during and after the apartheid era is evident. My work can be said to reflect the socio- political landscape of South Africa both past and present. The socio-political conditions created by the apartheid system of government have to a large extent transfixed the human condition as the axis around which my work evolves. The human figure has become the icon of creative expression.
Mobil Oil, South Africa
South African National Gallery, Cape Town, South Africa
South African Higher Education Trust, Johannesburg, South Africa
Department of Education and Training, Pretoria, South Africa
BMW Collection, Germany
Botswana National Museum and Gallery, Gaborone, Botswana
Larry Poons, New York, USA Robert Loder, London, UK
Sir Anthony Caro, London, UK