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BREYTEN’S ART (article first published : 2000-12-29)

Last year, the design firm Studio V and attorneys Brink, Cohen, Le Roux & Roodt commissioned celebrated South African poet and artist Breyten Breytenbach, to paint 10 “canvas books”. The unique work, completed over a ten month period, will be on public display for the first time at the Gencor Gallery at Rand Afrikaans University from February 6 to 28, 2001.

On viewing the work for the first time, a well known art critic commented that it reminded her of Pierneef's Station panels - meaning that Breytenbach's “canvas books” belong to the nation in the same way as the Station panels and that the public must proclaim them as such. It is indeed the public that will have to give meaning to the images and metaphors. Lappasait is a 21st century work intended for the ordinary man.

In South Africa Breytenbach is famous as a poet, writer, dramatist, public figure and revolutionary. He is less known as a painter and his work has been exhibited locally on only four occasions. His first exhibition was in 1962 at the Edinburgh Paperback Gallery. Until the time of his much-publicised arrest he gave 22 solo exhibitions and took part in 17 group exhibitions. His painting career only started again after his period in jail. Subsequently he received numerous invitations to exhibit from international galleries such as Montreuil, Stockholm, and other well known galleries in Europe. Since 1983 he has had 14 solo exhibitions and was awarded the Jocobus van Looy prize for painting and poetry in the Netherlands. In France he was awarded the Prix d'Lvry la Pienture.

In the Lappasait series Breytenbach has a special interest in highlighting the link between metaphor and image. The 10 large “canvas books” (about 3 x 1.2 meters each) consist of poems accompanied by images. Some of the canvasses bear witness to pain, with which the artist is so familiar, some portray emotional experiences and some recollections of previous images and motives.

More details from the curator of the Gencor Gallery, Annali Cabano-Dempsey, at (011) 489-2099 (mornings) or at aed@adfin.rau.ac.za




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