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NB: as of 23 September 2008, all new artSMart articles are being published on the site news.artsmart.co.za.

GEORGE GITTOES (article first published : 2001-04-3)

Running until April 8 at the Durban Art Gallery is Lives in The Balance, an exhibition comprising ten oil paintings, 40 drawings, photographs and three etchings by Australian artist George Gittoes.

Gittoes’ figurative, narrative works (from 1989-2000) include subjects from South Africa, Somalia ,Rwanda, Congo, Bosnia, the Middle East, Cambodia, the Philippines and Russia - just some of the locations where the artist has worked over the last two decades.

Gittoes has carved out a unique practice as an artist, blurring the lines between art and journalism. Since the mid 80’s he has been drawn to places of cultural conflict and change. Always alone, he travels light, with his “portable studio”, a small artist’s satchel, paper, pencils, and a good camera. He has created his drawings in mud huts, bamboo houses, river boats, crowded buses, refugee settlements and military encampments.

Along the edges of the drawings, and intended as part of the work itself, the artist writes diary notes, conveying the circumstances of artist and subject . Gittoes instinctively recognizes the single image which conveys the bigger picture, that captures a period, a point of change. But he also places importance on the personal stories of individuals, and insists these stories, which he writes as he draws, are part of his work.

Returning to his studio, Gittoes uses his drawings and photographs to create oil paintings, which combine the narrative, metaphorical and documentary elements of his experiences. He uses paint without inhibition.

Gittoes has visited South Africa several times in the last decade. His major body of works on South Africa come from his experiences of the historic period, in 1994, of the lead up to Mandela’s election.




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