A Pattern Language: Group Exhibition

Barnard is pleased to present A Pattern Language, a group exhibition of works by selected contemporary African artists.  As the title suggests this exhibition explores notions of 'pattern’ and ‘language’ – i.e., the use of forms and formats, as well as colour and composition, in visual communication. The positioning of these works in dialogue with one another is intended to encourage an exploration of the language of pattern and abstraction both in their universal form and usage, as well as, and perhaps more particularly how they relate to and are evidenced in a more localized African tradition.


A Pattern Language includes work by Tom Cullberg (Sweden / South Africa), Justin Dingwall (South Africa), Richard Mudariki (Zimbabwe), Asha Zero (South Africa), Jill Trappler (South Africa), Alexia Vogel (South Africa), Katherine Spindler, (South Africa), John Baloyi (South Africa) and Ibim Cookey (Nigeria).


In his singular style the images, Johannesburg based visual artist Justin Dingwall’s Wheel of Life and Sequence of Events explore both fashion and photography in a recent collaboration with Roman Hunt. Highlighting the innovation of local design and the presentation of pattern, these striking portraits celebrate both sophistication and simplicity in their elegance and energy while making comment on concepts of transience and transition in the urban landscape.


The paintings of Swedish born South African artist Tom Cullberg are at once familiar and foreign, pensive and playful. Charting territories between seemingly tangible and intangible worlds, the artist presents us with collections of represented painted objects in cabinets, as in 160 km / h away from here, that explore both fictitious story telling as well as real or recorded histories. These signifiers or symbols are presented over or alongside abstract grounds, as in Untitled I, that, like the mechanics of memory appear in a state of flux. 


Prominent themes in the work of Johannesburg based photographer John Baloyi are colourism, love and social identity in the black community. He explores patterns and symbols from an African perspective with the intention of inspiring an alternative perspective of people of colour and to present his subjects as ‘works of art’ in their own right. 


Ibim Cookey’s photoreal graphite drawings with richly patterned acrylic backgrounds celebrate both the everyday in his hometown of Port Harcourt, Nigeria as well as the rich cultural history of the traditional textiles of the region. Choosing to make portraits of his friends and family his work has close ties and links to the local community. The textile patterns he references are known as ‘Ankara’ and are associated with African clothing styles. The artist notes that “When we are born, we are wrapped in a wax print. It is a major part of our African heritage and every wax print tells a unique African story and is a form of visual communication.


Known for his meticulously rendered trompe l’oeil paintings, Cape Town based artist Asha Zero’s graphic deconstructions turn a lens on notions of identity and representation put forward by contemporary media and technology. Sharing conceptual ground with collage his works develop from printmaking techniques as well as a basic exploration of photography. His works titled, 20210, are constructed using pieces of etchings, silkscreen prints, photographs and cut-outs from various media platforms. These fragments, shapes and patterns morph together to create ‘portraits’ of an alternative reality. 


Cape Town based artist Katherine Spindler’s practise is characterised by a certain dexterity; she is equally adept at making drawings, collages or text pieces as she is painting or working with light projections and film. Medium and matter are intertwined; the thread or thought that binds them is a preoccupation with transience. All her works, whether seemingly figurative or more abstracted attempt ‘to hold time’, to encapsulate and illuminate ‘the space between moments’. 


In her composite of 21 individual oil pastel works, Berlin based South African artist Alexia Vogel continues her fascination with the emotive and sensory power of colour, mark making and surface pattern. Although informed by the natural world these works distance themselves from the need to represent overtly recognizable forms or landscapes. Rather, using degrees of abstraction, Vogel presents a series of works that gradually imprint themselves on the mind of the viewer, resonating on a level whereby they are not merely perceived but rather and more importantly felt.


South African artist Jill Trappler’s series of tapestries, collectively titled Floating Dreams, similarly reference the natural world evoking aerial views of some exotic, imagined landscape while their motifs simultaneously resemble patterns of various traditional African textiles and bead design suggestive of a form of ‘cultural coding’.


Zimbabwean painter, Richard Mudariki’s work, titled Bra, references another, albeit different form of cultural coding. Commenting on this painting the artist notes “In the past tattoos were exclusively for males, and it is believed that they protected them from sexually transmitted diseases. In modern days the significance of tattoos can be personal, decorative or symbolic. In this work, the black female body has tattoos that signify her existence and protect her from the dangers of contemporary society that lurks behind.”