This exhibition by two well-established and respected South African  painters focuses on their quite different takes on the centrality of the  human body and figurative representation in the painterly medium.

For Ballam, the figure, especially the female figure, is a site of  contestation, conflict and even violence throughout history. In  refashioning figures and scenes from classical antiquity and art history,  Ballam brings a very contemporary filter and a new view of classical  tropes. Her palimpsestuous figures drawn from art historical scenes of  rape and unambiguous violence inflicted on women are reimagined, with  limbs, especially hands, erased and re-emerging to powerful effect. But  here too are figures of redemption and triumph, realised with the same  spectral skill in her brushwork and composition. 

Neethling’s oeuvre is filled, too, with figures drawn from a different, more  urban art history – the ghosts of Lautrec, Degas, Cezanne, Renoir and  Pop all haunt his images of thugs, corrupt politicians and bikini girls. Well  known for his association and collaborations with Robert Hodgins, his  figures differ in that they seem more tied to their bodies, less emblematic  of something else as in his ‘mentor and muse’ Hodgins’ work. Neethling  often uses photography as source material for what he calls his  ‘figurative-expressionistic’ figures. The portraits and nudes shown here  are redolent of early photographic studies, but are pushed away from  realism by his use of colour and his assured sense of line to realise  character studies that, even as faceless nudes, contain much emotion  and pathos. 


Jan Neethling 

Sarah Ballam 

Saturday 5 November | 11am-3pm | Keyes Art Mile 

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