A SOLO EXHIBITION BY MICHAEL AMERY, 2021
I started this body of work by expanding on my Geometrics series. I have been working more with acrylic paints and other new techniques which have allowed me edit my work quicker, pushed me to expand my pallet and helped me better understand the intricacies of colour. The Geometrics series is about our ability to pull apart and reassemble the land, our keen eye for measurement and the naive quantifying and commodification of resources with little regard for the natural order. I set out to further abstract work, as can be seen in the Linescapes series and in the Geometrics 33 and 34, where my process is almost mechanical - masking tap is used, and paint is premixed and applied according to a predetermined map of the artwork, like paint-by-numbers.
I have also continued the theme of invasive trees in South Africa. Invasive vegetation is said to be a greater threat to our water supply than climate change. And there are also devastating consequences on the local flora and fauna. Yet it’s hard to imagine seeing Cape Town without Stone Pines scattered all over its mountains, or a field without a great Eucalyptus - I think of them as iconic in a South African landscape. They are a legacy of the colonial industrialisation of South Africa, they are part of our heritage and they continue to create inequality and imbalance while taking over the land. Using sculpture I was able to make statues of these thriving colonial tress.
Van Riebeeck’s Hedge is a barrier of wild almonds and thorny shrubs planted in 1660 by Jan van Riebeeck to protect the grazing lands of the VOC settlement from the dispossessed Khoikhoi people. It separated an advanced European settlement from the unknown darkness that lay beyond. It was the beginning of a divide in South Africa, aided by nature’s cold indifference. This series reflects on our frail barriers between nature, land, people and against the unknown.
I recently visited an old asbestos mining town in Eswatini called Bulembu. The mine was closed in 2001, and the whole farm was sold to a ministry which now uses it as an orphanage. The exposed asbestos mine dumps still flank the otherwise quaint, picturesque town, with old oak trees, a church, hotel and sports club. I was intrigued by the masking of the barbarism, and the exploitation of mining, with opulence and the divine. In Bulembu Mine Dump I referenced one of my favourite Pierneefs, using very romantic colours and composition to beautify this tragic image.
“To be blind to beauty is crass, but to be swallowed up by it seems equally foolish.” Pierneef
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