Mystical realism

Fourteen artists will contribute to This is not an exhibition, opening at the Liebrecht Gallery in Somerset West on Friday June 1.

In every object there is another, hidden, object, said the Belgian painter René Magritte (1898-1967) in one of his many writings, and it is exactly this philosophy which distinguishes his work from that of the Surrealists in Paris, with André Breton, the Pope of Surrealism and author of their first Manifesto in 1924, laying down the law.

He always had an uneasy affiliation with the movement and was not one to be prescribed to, and definitely not prepared to go on trial for not adhering to surrealist principles or ideals.

Defining surrealism as “pure psychic automatism”, Breton appealed to hallucinations, the irrational, equivalents of reality which might exist in the unconsciousness.

This is not the case with Magritte – on the contrary. He is a realist painter, and a central theme running through his work is that the painter is a poet who, by way of associations (a rational process), uncovers those hidden objects and creates a poetic domain in which the viewer tries to solve the riddle – his concept of “mystery”. It is a “mystical realism”. Magritte’s sur-realism (a hyphenated word preferred by many critics to characterise his work) lies in his peculiar, unexpected combination of objects in reality.

Some iconic works of the previous century had a major influence as far as later developments with regard to movements like Pop, Minimalist and Conceptual Art, and this influence is widely recognised.

One of them is definitely Magritte’s famous “The Treachery of Pictures” of 1928 – an absolutely realistic depiction of a pipe, with the words “This is not a pipe” written beneath the picture (see page 1).

Of course it’s only a painting of a pipe, and one cannot smoke it, but there’s more to it than that, especially in the context of his insight into the relationship between objects, pictures and language. And this is what This is not an exhibition is all about.

Working within the frameworks of their own styles and backgrounds, 14 artists become poets and, using contemporary poetic texts as starting points, show us some hidden objects in a “poetic riddle” to be solved by the viewer.

And “solved” is probably an appropriate word since this is not an exhibition.

The contributing artists are Philip Badenhorst, Nicolle Anne Bouwer, Ydi Coetsee, Jaco Coetzee, Klara-Marié den Heijer, Hugo de Villiers, Verna du Toit, Wendy Gaybba, Sandra Hanekom, Juria le Roux, Katharine Meeding, Adele Potgieter, Marguerite Roux and Brahm van Zyl

For more information, contact Avril Gardiner at 082 682 5710.