The work of Jacob Hendrik Pierneef (1886-1957) was a dominant presence in South African art for much of the twentieth century. His works were displayed in public spaces, his paintings were prized commodities in the art market and he was studied by school pupils and art historians alike. Pierneef's landscapes have been appropriated, parodied and subverted by other artists since the 1980s; he has been associated (whether fairly or not) with the apartheid state and with Afrikaner nationalism. Even though private collectors pay huge sums for "a Pierneef" at auction, his work has become largely neglected by scholars and institutions in the arts sector. Wilhelm van Rensburg suggests that "public awareness of the art of J.H. Pierneef has never been at such a low point in South Africa".
J.H. Pierneef: A Space for Landscape brings together a wealth of paintings and prints, from numerous collections, to create the first major Pierneef exhibition in many years. It also includes a selection of works by artists who have responded to and undermined Pierneef's iconic status. Van Rensburg seeks to challenge the assumption that Pierneef was merely an artistic stooge of the projects of colonialism and Afrikaner nationalism. Adopting a biographical or a formalist approach to the work reveals other aspects of Pierneef: an outsider and an experimenter, an opponent of empire who was nonetheless international in his outlook. His influences were wide and varied, and his style shifted "under the broad rubric of modernism" from "somber and realistic" to impressionist, abstract and "quasi-geometric". As we discuss other icons of South Africa's past, the time is ripe to revisit the work of J.H. Pierneef.
Wilhelm van Rensburg, Curator of the JH Pierneef exhibition, will be giving walkabouts on the following dates:
Venue: Standard Bank Gallery
Corner Simmonds and Frederick Street
Parking: Corner Harrison and Frederick Street,Johannesburg
Please advise Sue if you would like to attend and if you need parking - email@example.com or call (011) 631-4467.
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