- R50 Strauss & Co Masterclass: Life Forces
The exhibition, Life Force: The Still-Lifes of Irma Stern, at the 2018 Turbine Art Fair forms part of the strategic objectives of Strauss & Co, which emphasize not only facilitating public access to the arts, but also the importance of educational outreach. Not only is it virtually impossible for any art student or art lover, for that matter, to view his or her works in public collections in Gauteng, but it is also vital to foster an educational appreciation of the importance of Irma Stern’s work in the history of South African art. Her still-lifes constitute a significant pause in her oeuvre because they provide the ideal opportunity to reflect on the formal qualities of art, especially in and through her exuberant use of colour, and by means of her expressive brush strokes.
In 2017, Strauss & Co mounted an exhibition of the Pierneef holdings of one collector at the Turbine Art Fair to advance our strategic objectives by dovetailing with the mission of the Fair, which is to promote emerging artists and to encourage collecting. We invited Artist Proof Studio students to pull prints, inspired by Pierneef’s famous linocuts. The student prints were exhibited alongside the Pierneef works and they were very accomplished.
This year Strauss & Co will participate again in the Turbine Art Fair, showing the still-lifes of Irma Stern. Stern was not really known as a printmaker, and so we decided to open up the invitation and approach art schools at tertiary institutions (University of Johannesburg, University of Pretoria, and Tshwane University of Technology, Open Window Institute, and the Imbali Visual Literacy Project), inviting those students who specialize in painting and in sculpture, to enter. We then saw the need to have different categories: in addition to painting, sculpture, also print making, ceramic art, and New Media (illustration, animation, film, photography, gaming theory, design, 3D modelling/printing, etc.).
All the students will be briefed about Stern’s still lifes that were exhibited, as well as about her place in the development of still-life painting in South Africa, and, lastly, about the manner in which contemporary artists have engaged with the subject matter of the still-life. The lecture is about reflecting on the perceived benefits of the educational programme.
Wilhelm van Rensburg is Senior Art Specialist at Strauss & Co and holds a Master’s Degree in Art History from the University of Johannesburg. Apart from training student art teachers in the Faculty of Art, Design Architecture at UJ, his extracurricular interest in art initially manifested in writing. He was the chief art critic for Beeld newspaper from 1993 to 2003. He then moved into freelance curating, mounting major survey exhibitions for Irma Stern (2003), Judith Mason (2008) and JH Pierneef (2015), all at Standard Bank Gallery, with further exhibitions due on Christo Coetzee (2018). In 2016, he curated the educational programme for the exhibition ‘Henri Matisse: Rhythm and Meaning’, also at Standard Bank Gallery. Wilhelm has also been involved in commercial dealing. He was co-director of Gallery Art on Paper, Johannesburg, from 2006 to 2016. The gallery was known for its independent-minded and historical programme. Wilhelm is presently completing a biography of Walter Battiss.