Pieter Hugo |
Pieter Hugo is the Standard Bank Young Artist for 2007, and an exhibition of his new series Messina/Musina is touring public galleries in South Africa until mid-2008. This series is also currently on show at Extraspazio in Rome, and is accompanied by a book featuring an interview with the artist by Joanna Lehan (Punctum, Rome, 2007).
Musina is the northernmost town in South Africa. It lies on the Limpopo River on the border of Zimbabwe. The town was formerly known as Messina, and in 2002 its name was changed to correct a colonial misspelling of the name of the Musina people who previously lived in the region. Located in the heart of the bushveld with its hunting farms and diamond mines, on the major trucking route north, it attracts a conglomeration of disparate peoples. The circumstances of Musina can also be seen as broadly reflective of any community that is confronted by transition and on a frontier. In the series of family portraits that are at the core of this body of work Hugo subverts traditional bright, commercial family portraits. As he says:
There is something very strange about the type of commissioned family portrait – its portrayal is based on an unrealistic ideal. In truth, families are complex and difficult. I don’t know anyone who has an easy relationship with their family. I don’t think there is such a thing as a functioning family. By their very nature families are dysfunctional. So by taking on this aesthetic, I’m subverting that notion in a way. Applying that idealised notion, but showing it an imperfect way. … I am engaging with humanity in all its complexity – why should I whitewash it? But, of course, life is full of irony. There is something strange about a family that wants their picture taken together, but the moment you leave the room they start arguing.
Hugo has a solo exhibition of his series The Hyena Men at Yossi Milo in New York in December 2007 and at Bertrand & Gruner in Geneva in April 2008. A book on this series has been published by Prestel (2007). His work has been included on numerous recent group exhibitions including the photography triennial Lumo ’07, Jyväskylä, Finland; the Hereford Photography Festival; and An Atlas of Events at Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, Lisbon.
© 2007 Michael Stevenson. All rights reserved.