About Face considers the acts of seeing, being seen, and looking back.
From earliest times the genre of portraiture in picture-making has served to reflect on our human experience, confirming existence and presence to the world. To record the likeness of oneself or another is a powerful proposition with dynamic determinants of meaning. In thinking about these meanings we’ve asked ourselves a number of questions:
Why is the tension between seeing and being seen so compelling?
Faces that look out of pictures return the gaze to their beholders in a complex and sometimes tense exchange. Could this constitute an artistic gesture affirming the artist’s presence to the world? Can the subject represented be a substitute for the artist, the image becoming a projected self-portrait, if not an actual one?
Are the gazes of portrayer and portrayed both potentially positions of power? Face to face, what happens when the subject looks back at the onlooker with equal pointedness?
In this era of hyper-awareness, who can portray whom? Is it possible for the artist with a sound conceptual premise to depict their subject in a way undetermined by their own position in the world?
From portrait galleries to daily bureaucracy and now social media, portraits represent people in the minds of others. With more cameras than people in existence today, is the contemporary portrait defined by the omnipresence of smart phones, social media and ID cards? And is this global mass of portraiture changing our understanding of the genre?
An exhibition of portraits may combine to become a collective, as an assembly of individuals may resemble a crowd. Are we creating an environment that encourages the projection of archetypes? What are the implications of this intervention?
Eyes are an important motif in such an exhibition. They are the locus of our individual worlds, instruments for seeing ‘what’ and ‘who’. What does it mean if visitors are enveloped in a room of eyes? And, in thinking about the 21st century’s proliferation of recording technologies, what if the eye is symbolically replaced by a camera?
Where portraits are non-verbal descriptions of people, do words have a place?
Exhibiting artists include Mequitta Ahuja, Wim Botha, Edson Chagas, Steven Cohen, Nelly Guambe, Pieter Hugo, Mawande Ka Zenzile, Moshekwa Langa, Mustafa Maluka, Neo Matloga, Zanele Muholi, Paulo Nazareth, Thenjiwe Niki Nkosi, Deborah Poynton, Claudette Schreuders, Berni Searle, Paul Mpagi Sepuya, Penny Siopis and Barthélémy Toguo.
The exhibition opens on Thursday 29 November, 6 to 8pm.
The gallery will be open throughout the season, closing only on public holidays.