When Stevenson hosted Distant Relatives/Relative Distance in 2006, it was an attempt to expand the range of art seen locally, and take our South African audience on a journey through the broader world in which our artists travelled.
After 15 years of rapid internationalisation, local audiences have had two years of rapid regionalisation. We met fewer people, saw less art, and our range of vision was reduced to the size of our screen. As the world haltingly emerges from its slumber, Stevenson sets out to actively reintroduce the joy of discovery into its programme. One way in which we will do so is through AMS, an ad hoc exhibition series in which we share work by artists we have got to know through our new space in Amsterdam. A second way is through a series of idiosyncratic two-person exhibitions. The first pairing will feature work by Shine Shivan and Jane Alexander, two artists from different continents working in different mediums whose work resonates in unexpected ways.
Shine Shivan (born 1981, India) has developed a distinct language depicting mythological figures and gods from Indian cultures. Working mostly on paper, ranging in size from intimate to large-scale triptychs, Shivan’s forms emerge from Vedic traditions and the dynamics of power, love and wisdom that they embody.
The sculptural figures and ensembles of Jane Alexander (born 1959, South Africa) similarly offer archetypal forms and motifs that extend beyond specific lineages of image-making or reception. Alexander’s figures embody both animal presence and mythical alteration.
The animated eyes, belonging to gods and creatures alike, that characterise the figures in both artists’ work, although veiled in Alexander’s Attendant (2008-10), set up a trans-dimensional conversation throughout. In Shivan’s Study of forms (2019-22) clerical collared figures seem transfixed in unblinking reverie; in his Nandan series (2019-22), in which Krishna battles the serpent Kaliya, the god’s open-eyed knowing meets the five-headed serpent’s reflective orbs.
The central gallery is a pantheon: Shivan’s mythic figures dance amongst themselves and with mortals, inviting us to witness their ecstasies, while Alexander’s sacred messengers, Harbinger (2004) with ghost (2007) and hobbled ruminant (2003-04), appear to transit between worlds.
Alexander’s Infantry with beast (2012) is shown in Cape Town for the first time. Inextricably bound to one another, seemingly under the command of a small dog-like creature, a phalanx of 27 hybrids parade forward, alluding to the violent fulfilment of unknown destiny.
The gallery has presented several installations by Alexander over the years, most recently Infirmary as part of the group exhibition my whole body changed into something else, and Verity, Faith and Justice at our Amsterdam gallery in 2021. This will be Alexander’s most expansive exhibition of work in Cape Town in many years.
Shivan shows in South Africa for the first time. He has recently presented solo exhibitions at Galerie Felix Frachon, Brussels, and Sakshi Gallery, Mumbai. He has been selected for the 5th Kochi-Muziris Biennale, In our veins flow ink and fire, postponed to late 2022. The artist lives and works in Faridabad, India.
The exhibition opens on Saturday 26 March, 10am to 1pm.