For the second iteration of STAGE, Stevenson is pleased to present Ellipse by Mack Magagane.
Created over four years in multiple chapters, Magagane’s photographic series blends pop cultural motifs, philosophical allegory and classical iconography to explore the mechanics of meaning-making specific to conceptions of post-colonial youth.
The quasi-epic narrative of Magagane’s allegorical world tells how the demi-celestial bodies in Sea of Angels, who serve the continuous orbit of the Earth, were abducted by Crono, and how the Children of the Sky embark on a quest to find and restore them. In the midst of this battle, across times and dimensions, the ancient mystics in Fallen Sky and End of Days offer lessons, trials and knowledge about the cosmos and its inhabitants.
The first chapter, Children of the Sky, features pseudo-characters with names such as Drago, Mars and Baby Astro – humanoid, alluding to a galactic interplay between mythologies. The figures are each given roles suggestive of video game rivalries while foregrounding the artist’s larger questions around good and bad, victory and defeat. Of the second chapter, Sea of Angels, Magagane writes: ‘This plane is represented through the portraits of Angels to tell a story of difference amidst similarity in contrast to the real in which we live.’
The figures are depicted using textiles; Magagane writes that he ‘mimic[s] the drapery of Renaissance painters and sculptors to weave the narrative of a multifaceted, ethereal world'. With the artist having trained in documentary photography at the Market Photo Workshop, these chapters marked a decisive shift. Informed by art historical concepts such as ‘terribilità’ and the ‘divine feminine’, Magagane seeks to use the camera as not only a representational device but an aesthetic laboratory.
Fallen Sky takes these conceptual and aesthetic considerations further with everyday objects. Shoes, clothes hangers and lights are used to emphasise Magagane’s occupation with three-dimensionality within the photographic image. Through his titles he specifically evokes archetypes such as Messenger, Father, Nature, and in these works he examines how, in his words, ‘perceptual inhibition influences the subjectivity and universality of belief systems’.
End of Days, developed in 2021, concludes Ellipse by bringing visual articulation to personal states. Instead of narrative devices and historical material, Magagane’s textured fields meditate on concepts such as Creation, Death and Companionship. About this trajectory into intimate spheres of concern he writes:
I tried to deviate away from photographing textiles. I mixed natural ground and plants to give a changed perspective and alter how the images would synchronise as a whole. This work would be a sort of last portal embarked upon by the Children of the Sky ... Again this would ground their existence around the very same Earth we live in, affirming that the virtues they learnt during their journey remain significant and exist.
Mack Magagane was born in 1990 in Soweto, Johannesburg, and he currently lives and works in South Africa. Introduced to photography by his sister in 2008, Magagane’s first project was Light Hours (2009), based on an early interest in the built environment and its effect on the psyche. In 2010 Magagane received a Tierney Fellowship and attended the Market Photo Workshop under the mentorship of Jo Ractliffe. Solo exhibitions include Residual, presented by Front Gallery as part of the FotoFest biennial, Houston, Texas (2020); Somewhere Between Here, ROOM Gallery, Johannesburg (2014); and ....in this city, Market Photo Workshop Gallery, Johannesburg (2012).
Magagane was awarded the Centre Photographique d’Ilede-France Residency in 2013 and the ACT ImpACT Award for Visual Arts in 2011. He previously exhibited with Stevenson as part of the group exhibitions In the Night I Remember and The Loom of the Land, both in 2013.
STAGE is Stevenson’s current platform for younger, unrepresented artists. The first iteration featured Khanysile Mawhayi.
The exhibition opens on Thursday 5 May, 6 to 8pm.