Alone of its Kind
A group exhibition of artists working in collaboration with the David Krut Workshop in the monotype technique
Adele van Heerden
Header image: Vusi Beauchamp
What are Monotypes and Monoprints?
A monotype is a single impression created from a matrix applied with paint or ink. Yielding only one print, this technique is unique in that it cannot produce an edition of multiples. The pigment that remains after the pull is often insufficient to make a second impression unless more is applied. The application of further ink or the printing of the ‘ghost image’ will invariably create a different image, and thus each work is unique and unreplicable. While the show consists mostly of unique monotypes, a few of the artists have made monoprints. A monoprint incorporates multiple printed elements, some being etched plates, carved lino or wood, printed or embossed onto paper, along with unique printed ‘monotype’ elements. A series with common elements can be produced this way.
Alone of its Kind refers to singularity, the origin of ‘mono-’ coming from the Greek mónos, meaning ‘alone.’ This project has introduced a number of artists to the synergetic nature of our printmaking studio, allowing artists who might typically work in isolation, alone in their studios, to work collaboratively with printers and with other artists simultaneously in the workshop.
“Monotype offers artists an opportunity to step outside their regular studio practice while still working in a fluid, intuitive way that does not require the years of practice necessary for more technical print media. Painting a monotype on a non-absorptive matrix offers artists a whole host of aesthetic effects not associated with works on paper. In addition, monotypes can be worked additively or reductively with oil- or water-based, liquid or dry materials or even blocked with stencils or layered with multiple printings.”
This exhibition showcases the diversity of the monotype medium, and collaboration in its truest form. Master Printer Phil Sanders describes the accessibility of the medium, how it offers artists who may not have done printmaking before a new way of working and a new quality of mark.
Many of the artists included in the exhibition are first-time collaborators with the David Krut Workshop, while some have years of experience working with the team in a variety of techniques. The show highlights how each artist and their collaborating printmaker used the technique in their own unique way, harnessing the medium to suit their practice as well as allowing it to lead them into the unknown.
Collaborating printers: Kim-Lee Loggenberg, Sbongiseni Khulu, Roxy Kaczmarek and Sarah Hunkin.
Maaike Bakker plays with abstraction in her work, seeking to depict scenes from alternate realities. Her practice further explores limitations imposed by systems or structures. She aims to examine and pin point where such structures may become excessive and irrelevant, ultimately investigating the notion of futility. She employs a number of ‘visual languages,’ which, when used in multiple ways at once, lead to abstracted dialogues that are punctuated by various visual disruptions and new ‘trains of thought.’ Her resulting abstract works create feelings of both flow and disjuncture.
Painter Vusi Beauchamp works within a framework that interrogates current societal ills and musings against a backdrop of the postcolonial, post-Apartheid and post-“Rainbow Nation” era. His provocative iconography employs popular culture, satire and stereotypes in service of a visual political commentary.
Beauchamp’s current work is an extension of his ongoing ‘Paradyse of the damned‘ series. He seeks to interrogate the post-apartheid South African government embattled within itself, the disconnect with its people and our vexed social climate under this new viral threat, mired by false news and heightened insecurities over corruption.
Olivia Botha explores language, communication and perceptions of identity in her artistic practice. Botha is interested in “the connections we have with other people; our physical and imagined environments, and how our inner worlds influence the way we perceive reality, but also how our interpersonal relationships and environments change our inner worlds.”
“The subject matter has stayed the same, I work with figures, with portraits mostly, and it’s something that I’m still trying to understand completely because I am a bit repulsed by portraiture, but at the same time, I am drawn to it. It feels like I am in this constant battle or dance with the image and myself.”
“The first time I saw duchess satin was in the totally pink interior of Fabric World in Tommy Joubert Plaza 2 in George, it felt like very expensive damp coursing. It is with this sense of confinement that I approach these prints: all images of the late Anna Nicole Smith in wedding dresses. A young Texan dancer (in the tawdry sense) who rose to fame by marrying an octogenarian oil tycoon, her life was punctuated by nuptials. Either expectation of marriage, or being a bride, hemming her in, stopping her having her own desires and direction: like condensation trying to leave a greenhouse. These works consider the sublime disgust of wedding processions: sweat and max factor adorning a bride’s top lip.”
Spectrums of movement and relation are conjured by reoccurring depictions of hands and water bodies. Hands, as powerful input and output sensory tools for mediating communication, appear to be continually submerging and emerging. Water’s fluidity echoes the ephemerality of gestures; encasing and, conversely, encased by the hands. Each gesture’s presence changes through motion, hinting at transience through appearances and disappearances. Hemali Khoosal speaks of gestures as instances wherein imagination and translation are called to the fore. In these oil-based monotypes, the form of the hands are sometimes stand-ins and, at other times, amplifiers for words, sounds and emotion. After the initial printing of each plate with oil-based ink, she added handwork using water-soluble crayons to create marks which articulated the material fluidity of water.
“I regard marks not as mere constituents which make up an illusion of a subject, but as subjects in themselves, taking part in an improvised dance on a slippery impermeable surface.”
Heidi Fourie’s monotypes embody one of the definitions of the medium, as ‘the painterly print’ or the ‘printer’s painting.’ The image is built up in layers, allowing them to dry in between, creating deep areas of colour and pigment.
“In producing these watercolour monotypes, I was entranced by the way in which pigments – suspended in a drop of water carefully placed on the plate – gradually draw towards the edge of the fast-evaporating drop until finally leaving a crisp border of colour. The medium has a distinct uncontrollability quite different from that of oil paint, thus it surprised me on every plate.”
Lebogang Mogul Mabusela
“This iconic city allows you the decency to walk everywhere, it gives you the privilege to walk 40 minutes from home, to work, to school, or anywhere else; every single day. It is an experience to be enjoyed, by the everyday woman, a femme, who does not typically get to enjoy raving about the beauty of Johannesburg. It contradicts the reality of navigating within misogynoir; a dangerous space filled with obstacles, sexist roadblocks and patriarchal potholes. This body of work depicts voyeurism and the male gaze expressed through portraiture and text. The work is also way more about catcalling but also about subverting the male gaze in art and interrogating male desire, and showing how dangerous it can be. The series uses a lot of pink to show the positioning and the feminine voice.”
The work of Maja Maljević is typically playful and quirky, with a myriad of abstract forms and lines layered across the surface. After many years of collaboration with the David Krut Workshop, Maljević has set herself a new challenge – to work monochromatically. Her typical typology is defined by colour, although she found she could not divorce herself from it altogether. The resulting monoprints employ a range of techniques, which involved the entire printing team in the collaboration. Plates from previous series’ were recycled into the works as elements of collage, along with new plates and reworked ones.
Mandla Mavengere’s works speak to the diversity and inequalities of labour, the hardships of migration and the monetary value of goods and services rendered. A study of the people that choose to migrate and the ambitions that drive them to do it, Mavengere depicts individuals who leave their familiar homes and territories, searching for better fortunes in larger cities and foreign countries.
His works highlight the necessity of paper in the form of his signature hand carved ‘Gondruala’ linocut bank notes, often used as backdrops for the subjects in his works. This fictitious currency stands for the uncompromised environment of dwelling. It also represents the hope and potential for the resource-rich continent of Africa which serves as a resource pivot to the globe, whilst the banknotes divulge stories of both success and great loss.
Clive Sithole’s experience and knowledge of southern African culture feeds into his artistic practice. In his work, Sithole plays with ideas of masculinity and femininity, a traditionally symbolic division in the Zulu sphere. A recurring theme and iconography is that of cattle – a metaphor for wealth, family and roots, and the masculine identity in a historically pastoralist culture. Zulu ceramics are historically made only by women, with the clay pot being deemed feminine by nature. Sithole subverts this in his practice by creating such objects and including symbolism of Zulu masculinity in the form of cattle imagery.
This thread of his practice can be found in his monotypes. Working from loose charcoal sketches Clive experimented with the fluidity of liquid from the pigments and water in contrast to bold colourful lines drawn with Woody crayons.
Mbali Tshabalala’s work embodies thematic expressions of one’s identity, juxtaposed with that of society’s often invisible expectations and narratives imposed on oneself. Seen here is a series of oil-based paper lithography variable editions. The prints consist of multiple layers with chine collé, collage, monotype, linocut, embossing, hand colouring and drawing, and of course paper lithography. In the works Tshabalala is both the subject and the artist, making each image not only a self-reflection but also commentary on the varying scales at which society deems fit to categorize the human body.
Adele van Heerden
Adele van Heerden’s work juxtaposes the natural world with human history. Particularly interested in the interaction of botanical and natural elements with the urban and architectural, her monotypes were produced during a residency at the David Krut Workshop in mid-2021. A Cape Town-based artist, she admired the amount of green in the Johannesburg city during her stay.
“One of the first sights I went out to see upon arrival in Johannesburg was the Greenhouse Project in Joubert Park. I was particularly affected by the juxtaposition between the busy, urban setting, with brutalist high-rises all around, and the tranquil space inside the garden and greenhouse. There were even beehives, mirroring the gigantic block of flats (also resembling) beehives just outside the perimeter of the park.”