Gavin Jantjes Multifarious Journey in Sharjah Art Foundation
Galleries 4, 5 and 6 Al Mureijah Art Spaces, Sharjah will host Gavin Jantjes’s artworks on 18 Nov 2023 . “To Be Free” is the name of this exhibition.
ArtDayMe: To Be Free! traces the multifarious journey of Gavin Jantjes as a creative agent of change, celebrating his multifaceted roles as painter, printmaker, writer, curator and activist. Driven by his formative years in Cape Town, which coincided with the early years of South African apartheid (1948–1994), Jantjes' journey embodies a quest for artistic emancipation, with a freedom not bound by the Eurocentric gaze or expectations of Black creativity. For Jantjes, this quest has meant a life of itinerant exile manifesting in multiple careers.
Structured into chapters spanning 1970 to the present, To Be Free! underscores pivotal phases in Jantjes' life. It explores his engagement with anti-apartheid activism in the 1970s to mid-1980s, his transformative role at art institutions in the UK, Germany and Norway and his compelling figurative portrayals of the global Black struggle for freedom as well as his recent transition to non-figurative painting.
This comprehensive retrospective also provides insights into Jantjes’ curatorial initiatives, written contributions and wider advocacy, demonstrating his significant impact on both African and African diaspora art and the global contemporary art scene. Through the various threads of his career over the last 50 years, his work has transcended temporal and geographical confines and asserted the relevance of African art in global cultural dialogues.
Organised in collaboration with The Africa Institute, Sharjah, this exhibition is curated by Salah M. Hassan, Director, The Africa Institute, and Distinguished Professor, Cornell University on 18 Nov till 10Mar 2024 at Sharjah Art Foundation.
Sotheby’s wrote about Gavin Jantjes in catalog notes:
A prolific and reflective artist, Gavin Jantjes is a graduate of the Michaelis School of Fine Art, University of Cape Town. The artist spent much of his career in exile from his home country of South Africa, leaving in 1970 to study at the Staatliche Hochschule für Bildende Künste in Hamburg and returning in 1994, over 20 years later, to participate in the democratic election of Nelson Mandela, South Africa’s first black president.
Jantjes is perhaps most known for his seminal, yet personal work, A South African Colouring Book, a critical commentary on the period of apartheid in South Africa. The work showed the artist’s skill as master printer and collagist; however, Homesickness a Blindman’s Paradise displays his brilliance as painter - without sacrificing the critical expression for which he is known.
Indeed, much of Jantjes's artistic practice is undoubtedly shaped by his time spent in exile. The artist would spend sixteen years from 1982-1998 in the United Kingdom before moving to Oslo in 1998 and then back to the UK in 2018.
Jantjes's work has been exhibited extensively and can be found in the collections of several renowned institutions such as the Tate, the V&A Museum, the National Museum of African Art Smithsonian, the Baltimore Museum of Art, the South African National Gallery Cape Town, the Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg, Russia, Gothenburg Art Museum, Henie Onstad Art Center, Oslo, Norway, as well as numerous prominent private and corporate collections. The artist has also received several commissions from the United Nations Refugee Council and the UN Special Committee Against Apartheid. During his time spent in the UK, Jantjes served as a trustee of the Tate as well as the Whitechapel and Serpentine Galleries and was responsible for the Arts Council of England’s national policy on cultural diversity. Most recently in 2018, Jantjes also took part in the 13th edition of the Biennial of Contemporary African Art, Dak’Art.
With numerous other positions under his belt and having written essays on artists such as Marlene Dumas and Nicholas Hlobo, Jantjes published ‘Visual Century: South African Art in Context 1907-2007 Vol I-IV’, a multi volume publication aimed at contextualizing the role of South African artistic production within the country’s broader cultural identity.