blank projects is pleased to present FR1000ID, an exhibition by Herman Mbamba and Cameron Platter. Spanning components of drawing, painting and sculpture, the exhibition draws parallels between the practices of these artists and articulates a moment in African abstraction.
The paintings of Herman Mbamba (b.1980, Gibeon, Namibia) are typified by their amorphic shapes arranged in crowded, energetic colour fields. Mbamba produces his works first as performative drawings enacted in pencil on canvas, creating composition from intersecting lines which are later filled in and exaggerated to create the artist’s recognisable vocabulary of forms. Although abstract, the visual language of the paintings is derived from earlier figurative works, comic narratives that were deconstructed and reduced over time. In these new works, however, we begin to see a return to figuration; here and there a hand, a limb, or a face emerges from an otherwise camouflage-like landscape of contrasting colour and shape.
Living in Haugesund, a city in the western reaches of Norway, and working within the expressionist vein of Lyrical Abstraction, Mbamba is acutely aware of the paradoxical nature of his practice and the conflicting expectations placed on him as a Namibian artist. For him, abstraction is a political position with which he resists the constructed role of the black diasporan artist.
Working between the mediums of drawing, sculpture, video, collage and, more recently, oil painting, Cameron Platter (b.1978, Johannesburg, South Africa) consumes, appropriates and filters the overload of information available as a waste product of the digital age. His interest in the aesthetic of trash – that is “the overlooked, subliminal, fringe elements of society” – is an exploration of those references that sit outside of “polite society’s main avenue of discourse”. Blurring the distinction between high and low culture, Platter’s eclectic and multi-disciplinary practice draws from a wide range of sources, including advertising, pornography, art history, fast food, poetry, social media, and the landscape of KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa where he is based. The works on show include new paintings, a series of large pencil-crayon drawings and two painted bronze sculptures cast from assembled polystyrene constructions.
A third and final component of the exhibition is a series of works on paper and linen made by Mbamba and Platter in collaboration. Sharing a background of working within artist collectives, their artistic exchange offered an opportunity to explore other modalities and formats, dislodging the comforts of their own practices. The collaboration also posed difficulties however, such as how to respond intuitively and respectfully to an existing painted surface and another artist’s language while preserving one’s own and without giving in to sentimentality?
Correspondence between the artists (who have never met in person) took place over several months in the form of emails, WhatsApp messages, phone calls, and artworks shipped back and forth between Norway and South Africa. Accordingly, communication was either immediate and unfiltered or slow and fragmented, and this process of working impulsively in slow motion across time and space is an essential part of the result of their collaboration.