NIROX WORDS EXHIBITION

I'm very excited to be exhibiting on the upcoming Nirox Words Festival at Nirox Sculpture Park in the Cradle of Humankind from 21-22 October 2017. For more info see www.niroxwords.com.


FEATURED: GQ STYLE

An interview with GQ Deputy Editor, Nkosiyati Khumalo, in the latest issue of GQ Style.


FEATURED: ART MEETS TV

It is a great honour to be featured in the first Art Meets TV #portrait, a new series videos of chats with local artists in their studios. See the Art Meets TV Youtube Channel here.


1K - 5.0

1K 5.0 (Fifth Edition) is a limited, itinerant point of sale. During 1K, established artists sell purpose-made work for R1000.00 in order to identify a new generation of collectors and inject liquidity into the market. 1K is not a gallery or a space. It is not a company or business. It is the limited appearance and disappearance of a set price point on street level for one hour.

The fifth 1K event will occur in front of City Guns, 57 Hout street between Long and Loop from 6 to 7pm during First Thursday, 3 November 2016.

Work for sale by Igshaan Adams, David Brits, Jared Ginsburg, Dan Halter, Unathi Mkonto, Kyle Morland, Jacob van Schalkwyk and Gerda Scheepers.

Works will only be on sale at the event for 1 hour.

Website: http://www.1k.co.za/


FEATURED: SA ART TIMES

I am very honoured to have been chosen as a "young South African artist to watch" in the November issue of the SA Art Times. 


FEATURED: SUNDAY TIMES HOME

I was recently interviewed by Roberta Thatcher of Sunday Times Home. See the full interview below:

How would you describe your work?
My art explores what it means to be a young man living in South Africa today. I work across a diverse range of media, including printmaking, drawing and painting. I work in both abstraction and figurative art, and sometimes both at the same time.
What informs your choice of subject matter?
As a person growing up as a young white man in a new, democratic society, I have often felt the need to work through the complex history I inherited. I see making art as a tool for “working through” and this “working through” has taken different forms with each subject that I approach. Past projects addressed themes that span both my personal and inherited histories - including masculinity, my ancestry, the ‘Border War’ in Angola, and pre-democratic South African history.
Where do you source your archival images?
Each body of work I approached has been underscored by in-depth research, which stems from both a lively interest in history itself, and my professional experience as an archivist. Archival material is drawn from  from sources as wide-ranging as family photograph albums and ancestral records, to second-hand books and the Internet. My most recent exhibition, Snake Man (2015), — for instance — was heavily based on a scrap book of newspaper articles kept by my late grandfather, John Wood, one of South Africa’s foremost reptile experts and snake showmen. 

 

In your experience, what's the best thing about making art?
The best part about making art is getting to use my talent each day. That I get to spend my time doing what I am able to do best is a rare and wonderful gift. Not many people get to do that, even if their talents are obvious to them.

 

And the worst?

The hardest part about following the path of an artist is learning to trust. I often wake up on a Monday morning not quite knowing what the week will bring, and all I can do is trust that there are opportunities around the corner, even though I cannot see them. Luckily, each day is better than the next, and I am continually and genuinely surprised by what life serves up. 
What are you currently working on?
I am currently working on my fourth solo exhibition set to open at Hazard Gallery in Johannesburg in September this year. I am also planning my debut as a theatre director (alongside Chad Spence) in early 2017, with a musical performance commemorating the 100th year anniversary of the sinking of the SS Mendi, a troop ship that sank on her way to France during WW1. 646 people were killed, most of whom were black troops of the South African Native Labour Corps. The play will include performances by traditional Xhosa Isicathamiya and Cape Malay choirs, and will take place at the South African Slave Church Museum in Cape Town on 21 February 2017.
I believe that in 2013 you sailed 6000 nautical miles, having never sailed before. Are you prone to crazy adventures?
Yes, one could certainly say I have an adventurous spirit. Throughout my life I have been drawn to and undertaken multiple rites of passage and pilgrimages. I have walked the Camino de Santiago for 900km in northern Spain, backpacked around the world for a year, have been to India five times, and — as you mentioned — sailed across the Atlantic Ocean. Such journeys have allowed me to work through the deepest aspects of myself — making me a truer, better human being and therefore a more honest artist.
Three South African artists whose work you'd love to own?
A drawing by Unathi Mkonto, a collaged portrait by Khehla Chepape Makgato, and an etching or painting by the late Colin Richards.
Where can we buy your work?
Smith Gallery regularly exhibits my work in Cape Town; Hazard Gallery in Johannesburg will be hosting my upcoming one-man show from 8 September - 2 October. I also have a limited edition screen print launching on Black River Studio’s 50ty-50ty platform in September.


PUBLIC COMMISSION: W+A BUILDING, JOHANNESBURG

Public commission for the W+A Building, 35 Siemert Street, Maboneng Precinct, Johannesburg. "Artefact of Perception". Roof tile paint on terrazza tile. 560x220x460cm. Images by Jake Michael Singer.


SNAKE ABSTRACT PRINT PORTFOLIO

The Snake Abstract print portfolio is a box-set of six limited edition screen prints, made in collaboration with master printer, Jan Phillip Raath, at the Michaelis School of Fine Art Press. The prints are an in an edition size of 15 + 2AP  and are printed on Zerkall Litho paper in archival pigment-based ink. There are two sets in the series. Each set of six works is housed in a custom designed portfolio box, with a white foiled detail on the lid, and laid between tissue paper. Prints are 38 x 26,75 cm in size. 

For inquiries please contact the artist at dnbrits@gmail.com.


PULSE

September saw the release of my collaborative screenprint made with 50ty/50ty. You can purchase the work below, online from  www.fiftyfifty.co.za

David Brits (b.1987) is a multidisciplinary artist who incorporates printmaking, drawing and painting in his practice. His work explores his identity and context as a young, white man living in present-day South Africa; his art making a way to process the complex history that he has inherited. Brits’ 50ty/50ty artwork speaks to earlier bodies of work – both his Snake Manseries and military-themed works – but also signals a departure of sorts from his predominantly monochromatic output, with the introduction of colour. Interestingly, Brits is red-green colour blind; thus the mechanical CMYK layering of the screen printing process offers an alternative approach to exploring the colour spectrum.


SKETCHES FOR THE CATHEDRAL OF JOHANNESBURG

HAZARD Gallery presents David Brits’ Sketches for the Cathedral of Johannesburg. This is Brits’ fourth solo exhibition and the artist’s first with the gallery.

The exhibition runs from 9 September to 2 October 2016.

In this show, Brits presents a set of designs for a fictional basilica in South Africa’s economic capital. These include sketches and maquettes of stained glass windows and chasubles, the embroidered robes worn by priests. Works are in the form of large silkscreen prints and glass wall hangings. The series is a synthesis of two modes of working. Here Brits blends his signature use of abstract snake forms and of halftone pattern. Born with partial colour blindness, it is the first time the artist exhibits works using colour.

Sketches for the Cathedral of Johannesburg takes inspiration from a number of aesthetic traditions – from the pre-Columbian art of Central America, to serpent carvings found in Hindu temples of Northern India. In particular, it draws from encounters with great cathedrals in cities such as Rome and Cologne, and the interventions therein by old and modern masters; a line that runs from Michelangelo and Bernini, up through Henri Matisse and more recently, Gerhard Richter.

This body of work is deeply conscious of its own futility – an experimental draft for a grand architectural project that will never be realized. Yet for Brits it is an opportunity to do what only the greatest artists of their time get invited to do; dream up images for a building dedicated to divinity. In this show, Brits contemplates the role of the artist, not only as a translator of personal and inherited history, but as a custodian of the tradition of art itself.

This series will be exhibited alongside two films from the archive of Brits’ late maternal grandfather – John Wood. Wood was one of South Africa’s most prominent reptile experts, snake catchers and snake show-men. Over a period of sixty years Wood caught thousands of snakes, spiders, scorpions, lizards and frogs for both medical research and the development of snake and spider anti venoms. He was a prolific poet, photographer and filmmaker.

During the exhibition, Brits will utilise one of the gallery’s rooms as a studio in which to work and to execute a series of murals.

 


FEATURED: HOUSE & GARDEN AUGUST ISSUE

I was very fortunate to have been asked a few questions in the latest issue of House & Garden South Africa. 


50TY/50TY PRINTS

50ty/50ty is an online collection of limited edition screen prints, created in collaboration with local artists, illustrators and designers. Representing the best of both established and emerging talent, each work is hand printed on archival paper and available for purchase on www.fiftyfifty.co.za/

The brainchild of Black River Studio, the initiative is named 50ty/50ty after the collaborative process between artist and printmaker in the creation of a fine art print. The name also references the number to which each print edition is limited. The initiative is wonderfully symbiotic: Artists are offered the opportunity to explore the captivating medium of screen printing in an expert environment, and collectors gain access to the work of high-calibre artists. 50ty/50ty launched with the talents of Michael Taylor and Mia Chaplin, and each month following will see the release of a new artwork by a different artist.

Wim and Jeanne Legrand are the artist duo behind the Black River Studio – a production space for hand-pulled, fine art screen printing that caters specifically to the needs of professional artists, designers and illustrators. 50ty/50ty serves to showcase the studio’s artisan approach to screen printing and the exciting physical process involved.


FEATURED: HOUSE & LEISURE

My work was recently featured on the cover of the May 2016 issue of House & Leisure

Snake Abstract 4.2. 2015. Linocut on Zerkall Litho Paper. 110x76cm


1K - 4.0

Excited to be participating in 1k - 4.0 tomorrow. An hour-long exhibition held outside City Guns on Hout Street, you'll find one-off artworks for R1000 by a bunch of great artists including Dan Halter, Jonathan Freemantle, Jaco van Schalkwyk, Unathi Mkonto, Rodan Kane Hart and myself. 57 Hout Street, from 6-7pm. Bring your cheque book.

Event details here:
https://www.facebook.com/events/1737887746449481/?notif_t=plan_user_associated&notif_id=1464772801799870

1k 4.0 DAVID BRITS

 


FROM WHENCE THEY CAME

From 31 May - 25 June, I'll be participating in 'From Whence They Came' is a collaborative group show between SMITH and Kalashnikovv. Artists from SMITH alongside artists from Kalashnikovv showcasing the two distinct styles emerging form both galleries. From painting to drawing, printmaking to installation and sculpture this is wonderful platform for Cape Town based artists to show alongside Johannesburg artists. See more information here

Artefact of Perception I: Anima 50x70cm reverse glass painting. Enamel on glass.

Artefact of Perception I: Anima. 2016. Enamel on glass. 50x70cm

Artefact of Perception II: Animus. 2016. Enamel on glass. 50x70cm

Artefact of Perception II: Animus. 2016. Enamel on glass. 50x70cm

A statement regarding the work:

“Every creative person is a duality or a synthesis of contradictory aptitudes. On the one side he is a human being with a personal life, while on the other side he is an impersonal, creative process...The artist is not a person endowed with free will who seeks his own ends, but one who allows art to realize its purposes through him. As a human being he may have moods and a will and personal aims, but as an artist he is ‘man’ in a higher sense--he is ‘collective man’--one who carries and shapes the unconscious, psychic life of mankind. To perform this difficult office it is sometimes necessary for him to sacrifice happiness and everything that makes life worth living for the ordinary human being.” (Jung 1961)

These works have their basis in ongoing spontaneous artistic experiments that I conduct as part of my studio practice. Drawings are produced on black paper using hand-made drawing tools. The negative space within these drawings is then cut out. Out of the scores of paper cut-outs produced, the most successful are chosen and made into artworks of various mediums, which have so far included linocuts and sculpture. This is the first time these images have been made into reverse glass paintings, a technique mostly used in traditional sign writing. 

During the process of making, I am often left with a heightened awareness that the artistic endeavor is something outside of the realm of personal control. I get the feeling that the images that I draw are derived not from my conscious mind, but rather some previously unexplored recesses of my psyche. In Jungian terminology, this would be referred to as an  “encounter” with the unconscious mind. Startling and inexplicable, the results of this “encounter” are a spontaneous arising of ideas and creative impulses that seem to come from a realm beyond the reach of rational thought.

The anima and animus, in Carl Jung's school of analytical psychology, are the two primary anthropomorphicarchetypes of the unconscious mind, The anima and animus are described by Jung as elements of his theory of thecollective unconscious, a domain of the unconscious that transcends the personal psyche. In the unconscious of a man, this archetype finds expression as a feminine inner personality: anima; equivalently, in the unconscious of a woman it is expressed as a masculine inner personality: animus.

 

Source:

C. G. Jung. 1961. Modern Man in Search of a Soul,Brace & World, Inc., New York. Pp. 168-171.


FEATURED: Imageless in Angola – Appropriating Photography

 

A discussion on work my on the war in Angola has been included in an essay by historian, Afonso Dias Ramos, in the University College of London's (UCL) History of Art Department’s postgraduate journal, Object 17. Titled, 'Imageless in Angola: Appropriating Photography', the paper deals with the relationship between political violence and photography in contemporary art, particularly within the transnational context surrounding the liberation and the civil conflict in Angola (1961-2002). This piece form is part of a wider body of research towards  Ramos' PhD dissertation, Imageless in Angola: Living through the aftermath of war. Reinventing the photographic medium in a transnational age. See the full article on the UCL website, here

David Brits produced SADF Facebook Series [in] 2011. These are also pictures of conscripts in the Border War but in this case purloined by Brits from veteran groups online, which in the absence of official public fora, have allowed for images to be shared. Indeed, as Rory Bester reminds us, ‘The dead remains of this era of South African history are scattered in photo albums, hidden in clothes cupboards, mostly forgotten,often forsaken’. The image typifies such portraits of soldiers stiffly posed alongside weaponry in a display of male bravado. But Brits’ intervention mars the figure’s identity. The soldier’s face is blackened out with ink and scratched off violently, ripping the pigments off the paper. Similar strategies of defacement are brought to bear on the other photographs downloaded for this series, whose mundane visions only show soldiers posing theatrically, playing football or swimming together.

 [...] Brits disrupt[s] the implied secrecy of the pictures intended as keepsakes to be shared among fellow troops. Opposing state policies to confined war to the domestic lens of the family rather than as public event, these artists open up the private snapshots as political. They bring the war home by literally forcing it out of it, but cognisant that the repressive mechanisms which conditioned the production and consumption of images also prescribe what lies within their frame. The Portuguese were not allowed to capture sensitive areas on film. South Africans faced jail if caught with a camera. Our vision of the events in Angola is therefore largely reliant on portraits of, by, and among friends, and even these were censored since undesirable negatives were confiscated from studios by the authorities: ‘Photos were dropped at civilian central labs, and ultimately everything was censored. [. . .] None of the photos I took of bodies came back. I only received photos of damaged buildings and burnt-out vehicles – non-offensive and non-sensitive stuff’. Although hard to find today, such trophy photographs did circulate, as necessary doubles to the innocuous portraits that rule our visual imagination. Barroca himself considers the most haunting aspect about his album to be one image of a black man beaten to death he found hidden behind the banal snapshots, snapping into relief such complex relays of visibility and invisibility.

 

 

 


FEATURED: BUSINESS DAY LIVE

 

Snake Man is featured in the Business Day Live. The full review by Chad Rossouw can be read here

DAVID Brits’ grandfather, John Wood, was a snake man — meaning he was a snake collector, antivenom medical researcher and show man, who had a travelling reptile exhibition in the ’70s. He was also a poet, a film-maker and a photographer. He is the kind of man whose story is begging to be told, which is what Brits attempts in his exhibition at Smith Studio gallery, Cape Town.

Brits has taken the large archive of newspaper cuttings and photographs that feature his grandfather as a starting point for his exhibition, titled Snakeman, which includes ink drawings and linocuts. "For many years I have been writing down and recording his stories, ordering out his photographs and letters for this purpose — archiving his life, so-to-speak."

The death of his grandfather, a larger-than-life persona, inspired Brits to work with this material. They were close. "He was one of my greatest teachers, and he shared his enthusiasm for nature and life with me in a very profound way. He taught me how to write poetry, about history, how to catch a snake, the names of spiders and scorpions, how to be a gentlemen, the best way to cut down a tree and how to shoot a gun."

While the show’s subtitle is "A Memorial Exhibition," the irony is Brits doesn’t so much tell the story of John Wood as think about the vagaries of memory and the tensions between the man remembered and the one depicted in newspapers.

Newspapers can’t print tone, the tone we see is an illusion created by fine dots called a half-tone pattern. Brits has taken specific crops of newspaper photographs, mostly of Wood’s hands holding snakes, and enlarged them to a massive scale.

He has then redrawn them in India ink. Up close one can only see the abstraction of the dots; the complete image can’t be detected. As one steps further away, the picture hidden in the medium emerges.

 

 


FEATURED: SNAKE MAN IN THE FISH HOEK ECHO

 

Snake Man in the press, this time featured in the Fish Hoek Echo. This is the local newspaper of the valley in which my grandfather became an important local figure. He was well known as 'John Wood the Snake Man' and for forty years he was the one you called when there was a puff adder or Cape cobra in the garden.


SNAKE MAN ON ARTSY

 

Snake Man is featured on Artsy.net.

To view the show online click here.


SNAKE FILM

My grandfather John Wood was one of South Africa’s most prominent reptile experts, snake catchers and snake show-men. Over a period of sixty years he caught thousands of snakes, spiders, scorpions, lizards and frogs for both medical research and the development of snake and spider antivenoms. Wood was a prolific poet, photographer and filmmaker, and shared his great passion for reptiles through these mediums as well as with his traveling snake show, which toured the country from the 1950-70s.

This film was shot by Wood during the 1950ies and 1960ies, before the introduction of television in South Africa. At the time it was the only footage of its kind and was shown in lecture halls across the country. Medical students, doctors, vets, nature conservationists and interested parties watched with fascination. The purpose of the film was to show how snakes were caught and how antivenoms were produced. View it with this in mind.

It is the first time that the film has been seen publicly in over 30 years, and was recently screened at my recent solo exhibition, SNAKE MAN, which was held at SMITH Gallery from 19 November 2015 - 9 January 2016.

 

 


SNAKE MAN

Snake Man – A Memorial Exhibition by David Brits

SMITH Gallery, 19 November 2015 – 9 January 2016

 

Artist’s Statement:

 My first brush with death was with a snake. A puff adder almost bit me one day while I was walking on the mountain with my dog. I was eight, and it was the first time I considered the possibility of dying. I vividly remember the fat black and gold snake lunging at me, jaws protracted, fangs protruding, going for my leg. And missing.

 In the shamanic tradition, snake medicine people are considered very rare. Their initiation involves experiencing and living through multiples snakebites. Symbolically, this is said to allow them to transmute all poisons, be they mental, physical, emotional or spiritual. For the shaman, the power of snake medicine is the power of creation, for it embodies sexuality, psychic energy, alchemy, reproduction and immortality. 1

 My grandfather was certainly a man of snake medicine. In his long career in the field of herpetology, he survived being bitten by Cape cobras on four separate occasions. His name was John Wood, and he was one of South Africa’s most prominent reptile experts, snake catchers and snake showmen. Over a period of sixty years he caught thousands of snakes, spiders, scorpions, lizards and frogs for both medical research and the development of snake and spider antivenoms. He was a prolific poet, photographer and filmmaker, and shared his great passion for reptiles through these mediums as well as with his traveling snake show, which toured the country from 1950ies to 1970ies. 

 The artworks in this exhibition take their inspiration from the large archive of photographs, films, newspaper cuttings, letters, poems, and priceless books that I inherited from my grandfather. Keeping most of the archive at my studio, looking through the material remnants of his life, I was presented with an almost endless source of visual material with which to engage. A number of discrete series have emerged in this body of work – linocuts, dot-matrix drawings and lithographs.

Some were mediums encountered before in my production, but the art in this exhibition was made in a manner I had never previously experienced. As research and experimentation lead to production, increasingly I felt more and more a witness to the creative process than its agent. I was constantly surprised by the previously unimagined ideas and ways of working that became revealed. The creative spirit moved like a tide in me. Sometimes in fits and starts, other times as a prolonged creative engagement, in the form of deep concentration and long hours of working. There was a deepened awareness of the artistic endeavour as something outside of the realm of personal control. I began, I think, to understand what Patañjali meant when he wrote in the 4th Century: “When you are inspired by some great purpose, some extraordinary project, all your thoughts break their bonds. Your mind transcends limitations… dormant forces, faculties and talents become alive…”

Snake Man takes place one year after John Wood’s passing. It is a love letter from me to him, from a grandson to a grandfather, a final farewell from the here-now to the here-after; a meditation on paternal love, legacy and the medicine of the snake.

  

1 Sams, J. and Carson, D. 1999. Medicine Cards: Revised, Expanded Edition. St Martin’s Press, New York. Pg 61.

 2 Eaton, R.W. 2009. The Sootras of Patanjali Yog Darshan: Concise Rendition. Createspace, Vancouver. Pg 85. 

 

Click here to see an article on Between10and5

Click here to see a review on Business Day by Chad Rossouw

Click here to see the exhibition on Artsy.com

 

 Photographs by Kate Mcluckie 
www.katemcluckiephotography.com


IN CONVERSATION WITH GABRIELLA PINTO

Recently I chatted with Gabriella Pinto from Between10and5 - a conversation which became an article which you can read on their website here:

Below is the full length interview.

The snake is central to this body of work and in many cultures has mythological significance. What can say of its perennial power?

The snake has been used as a symbol in cultures across the world for millennia. Certainly it is an animal that has captured the collective imagination of man since the beginning of our species. But its meaning is not fixed. The snake can simultaneously be a symbol for healing and fertility, immorality and evil. It was the asp that killed Cleopatra, and the serpent who tempted Eve into Sin. In the Eastern traditions, the snake represents the body’s Kundalini energy centre, a symbol which has been adapted by Western medicine, and is now a universal symbol of healthcare.

The snake therefore, cannot be said to mean one thing. As a symbol and an animal, it has become repository for the projected beliefs (both of anxiety and aspiration) of humanity since time immemorial. The snake has both the power to entice and invoke great fear; to symbolise healing and renewal, or sin and death. As long as the snake exists as an animal on earth, surely man will make meaning from him.

Snakes are widely feared animals, and probably for good reason. Rare is it to have an affinity for such creatures. My grandfather had the rare quality of being deeply intrigued by snakes rather than being repulsed by them.

Growing up around my grandfather's Snake Farm, snakes (spiders, scorpions, lizards and other reptiles) always had an air of wonder and were the source of endless fascination for me. I caught them in the garden and kept them as pets. They were the central characters of my grandfather’s stories, the subject matter of his photographs and films, the topics of his books, the content of his letters. He made his life from snakes, and in a way, they also shaped mine. 

Much of the inspiration for your work draws on familial history and archival objects. How does your process create or dispel mythologies you have about your personal and the greater collective history of South Africa?

For many years my art dealt with the burden of my inherited history. Looking back, that earlier work centered around one question: what does it mean to be a young white man growing up in post-Apartheid South Africa. For that I looked to the time before I was born - specifically conscription and the Border Wars - to try unpick the complexities of the privileged body I was born into. I did not like what I found out. Dealing with those topics was heavy business (reading soldier's memoirs of the Angolan border before bed, for instance left me quite disturbed). Yet by mining those arenas of history, inadvertently the questions answered themselves. The work has now seemed to move to a less political spheres, and it feels more fitting for where I am at now. 

What provoked you to create this body of work?

The death of my grandfather.

Throughout my adult life I have had the sense that I would one day write a book about my grandfather. An anthology of his poems or a compilation of memoirs, I thought. For many years I have been collecting his stories, writing them down, recording them by dictaphone, sorting out his photographs and letters – archiving his life, so-to-speak. But I always knew that it would be easier to do something more concrete when he was no longer around. Celestial distance brings with it creative license for the biographer.

 In the wake of his passing, after a long absence from making, I felt ambition to create art again. Finally, I had a subject worthy of the tremendous effort and emotional investment required to make a new solo show. To use a literary comparison, writers sometimes say that they feel like they have a book inside of them, and they just need to write it. So too, after a year-long creative break, I felt like I had an exhibition inside of me. It was just a matter of making it. 

In previous work such as 1969, you examined your paternal grandfather’s history as a departure point to explore themes related to white masculinity. Snake Man is a commemoration of your maternal grandfather. Does this work expand on those themes or highlight something completely different?

Good question. I think perhaps inadvertently, but those themes are not the focus – or at least not the questions I was posing to myself - in this show. The 1969 works were a continuation of the theme of investigating my privileged inheritance as a young white South African man. In a way, my paternal grandfather (the subject of 1969), a commodore in the Apartheid Navy, represented to me an ancestor that somehow informed that history, who had participated in it in an overt and tangible way.

I could have, say, focused on my maternal grandfather’s naval background (he came to South Africa fighting in WW2), but the topic of his relationship to snakes was far more unusual, more compelling and mysterious. Sure, it is not hard to draw associations between the snake and masculinity, but I think that is a more subtle theme in this show. 

How would you compare the processes between Snake Man and 1969?

The works in this show were created in a far more intuitive way. And with much more time to engage with the creative process. The 1969 series was quite a mechanical affair, where I had come up with a technique for the series, and it was just a case of working hard to execute the works in time (the dot-matrix drawings can take 15 hours to make). It was tough and quite excruciating to draw for so many hours on end.

The art in this Snake Man was made in a manner I had never previously experienced. As research and experimentation lead to production, increasingly I felt more and more a witness to the creative process than its agent. I was constantly surprised by the previously unimagined ideas and ways of working that became revealed. The creative spirit moved like a tide in me. Sometimes in fits and starts, other times as prolonged creative engagement, in the form of deep concentration and long hours of working. There was a deepened awareness of the artistic endeavour as something outside of the realm of personal control. I began, I think, to understand what Patañjali meant when he wrote in the 4th Century: “When you are inspired by some great purpose, some extraordinary project, all your thoughts break their bonds. Your mind transcends limitations… dormant forces, faculties and talents become alive…”

What were some of the challenges and triumphs of this process?

The triumph was the deepened inner awareness that I gained during the last months. There were challenges, but they seem quite irrelevant now; like evaporated mist. The show came together rather easily.

 You’ve worked across a variety of mediums for this body of work. What informed this decision?

When I set out to make this show, I had only one medium that I had already decided on: the dot-matrix drawings. This was because I planned to make drawings based on press photographs from my grandfather’s scrap book, a collection of about 100 newspaper cuttings collected during his career as a snake man. The dot-matrix drawings take their lead from the thousands of dots that these press images are printed in, as a result of the lithographic printing process.

The other modes of working came from experiments I had made while in residence at the St Mortiz Art Academy in Switzerland last year, under mentorship of Daniele Buetti and Marcel van Eeden. The first were a number of images I made by making high resolution scans of alpine flowers; the second was a series of snakey paper cut-outs which were made by drawing with two pencils taped to a wooden block. These experiments were the ancestors of the Slough and Snake Abstract series. 

Do you think your style of work has evolved since your last exhibition? If so, in what ways?

Yes. I have developed new techniques of working. But again, it is the way of working, the way I feel while working that has changed. There is now a deep trust in the creative process, where before there was a deep fear of not succeeding.  I think this new manner of making art, in many ways, has lead to new styles in my work. There has been a freedom to move into new areas, a movement to abstraction, and photographic-based images. It has been wonderful to explore new territory and mediums. 

How has exploring family history shaped your thoughts around notions of legacy?

I was very lucky to have grown up in a house that has been in my family for 6 generations - a 265 year old Cape Dutch homestead that is filled with heirlooms, bibles, old furniture, precious documents, and old things (it also has a family grave yard). Perhaps as wine acquires the flavour of oak from the barrel, a sense of legacy is something I have imbibed from a young age. If it is there to choose, one’s ancestral inheritance is a wonderful thing to embrace. And certainly something that inspires me in my creative life. 


FEATURED: CAPE TIMES

Snake Man was featured in the Cape Times' Arts section on 16 November 2015. The day also marks one year since the passing of my grandfather, John Wood. The exhibition, which honours his unusual and adventure-filled life, opens at SMITH Gallery at 17h00 this Thursday 19 November.


SNAKE MAN

Snake Man. A memorial exhibition by David Brits.

Snake Man commemorates the life of John Wood, David Brits’ late maternal grandfather. Wood was one of South Africa’s most prominent reptile experts, snake catchers and snake showmen. Over a period of sixty years he caught thousands of snakes, spiders, scorpions, lizards and frogs for both medical research and the development of snake and spider antivenoms. Wood was a prolific poet, photographer and filmmaker, and shared his great passion for reptiles through these mediums as well as with his traveling snake show, which toured the country from the 1950-70s.  

Brits’ artworks take their inspiration from the large archive of photographs, films, newspaper cuttings, letters, poems, and priceless books that Wood left behind. Working across a wide range of media including drawing, linocuts and prints, in Snake Man, Brits contemplates the life of his grandfather, his legacy, and the perennial power of the snake.  

Opening: Thursday 19th November 2015 at 5.30 

19th November 2015 - 9 January 2016

SMITH Gallery. 56 Church Street, Cape Town. info@smithstudio.co.za 021 442 0814

 


PROOFING EDITIONS FOR SNAKE MAN

I teamed up with printmaster, Jan Philip Raath, to execute the prints in the Snake Abstract series. This was the day we proofed the linocuts in a studio in Observatory. 


CURRENT

Really looking forward to being part of my first show at SMITH StudioCURRENT runs from 6 to 26 May 2015. 

 


KINDERGEBURTSTAG 2015

I am very excited to be participating in Kindergeburtstag 2015, an exhibition curated by German conceptual artist and sculptor, René Haustein. Cité Internationale des Arts, Paris. 


ST MORITZ II

Works made during the summer arts workshops at the St. Moritz Art Academy, St. Moritz, Switzerland, lead by Marcel van Eden and Daniele Buetti. 17 - 31 August 2014. 


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