The Everard Read Gallery is pleased to present an exhibition of recent work by Gavin Younge. This new body of work is centred on a part of our country that is close and dear to us (The Cradle of Humanity); not withstanding his well-known artistic iconoclasm, we nonetheless gave him free rein.
Somewhat shockingly he came up with the idea of treating the Cradle and its surrounds as a landscape—a landscape that had been foraged upon, changed, altered and re-interpreted from many different perspectives over a very long period of time. What shocked us most, was his focus on coprolites—fossilized dung. He had come across the work of Lucinda Backwell, a respected paleontologist at the University of the Witwatersrand who had done some work on this lithified fecal matter. Her findings related to ancient hyena droppings in which, believe it or not, hominin hairs were present. This led Younge to make some direct drawings of hyenas on paper that offered visual meditations on plasma glucocorticoids (obscure stuff, but if measured, they can be valuable in evolutionary ecology, conservation biology, and animal welfare).
His direct style of drawing is applied to acrylic and emulsion paintings that address, in layered fashion, aspects of the physical landscape as an inconstant amalgam of iron-age settlements on one hand, and prison tattoos on the other. This weaving together of the story of Nongoloza (well-known highwayman who founded the 28 gang on the goldfields in about 1900), and aspects of the physical landscape, with its chicken houses and pylons, is a feature of these works.
He also presents photographs from the In Camera series, and an impressive collection of ‘fossil’ cameras that he calls the Foster Gang. This ‘family portrait’ of the infamous brigand and his mates, brings to mind their last days holed up in a cave awaiting the arrival of ‘Peggy Foster’, the proto-typical gangster moll.
This saga is only hinted at in the title of the vellum cameras poised on their spider-like tripods. This is Younge’s forté, to treat history as a story not yet fully told. Thus we have his galloping quaggas, eloquent of a recent past, and yet somehow fictional. In ‘restoring’ this extinct species, Younge asks us to think about our world knowing full well that change is not only inevitable, but also desirable.
Well known as an academic (giving papers on Cape Slavery at Stanford in 2009) and producer of several large-scale publicly-sited sculptures in Cape Town, Younge has in recent years exhibited mostly in France. In 2000 he was one of 50 artists invited by the Mayor of Paris to mark the Arte Povera movement between 1970 and 1990. His Workmen’s Compensation, first shown at the Market Gallery in 1981, was exhibited alongside the work of Barry Flanagan, Jeff Koons and Tony Cragg. Since that time he has staged three solo exhibitions in France—most recently in 2007 and 2009 in Paris and Nantes respectively.
These followed exhibitions in Stuttgard, Cologne, Beijing and Nimes. This year, he is represented on both Godby’s The Lie of the Land landscape exhibition, and Lamprecht’s Twenty sculpture exhibition at Nirox.
The new work has been specially created for our new, iconic exhibition venue, Circa, and Younge’s fragile, and seemingly ethereal works in vellum will contrast, and complement Pierre Swanepoel’s organic architectural voids. His work often embraces, or hints at absence—we are sure that everything, from his laconic neon work Jou ma se landscape to his large-scale photographs of members of the 28 gang will provide a distant, but nonetheless engaging soliloquy on a remarkable tract of land.