Elegy

For most of his work on this exhibition the artist has decided to leave his images open- ended, without any particular literal explanations for each work and hence open to a far larger possible interpretation by the viewer/audience.

Winter is Here installation

Winter Is Here (installation diagram)

Red Lyra pencil on acid-free 300gsm Montval Aquarelle Canson paper
Unique works
May 2013

 

Falling from Grace installation

Falling From Grace (installation diagram)

Indian Red Lyra pencil on acid-free 300gsm Montval Aquarelle Canson paper
Unique works
May 2013

 

The artist’s most recent series of watercolour monoprints entitled Inferno are lyrical yet disturbing works, commenting on an imminent global warming crisis. Climate change is the single biggest environmental and humanitarian problem of our time. The Earth's atmosphere is overloaded with heat-trapping carbon dioxide, which threatens large-scale disruptions in climate with disastrous consequences. We must act now to spur the adoption of cleaner energy sources at home and abroad.

When it comes to connecting the dots between climate change, extreme weather and health, the lines are clear. The earth is saying something with record heat, drought, storms and fire. Carbon pollution is the main reason our planet is getting hotter, increasing the chances of weather disasters, drought and flood and hurting our health.

The Inferno works depict burning people with blood smears around their mouths (a personal symbol for human greed). This greed is in my opinion the direct result of an arguably sad human quest to make more and more money/profit (an apparent pathological human desire). Not only large powerful companies, but also the entire human race in general, are busy polluting and hence destroying our planet at an alarming rate, with a complete disregard for unavoidable negative long-term environmental effects. The human race seems to often be oblivious - devouring this precious planet and its resources without any real comprehension of the irreversible damage caused by people. The grim reality of a fast approaching global environmental crisis is sadly ignored or even sneered at by many.

It maybe time for a serious shift in human consciousness.

Installation:

In his first installation The Bee Cemetery Diedericks challenged himself to work with this relatively unfamiliar medium. After a recent visit to the 2013 Venice Biennial the artist viewed a retrospective exhibition by one of his favourite contemporary artists Marc Quinn, who inspired him to attempt his first installation.

The Bee Cemetary

The Bee Cemetery (installation view in the gallery)

Chrome and Nickel plated metal, candlelight globe, electrical wire, switch, plug, metal brackets, and building gravel
Unique work - Size variable (approx 2.5 x 4 x 6m)

 

The Bee Cemetery will consist of a dead, barren gravel landscape from which a single chrome plated flower will grow – completely isolated like the very last flower on planet earth frozen in time and space – closely resembling a chromed trophy. A single nickel-plated wire honeybee will hang suspended from a wall-mounted bracket in the distance, another trophy or mere reminder of what once was.

According to an Internet source, beginning in 2006, beekeepers globally began to notice an unusual decrease and disappearance in their honeybee colonies. It seemed as if thousands of honeybees were vanishing into thin air. There were no traces left behind and no dead bees were being found near the colonies.

Since then, more than thirty percent (and for some unlucky beekeepers, up to ninety percent) of the honeybee colonies have been disappearing each year, including many worker bees vital to the colonies' survival and prosperity. As more and more of the worker bees disappear, their colonies become weak and soon, they will no longer be able to function. Due to the collapse of the colonies, this phenomenon is properly named the Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD). Scientists globally propose many possible causes for this syndrome, including: the use of pesticides and insecticides; the influx of killer mites; the spread of diseases and viruses; poor nutrition; habitat loss; and stress factors, such as unnecessary migratory stress.

One might ask: why is the decline in honeybees such a serious issue, and why are honeybees so important?

Honeybees are one of the world's leading pollinators, for they are mainly responsible for pollinating our crops, we depend on them and other pollinators for one-third of our food supply. Without bees, our produce sections in supermarkets would look bare, with up to fifty percent less fruit and vegetables including many of our favourite foods, such as apples, carrots, lemons, onions, broccoli, and not to mention honey itself, would become a luxury of the past.

The artist’s drawings Winter is Here and The Beekeeper I & II also comment on the above.

A myriad of techniques and processes will again be on display at his exhibition Elegy, a well-known signature approach by the artist. His ideas and concepts will once again, true to his style, be explored in drawings, copperplate etchings, embossings, linocuts, watercolour monoprints and a new avenue for the artist, an installation.

Since 1994, as a serious practicing artist, Diedericks has been awarded a vast amount of international artist (printmaking) residencies (AIR’s). In 2006 Diedericks was awarded the highly prestigious Ampersand Foundation Fellowship in NYC and completed many other important AIR’s at the Cité Internationale des Arts, Paris, France (on nine different occasions since 1994), the Frans Masereel Centrum, Belgium (2010, 2011); The Halka Art Project Istanbul, Turkey (2012) and The Venice Print Studio for large format printmaking, Italy (2012) to name a few. The prestigious Il Bisonte Printmaking Studio in Florence, Italy recently awarded Diedericks with an AIR in June/July 2013.

Lastly, Christiaan Diedericks and sculptor Elizabeth Balcomb were recently invited by the Mosan Art Museum in South Korea to represent South Africa on the 11th International Art and Culture Festival from 25 September to 16 October 2013.

Diedericks is represented in an impressive list of national and international collections: 

Potchefstroom Museum - South Africa
Potchefstroom University - South Africa
Ostrobothnian Museum - Vaasa - Finland
Cité Internationale des Arts - Paris - France
Museum of Contemporary Art - Chamalieres - Auvergne - France
SAAA - Head office - Pretoria - South Africa (collection sold)
Biblioteque Nationale - Paris - France
The Robert Loder private collection - Johannesburg - South Africa
Telkom SA LTD - Johannesburg
Investec Bank - Cape Town
Pretoria Technikon - Pretoria
Durban University of Technology
Sasol – Johannesburg
Sasol Group Services – Secunda
Sasol Gas – Johannesburg
Medunarodna Galerija Portreta - Tuzla - Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina
Muceo Nacional del Grabado - Buenos Aires - Argentina
Durban Art Gallery - Durban
ABSA Bank – Johannesburg
Rand Merchant Bank – Johannesburg
Spier Collection – Stellenbosch
Sanlam Collection – Cape Town
MTN Collection – Johannesburg
Artbank – Johannesburg
The Department of Art and Technology, – Pretoria
New York Public Library print collection, - New York City, USA
Ampersand Foundation studio collection, - New York City
Johannesburg Art Gallery
Gallery 5 + 5, Brooklyn, - New York City
Dept of Science and Technology - CSIR – Pretoria
RMB Academy – Johannesburg
Potchefstroom Gimnasium – Potchefstroom
University of Johannesburg – Johannesburg
ATKV – Johannesburg
Frans Masereel Centrum – Kasterlee, Belgium
MOMA (The Museum of Modern Art) – New York City, USA
South African Consulate – Lagos, Nigeria
Leslie Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art – NYC, USA
University of Cape Town – Cape Town
La collection de la Biennale Internationale d’estampe Contemporaine de Trois-Rivières – Quebec, Canada
Iziko South African National Gallery– Cape Town 

August 2013

 

Information:

A solo exhibition by Christiaan Diedericks at the University of Johannesburg Art Gallery 4 – 28 September 2013

(Curated by Annali Cabano-Dempsey)

Artist’s Statement and Press Release

Elegy, Christiaan Diedericks’ third solo exhibition at the UJ Art Gallery from 4 to 23 September 2013, will be an ongoing investigation of the artist’s interest in Dystopia and more specifically his own personal, often uncomfortable, (dis)position in the world especially in terms of gender, masculinity, patriarchy, body-politics and his more recent exploration of a gendered ecology and the environment.

“In principle, dystopia is a response to and a critique of utopia, in its original form a construct derived from the Greek οÚ and το?πος which literally means “no place” but that articulates the notion of a fictional society somewhere - in the imagination, in some unknown fictional or even known location, or in future. Literary and virtual fictions of utopias of social order are of necessity always deferred, that is, they remain yet- to-come future societies, but owing to their fictional character remain non-threatening and entertaining.

Anti-utopia describes the absolute opposite of utopia, which means that there will be no “new” whatsoever. Nevertheless, it could be regarded as linked to utopia in the sense that, although different in ideology, anti-utopia also tries to predict the future: its message, however, is a paranoid helplessness that will make a great debacle hap- pen. As a consequence, this disaster will not allow making anything new out of the doomed course of the world.

In images of a polluted, poisonous environment, Christiaan Diedericks’ masked figures in Exhausted Earth, 2008 - 2009, perform survival strategies in such a doomed world of technological utopia-gone-wrong. There is loss of a teleologically “safe” environment that does not provide shelter and security to its inhabitants any longer.

Prof Elfriede Dreyer

Exhausted Earth

Exhausted Earth

Mixed media drawing on 300gsm Fabriano Artistico paper
90cm diameter
Unique work
2008

In the artist’s own words:

"In my work, time and space appear to dissolve, and an air of conflict erupts. This is often a direct result of a personal aim to calm, disturb and deliver a warning at the same time - drawing parallels between the two extremes of utopia and dystopia. There is also almost always a secondary narrative in my work. The primary narrative has symbolic authority and aesthetic promise, although the mysterious meta-narrative exists in order to provoke thought in the viewer.

In many ways I aim to ‘rewrite’ history in my work and the dominant sense of self-awareness that informs most Western art practices. I am trying to present pressing contemporary issues such as the apparent lack of a universal ecological consciousness as timeless by situating my vocabulary of images and themes in an organic flux of dreams, history, news, commercial detritus, hyper-reality, and unvoiced feelings and the forces of our biological (and natural) environment."

According to an online Internet dictionary the meaning of the word Elegy is twofold:

            1. A mournful or plaintive poem or song - a lament for the dead (in literary and literary critical terms).

            2. Poetry or a poem written in elegiac couplets or stanzas.

            [via French and Latin from Greek elegeia, from elegos lament sung to flute accompaniment]

(from http://www.thefreedictionary.com/elegy)

The choice of the word/concept Elegy as an exhibition title was arrived at after some serious introspection about Diedericks’ own creative production. South African celebrity actor Lizz Meiring stated in her opening speech for the artist’s previous solo exhibition Counterpoint in Pretoria earlier this year:

“Nothing in his work is ever ideological, it is never didactic. It is not self-conscious, smug or patronizing. It is honest, original, unique, subtle, containing a brittle beauty, a painful lyricism, a magical combination of intelligence and instinct - a counterpoint - point against point, contrasting but parallel elements. He seldom states, he questions.

These whisperings and in some cases loud cries of discontent, echo and reverberate and resonate in every fibre, every cell, every atom of our being”.

Diedericks’ exhibition Elegy will aim to further investigate his deep interest in Dystopia – an alarming state of being for modern man, our planet/environment and a universal human condition as a result.

As stated, the artist’s most recent area of conceptual interest is the natural environment – his latest work is a gendered call to action to stop some of the brainless things we do to our planet.

For many years the artist’s fascination with dystopia (and utopia for that matter) fuelled his work and his most recent works, lyrical and disturbing at the same time, move the viewer to some serious introspection. Diedericks is currently hugely inspired by the work of American animal rights activist Gedden Cascadia who argues that “every kind of living being on earth has a definite quantity of time to survive before unavoidable extinction begins to affect it”. 

The Earth is not my mother. The Earth is not my anything. The Earth is not mine. I am merely a trespasser who is trying to do as little damage as possible while mitigating the damage that is so casually inflicted by the countless other trespassers like me.

 - Gedden Cascadia

However, true to his style, there is always a second ‘hidden’ narrative in Diedericks’ images. This second narrative, echoing similar issues in the artist’s previous work, still deals with issues of gender, sexuality and masculinity and is deliberately not always disclosed by the artist.