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TITLE OF EXHIBITION

A Retrospective

FESTIVAL ARTIST

Barbara Wildenboer

GALLERY

Everard Read Cape Town



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Exhibition statement

This retrospective gives a formal and thematic overview of artwork that Barbara Wildenboer has produced over the course of her last ten solo exhibitions. The work mostly consists of collage, photo- and paper-construction, and digitally animated photographic sculpture. She uses a combination of analogue and digital processes to create work which explores phenomena such as temporality, fractal geometry and the interconnectedness of all living things. Wildenboer exposes the connections between a myriad of life forms – from the microscopic to the immense. Her main focus is on environmental aesthetics. She sees this as something that not only encompasses natural territories, but also extending to human interaction with the natural realm.

Also included in the exhibition are examples of Wildenboer’s ongoing project entitled Library of the Infinitesimally Small and Unimaginably Large. It’s a large-scale ongoing project started in 2011 that uses the library as a metaphor for the universe and was inspired by a short story by the Argentinian writer Jorge Luis Borges, titled The Library of Babel. Through this series, Wildenboer makes reference to the relation between technology and the natural environment to create visual metaphors that speak of a sense of wonder at the complicated beauty of patterns in nature.

She sources her books and maps from second hand bookshops and flea markets all over the world. In the selection process she not only considers the books for their physical characteristics such as typographical layout, size, wear, and paper quality, but more specifically for their subject matter. Sometimes she makes use of technology, but all of the pieces for this exhibition were entirely hand-cut.

Wildenboer works in an interdisciplinary manner and uses found / existing books as both reference and raw material for sculptures, collages, paper installations and digital animation. The books, sentences, words and letters become elements of new visual narrative in which the old and new narratives co-exist.

There is a playful aspect to creating references within other references in the paper sculptures and collages. Using media images and information selected from various sources, Wildenboer constructs an alternate reality. The three-dimensional paper works reflect on how humankind is affected by globalisation, economic upheavals, scarcity, political corruption, wars, epidemics and natural disasters. The collages are a musing on modern human life and the fragility of the symbiotic relationship between man and the ecology. A nebulous relationship that is jeopardised by consumerism, wastefulness and a sense of disconnection with the natural world.

Catalogue
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Water Thief (Clepsydra am and Clepsydra pm)
Photocomposite mounted on Diasec
59.4 x 500 cm
Archival Diasec mount (aluminium backing)

Waterthief (Clepsydra am and Clepsydra pm) was created in 2013 during an artist’s residency on the island of Penang in Malaysia. The aerial shot of an enormous waterlily pond in the botanical garden is divided into 24 panels signifying the hours of one day, from one midnight to the next, with noon at the space between the two central panels. Clepsydra is the Greek word for water clock and literally means ‘water thief’. A clepsydra is any timepiece by which time is measured by the regulated flow of water from one vessel to another. The amount is then measured and used to mark time. Water clocks are one of the oldest time-measuring instruments. This work centres around the ritualised theme of water, our complex connections with it, and how it interlinks a myriad of life forms on both a macro and micro level, in the physical and metaphysical world.

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The Second Day
Photocomposite mounted on Diasec
62 x 250 cm
Archival Diasec mount (aluminium backing)

In The Timaeus, Plato gives an account of how the universe was formed. It was especially the order and beauty he observed that made an impression on him. Plato focuses on the idea of a divine Craftsman / Demiurge who creates an ordered universe by creating a mathematical order from the pre-existing chaos.

The Second Day draws from the ideas put forth by numerous philosophers ranging from early Classical Greek philosophers to contemporary philosophers such as Wittgenstein and Heidegger, all of whom questioned the existence of ourselves and the worlds that we inhabit.

The work reinterprets a variety of creation myths that tell individual (but very similar) stories of how the world came into existence.

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Prayer and Parascience
Photocomposite on Hahnemühle watercolour paper
Dimensions variable
Painted wood frame (black)

“The molecular beauty of Masaru Emoto’s microscopic water crystals seen up close through glass over black digital prints in [Wildenboer’s] Prayer and Parascience, is reminiscent of Kant’s idea that many natural beauties appear to be created for our pleasure. The idea was not a hedonistic notion, rather, it was Kant’s attempt to explain the relationship between the perceiver and subject’s perception where something that emerges through nature’s teleology appears extraordinary, something that seems unusually fitted to our capacities for engaging with the world around us.”

Extract from An Elemental Journey: Barbara Wildenboer’s The Lotus Eaters by Emily Brady, Environmental Philosopher.

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Pareidolia series
Photocomposite on Hahnemühle cotton paper
80 x 80 cm each
Painted wood frame (white)

In the Pareidolia series, Wildenboer conflates ecological themes with those rooted in analytical psychology. She references causal connection, chaos theory and fractal geometry, and tries to make sense of phenomena such as fractal geometry and the interconnectedness of all living things by creating visual metaphors that speak of a sense of wonder at the complicated beauty of patterns in nature.

She draws from the research of Hermann Rorschach who invented what is today known as the Rorschach inkblot test, a psychological test in which the subject’s perceptions of the inkblots are analysed to examine an individual’s personality characteristics and emotional functioning.

The Rorschach test can be thought of as a psychometric examination of pareidolia, the tendency we have to perceive objects, shapes, or imagery that are meaningful to us on a personal level. This manifests when viewing psycho-analytical tools such as the Rorschach inkblot test, connecting the dots to create star constellations and most commonly, when cloud gazing.

Pareidolia I
Photocomposite on Hahnemühle cotton paper
80 x 80 cm
Painted wood frame (white)

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Pareidolia II
Photocomposite on Hahnemühle cotton paper
80 x 80 cm
Painted wood frame (white)

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Pareidolia III
Photocomposite on Hahnemühle cotton paper
80 x 80 cm
Painted wood frame (white)

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Pareidolia IV
Photocomposite on Hahnemühle cotton paper
80 x 80 cm
Painted wood frame (white)

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Pareidolia V
Photocomposite on Hahnemühle cotton paper
80 x 80 cm
Painted wood frame (white)

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Pareidolia VI
Photocomposite on Hahnemühle cotton paper
80 x 80 cm
Painted wood frame (white)

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Pareidolia VII
Photocomposite on Hahnemühle cotton paper
80 x 80 cm
Painted wood frame (white)

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Pareidolia VIII
Photocomposite on Hahnemühle cotton paper
80 x 80 cm
Painted wood frame (white)

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Pareidolia IX
Photocomposite on Hahnemühle cotton paper
80 x 80 cm
Painted wood frame (white)

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Pareidolia X
Photocomposite on Hahnemühle cotton paper
80 x 80 cm
Painted wood frame (white)

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Pareidolia XI
Photocomposite on Hahnemühle cotton paper
80 x 80 cm
Painted wood frame (white)

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Pareidolia XII
Photocomposite on Hahnemühle cotton paper
80 x 80 cm
Painted wood frame (white)

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Pareidolia XIII
Photocomposite on Hahnemühle cotton paper
80 x 80 cm
Painted wood frame (white)

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Pareidolia XIV
Photocomposite on Hahnemühle cotton paper
80 x 80 cm
Painted wood frame (white)

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Pareidolia XV
Photocomposite on Hahnemühle cotton paper
80 x 80 cm
Painted wood frame (white)

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Pareidolia XVI
Photocomposite on Hahnemühle cotton paper
80 x 80 cm
Painted wood frame (white)

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Pareidolia XVII
Photocomposite on Hahnemühle cotton paper
80 x 80 cm
Painted wood frame (white)

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Pareidolia XVIII
Photocomposite on Hahnemühle cotton paper
80 x 80 cm
Painted wood frame (white)

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Pareidolia XIX
Photocomposite on Hahnemühle cotton paper
80 x 80 cm
Painted wood frame (white)

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Pareidolia XX
Photocomposite on Hahnemühle cotton paper
80 x 80 cm
Painted wood frame (white)

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Pareidolia XXI
Photocomposite on Hahnemühle cotton paper
80 x 80 cm
Painted wood frame (white)

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Pareidolia XXII
Photocomposite on Hahnemühle cotton paper
80 x 80 cm
Painted wood frame (white)

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Pareidolia XXIII
Photocomposite on Hahnemühle cotton paper
80 x 80 cm
Painted wood frame (white)

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Pareidolia XXIV
Photocomposite on Hahnemühle cotton paper
80 x 80 cm
Painted wood frame (white)

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Pareidolia XXV
Photocomposite on Hahnemühle cotton paper
80 x 80 cm
Painted wood frame (white)

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Wildenboer amalgamates ecological themes with those rooted in analytical psychology. She references causal connection, chaos theory and fractal geometry, and tries to make sense of phenomena such as fractal geometry and the interconnectedness of all living things by creating visual metaphors that speak of a sense of wonder at the complicated beauty of patterns in nature.

She draws from the research of Hermann Rorschach who invented what is today known as the Rorschach inkblot test, a psychological test in which the subject’s perceptions of the inkblots are analysed to examine an individual’s personality characteristics and emotional functioning.

The Rorschach test can be thought of as a psychometric examination of pareidolia, the tendency we have to perceive objects, shapes, or imagery that are meaningful to us on a personal level. This manifests when viewing psycho-analytical tools such as the Rorschach inkblot test, connecting the dots to create star constellations and most commonly, when cloud gazing.

Recapitulation Theory I
Hand-cut paper sculpture on Oxford cloth
40 x 40 cm
Wood clad aluminium frame

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Recapitulation Theory II
Hand-cut paper sculpture on Oxford cloth
40 x 40 cm
Wood clad aluminium frame

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Recapitulation Theory III
Hand-cut paper sculpture on Oxford cloth
40 x 40 cm
Wood clad aluminium frame

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Recapitulation Theory IV
Hand-cut paper sculpture on Oxford cloth
40 x 40 cm
Wood clad aluminium frame

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Recapitulation Theory V
Hand-cut paper sculpture on Oxford cloth
40 x 40 cm
Wood clad aluminium frame

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Recapitulation Theory VI
Hand-cut paper sculpture on Oxford cloth
40 x 40 cm
Wood clad aluminium frame

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Recapitulation Theory VII
Hand-cut paper sculpture on Oxford cloth
40 x 40 cm
Wood clad aluminium frame

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Recapitulation Theory VIII
Hand-cut paper sculpture on Oxford cloth
40 x 40 cm
Wood clad aluminium frame

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Recapitulation Theory IX
Hand-cut paper sculpture on Oxford cloth
40 x 40 cm
Wood clad aluminium frame

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“The soul demands your folly, not your wisdom.” – CG Jung, The Red Book (Liber Novus)

In Folly, Wildenboer draws from her own personal narratives, dreams and anxieties and intuitively connects inner and outer worlds, present, past and future. She uses the medium of collage to create contemporary vanitases within the context of our present-day landscape.

The body of collage works is filled with both personal and mythological references. There is a strong emphasis on narrative and how classical and contemporary stories frame our understanding of the relationship between the technologies which are meant to help us, and the world that we inhabit.

Wildenboer dissects reproductions of The Garden of Earthly Delights (1490-1510), The Ship of Fools (1490-1500) and The Cure of Folly (The Extraction of the Stone of Madness) (1475-1490) and recombines them with more recent images of war, science and botany to create sculptural collages. The idea of Oedipal sight and blindness and how this relates to vision, intuition and insight is also a prominent theme.

Blindness is referred to both literally and metaphorically throughout the body of work.

By doing this, she attempts to construct alternate realities that intimate an ostensibly apocalyptic future — that of the post-Anthropocene — but one that also suggests adaptation and the forming of new relationships, where all is not lost and humankind ekes out a tentative balance with each other and the natural world. The collages and paper sculptures offer musings on modern human life and the fragility of the symbiotic relationship between humankind and our ecology.

Blind Leading The Blind
Rephotography and hand-cut analogue collage
12 droplets ranging from 28-42 cm in height each
Painted wood frame (dark blue-grey)

Blind Leading The Blind formed part of Folly, an exhibition of collages hosted by the Everard Read Gallery in London in 2019.

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Holy Smoke I
Rephotography and hand-cut analogue collage
150 x 112 cm
Painted wood frame (white)

Barbara Wildenboer’s Holy Smoke I formed part of Folly, an exhibition of collages hosted by the Everard Read Gallery in London in 2019.

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Human Nature (triptych)
Photocomposite and paper sculpture
35 x 45 cm
Framed in Kiaat

Solastalgia, eco-paralysis, global dread and solophilia are all eco-psychological terms that refer to the relationship between ecological health and mental health. Human Nature makes reference to eco-psychology and the symbiotic relationship between humankind and the natural environment. The focus of the work is on environmental aesthetics and reference is made to concepts ranging from evolution to psychoanalysis.

Human Nature I
Photocomposite and paper sculpture
35 x 45 cm
Framed in Kiaat

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Human Nature II
Photocomposite and paper sculpture
35 x 45 cm
Framed in Kiaat

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Human Nature III
Photocomposite and paper sculpture
35 x 45 cm
Framed in Kiaat

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Originally included in Wildenboer’s Library of the Infinitesimally Small and Unimaginably Large, an ongoing project that started in 2011, the altered books utilised in Requiem are made from found books, particularly old books of maps and atlases. The books become both reference and raw material for sculptures, paper installations and digital animation. The books, sentences, words and letters become elements of a new visual narrative in which the old and new forms co-exist.

Through the act of altering books and other paper-based objects, the intention is to draw emphasis to our understanding of history as mediated through text or language and our understanding of the abstract terms of science through metaphor.

“The universe (which others call the Library) is composed of an indefinite, perhaps infinite number of hexagonal galleries.” – Jorge Luis Borges, The Library of Babel

Requiem
Altered book
50 x 50 cm
Framed in Kiaat

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Classical Atlas
Altered book
40 x 50 cm
Framed in Kiaat

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Astronomy
Altered book
50 x 25 cm
Wood clad aluminium frame

Astronomy forms part of Library of the Infinitesimally Small and Unimaginably Large, an ongoing project that started in 2011. The altered books are made from found books, particularly old books of maps and atlases. The books become both reference and raw material for sculptures, paper installations and digital animation. The books, sentences, words and letters become elements of a new visual narrative in which the old and new forms co-exist.

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Physics of the 20th Century
Altered book
50 x 25 cm
Wood clad aluminium frame

Physics of the 20th Century forms part of Library of the Infinitesimally Small and Unimaginably Large, an ongoing project that started in 2011. The altered books are made from found books, particularly old books of maps and atlases. The books become both reference and raw material for sculptures, paper installations and digital animation. The books, sentences, words and letters become elements of a new visual narrative in which the old and new forms co-exist.

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Water as a primary theme features across several of Wildenboer’s works drawing from historical references such as Monet’s monumental paintings of water lilies, the Pictorialist photography of water lily gatherers afloat in boats by P.H. Emerson and literary references such as Homer’s Odyssey. The pseudo-scientific experiments of Japanese scientist Masaru Emoto consider water on a poetic level, whereas Da Vinci’s Deluge drawings demonstrate a scientific inquiry into the workings of water turbulence that illustrate an obsession with mathematics, chaos and fractals.

By alluding to the work of individual scientists, discoverers, authors, photographers and painters, all of whom engage at divergent levels with the element of water, Spoils of War reflects upon environmental apathy as symptomatic of our state of alienation from our physical world as wellspring, the source from which life flows.

Spoils of War I
Rephotography and hand-cut analogue collage
62 x 43 cm
Framed in Kiaat

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Spoils of War II
Rephotography and analogue collage
62 x 43 cm
Framed in Kiaat

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Spoils of War III
Rephotography and analogue collage
62 x 43 cm
Framed in Kiaat

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Exhibited as part of Eros / Thanatos, an exhibition of collages that was hosted by the Everard Read Gallery in Johannesburg in 2018, this series consists of mixed-species assemblages in shades of dark and light.

“Like the human psyche, modern society is dialectical – it has both a dark and a light side that continuously interpenetrate – and the very neutrality and ambivalence of reason (so central to Western development) facilitates the ability of society to manifest different shades of light and dark.” Extract from Dialectic of Enlightenment, by Max Horkheimer and Theodor W. Adorno.

Sigmund Freud’s seminal work Civilization and its Discontents (1930), introduced Eros and Thanatos, which he believed to be responsible for the disquiet, unhappiness, and anxiety humans suffer. These terms refer to the constant struggle between the life drive and the drive for destruction, which he held to be at the centre of the development of civilisation and the struggle for existence.

In Eros / Thanatos, Wildenboer draws from her own dreams, anxieties and personal narratives and intuitively connects inner and outer worlds, present, past and future. She uses the medium of collage to create a contemporary vanitas within the context of the Anthropocene era. The body of collage works is filled with both personal and mythological references. There is a strong emphasis on narrative and how classical and contemporary stories frame our understanding of the relationship between the technologies which are meant to help us and the world that we inhabit.

From the viewpoint of evolutionary ecology, our universe is filled with creative and destructive energies. Nuclear energy, genetic engineering and developing nanotechnologies offer both opportunities for growth and expansion but could equally result in cataclysmic outcomes.

Residue and Excess III
Hand-cut sculptural analogue collage
100 cm diameter
Painted wood frame (white)

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Mixed-species assemblages III
Hand-cut sculptural analogue collage
85 cm diameter
Painted wood frame (white)

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Mixed-species assemblages VII
Hand-cut sculptural analogue collage
50 cm diameter
Painted wood frame (white)

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The Rules of Fair Play
Hand-cut sculptural analogue collage
200 x 82 cm
Painted wood frame (white)

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A Prolonged Space of Silence
Photocomposite on Hahnemühle cotton paper, pins and thread
Various dimensions: 50/45/45/37/37/37/30/25 cm in diameter
Painted wood frame (dark blue-grey)

Wildenboer references causal connection, chaos theory and fractal geometry, and tries to make sense of phenomena such as fractal geometry and the interconnectedness of all living things by creating visual metaphors that speak of a sense of wonder at the complicated beauty of patterns in nature.

In these images, swarms of jellyfish float between the Karoo clouds and two different realms collide: that of the open dessert skies, with that of the deep oceans.

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Artist’s profile

Barbara Wildenboer’s work mostly consists of collage, photo- and paper-construction, and digitally animated photographic sculpture. She uses a combination of analogue and digital processes to create work which explores phenomena such as temporality, fractal geometry and the interconnectedness of all living things. Wildenboer exposes the connections between a myriad of life forms – from the microscopic to the immense. Her main focus is on environmental aesthetics. She sees this as something that not only encompasses natural territories, but also extending to human interaction with the natural realm.

There is a playful aspect to creating references within other references in the paper sculptures and collages. Using media images and information selected from various sources, Wildenboer constructs an alternate reality. The three-dimensional paper works reflect on how humankind is affected by globalisation, economic upheavals, scarcity, political corruption, wars, epidemics and natural disasters. The collages are a musing on modern human life and the fragility of the symbiotic relationship between man and the ecology. A nebulous relationship that is jeopardised by consumerism, wastefulness and a sense of disconnection with the natural world.

Wildenboer lives and works in Cape Town, South Africa where she is represented by the Everard Read Gallery. She completed a BA(Ed) degree with majors in English Literature, Psychology and Pedagogy at the University of Pretoria in 1996, followed by a Bachelor of Visual Arts from UNISA. In 2007 she obtained a master’s degree in Fine Art (with distinction) from the Michaelis School of Art at the University of Cape Town. The title of her master’s thesis was Present Absence / Absent Presence and the research was concerned with aspects of melancholy, loss and longing as is embodied by the photographic medium.

From 2009-2016 Wildenboer worked as the head of the Photography Department at the CityVarsity College of Creative Arts. In 2011 she was nominated and subsequently selected as one of the top 20 finalists for the Sovereign African Art Award for which she received the Public Choice Prize. She has been awarded several international residencies such as the UNESCO-Aschberg residency (Jordan, 2006); the Al-Mahatta residency (Palestine, 2009); the Red de Residencias Artisticas LOCAL (Colombia, 2011); the Rimbun Dahan artist residency (Penang, Malaysia, 2013); L’Atelier Sur Seine (France, 2017); and Hannacc (Spain, 2018).

Barbara Wildenboer


Originally founded in Johannesburg in 1913, Everard Read is South Africa’s oldest commercial gallery. Everard Read in Cape Town opened its doors in the V&A Waterfront in September 1996, with the London Everard Read Gallery launched at the start of 2016.

The CIRCA Gallery in Cape Town was unveiled in November 2016 (across the road from the existing gallery space). This addition to the Everard Read / CIRCA group has allowed the gallery in Cape Town to maximise its capacity to 900m2 and expand its exhibition schedule to include a further four formal gallery spaces, and an outside 50m2 sculpture garden. December 2016 saw Everard Read Cape Town opening a satellite gallery in Franschhoek.

Always dynamic, the gallery strives to maximise the exposure and dissemination of fine contemporary painting and sculpture to a broad audience. An important contributor to the already-vibrant cultural life of South Africa, Everard Read maintains a strong and unique identity for itself. A programme of both solo and group exhibitions is often accompanied by publications serving to showcase established contemporary artists as well as the emerging younger generations. While artists from the United Kingdom, Europe, Nigeria and the USA are exhibited, the gallery retains at its core an impressive stable of Southern African artists.

A close dialogue between all of the Everard Read and CIRCA spaces ensures that the galleries have even further access to the finest paintings, sculptures and new media works from abroad and around the sub-continent. They concurrently interface with national and international galleries, institutions and art fairs.

The above all serves Everard Read’s ambitions to continue to nurture local and international talent and advise both public and private collectors around the world.


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