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Beige at The Viewing Room Art Gallery at St Lorient

by Karin Preller

In what is undoubtedly one of the most disruptive and disturbing years in recent history, paying havoc with peoples’ lives, dreams and aspirations, André Naudé presents an exquisite body of paintings in an exhibition which he titles, simply and unceremoniously: ‘Beige’.

The title provides the perfect starting point to write about an artist that understands colour and form like few other artists: rightfully acknowledged as one of South Africa’s foremost colourists. But more than this, the title is immediately evocative of the playfulness, wry sense of humour and dark irony that permeate Naudé’s work, and life, in various ways. Not an artist that lets himself be dictated to by whim or the capriciousness of the artworld, Naudé’s visual language is uniquely and unmistakably his own. “Cantankerous”, Naudé describes himself when we speak, and I smile. Conversations with Naudé is never dull, always inflected with humour, and always contextualised by his immense knowledge and love of art.

Naudé’s prolific career, and his involvement with all aspects of the art world – as lecturer, teacher, curator, adjudicator, but primarily as artist – spans more than four decades from the mid-1970s to date. This exhibition, as was his mid-career retrospective at the Pretoria Art Museum in 2001, is again reflective of salient aspects of his work, drawing together, but also taking further, the rich diversity of his processes of making in eminently seductive works that speak not only of colour but of a consummate understanding of paint, line, form, composition, of sheer immersion in his work as a whole.

Art critic Lucia Burger, in the first line of her opening speech for one of Naudé’s many solo exhibitions, stated unequivocally: “Andre Naudé is a flirt”. I quote her because it is essentially Naudé’s love affair with paint that shines through in all of his work over his illustrious career. His flirtation with paint, with medium and material, is perhaps most viscerally discernible in his distinctive use of colour. It is reflective of a special knowledge of how colours will mix; how they will look, interact with, recede, and advance on the surface of the canvas. The same entrancement that holds the viewer’s attention is also the artist’s entrancement and enchantment with paint. As I write this, I recall the different spaces in which I have encountered Andre’s work. I conjure up, ‘tangibly’ almost, the colour of certain works that drew me to the work. Whether in variations of solid or evanescent blues and yellows, in ominous reds and black, it is Naudé’s colour that resonates as one of the most tantalizing and enigmatic elements of his work.

Ultimately, Naudé’s manipulation of his medium and material enables a world at once familiar and ambiguous, ordered and disrupted. The very substance of paint, of marks on the surface, references not only Naudé’s engagement with the world, but the skill, commitment and judgment one senses have been honed over years: a particular, intimate connection between the artist’s hand and head – a tactile and tacit knowledge of subject and medium that is imbedded in the work. His is a dialogue between practice and thinking that is layered not only in terms of technical virtuosity, but layered in terms of meaning and subtle references/links that viewers might make when looking at his work.

However, while Naudé’s work might be read partly as a commentary on life’s absurdities and ironies (displayed more than ever in this extraordinary year), this is not an artist setting out in the first place to dictate meaning. His work is seductive in the way that it ‘entices’ meaning. From smaller works of pure abstraction with a lightness and economy of brushstrokes to the layered complexity of works in which familiar motifs recur, Naude’s work is a life recast in paint. The surface is the primary site, in the very gesture and substance of paint, where meaning is first and foremost generated and where it resides. It is a flirtation with paint that comes across in a life lived with and through his art. And it is, ironically, not beige.

Bloom at Association of Arts Pretoria - Opening Speech by Iaan Bekker

Everything has a beginning, middle and end, but not necessarily in that order.

Gesture being the primary mode of composition leads to a disruption of space. This has consequences in time - it slows down perception of the work, and in doing so focus attention on mark-making and the materiality of paint itself.

Following from this synchronising of making and seeing comes the association between time and light. The work aims to divert, concentrate and diffuse light in the same sense that it manipulates time in looking at, and seeing the relations of elements in the work.

The constant stepping towards the surface to operate upon it, and the stepping back to orientate the effects of operative action constitutes a rhythm, a ritual. In this manner the dramatic performance of painting and the critique of appraising effects becomes consolidated. Significance is defined in retrospect.

The subject of the work is a process of sensual and feeling modalities. Reason and calculus is reserved for formal application. The painting subject is never complex. The results are never simple. This is the consequence of compounded interest and attention vested in making the work over time. Gesture, which is immediate, is subjected to a maturity of aesthetic, which is timeless.

No matter what subject or formal route painting pursues it remains a slow medium. Even if its referents are subsequent image processing media as in photography or film or video, which accelerates and focuses the sign as efficiencies of meaning and escapes into a textual syntax, paint remains rooted in telluric concerns and anchors perception in the present. Paint is sensual before it can be temporal. this is why it endures longer as a site of memory or emotional inscription.

Even if painting can achieve immediate registration of its image/intent/meaning programme it remains a linear process of sub-assembly of transmissive gestures. There is a sequence of decisions pending calibration - we cannot know where the work begins or ends, but we know how it moves. It is a staged evolution and adaptation of selected elements under pressure to transform until it achieves equilibrium. One can speak of arrested development without a trace of cynicism.

Andre Naude paintings allows the viewer to see this operation unfold. It is consistent with the intimacy of selecting subject matter which is often interiorised or selected from domestic environments. He shares rather that pontificate or instruct. Yet the work requires perceptual education to fully appreciate how this is achieved. Yet this is not a requirement to simply enjoy what one sees. The sensation is one of stress-free chromatic hedonism.

One does not think about painting when one paints. At best the making process allows one to drift among impulses and options. Decisions may be deferred or revised in a way-finding exercise that allows associations to at first multiply and then be subtracted until a certain mood is established in which one can be reconciled with oneself - this may be fearsome or joyous. A dialectic resolves between identity and diversity. What is the sound of one hand painting etc?

The courage to enter knowingly into psychic regions of uncertainty and chaos is something that artists willingly take on. For this they need to be respected and encouraged by those who safely stand at a distance and describe the studio as a psychosis. Painting is a willful induction of change, and in that sense it prefigures the scale and intensity of events in the world at large. In doing so the artist explores and anticipates new modes of receptivity.

There is a syncopation of fragments in the work that gradually coheres without resisting the eventual syntax of descriptive language. There is the deferment of closure that expands the gestures of gestalt. There is invention of imaginative relations between image making sets of symbols and their settings. Here is a practice of lyricism on an epic scale, even within the space of a hand's breath.

- Iaan Bekker (Brand Wealth)

Naudé se werk 'n besinging van verf

deur Johan Myburg
Extract from Beeld, Monday, 22 April 2013

Circumspect I het André Naudé einde verlede jaar in Hermanus in die Wes-Kaap gewys. Nou kry Gautengers geleentheid om dié Pretoriase kunstenaar se jongste skilderye, byeen onder die titel "omsigtig", te betrag.

'n Mens kan nie help om die woord dalk meer letterlik op te neem nie: rondom kyk. Asof Naudé 'n vaste punt (en waarom voel die uitstalling onmiddellik so onmiskenbaar Frans?) inneem en van daar rondom, terug-, vorentoe, maar ook inkyk.

Met dié kom Picasso, Braque, Monet en die Brit Hodgkin in sig. Iets van dieselfde gevoeligheid van kleur en lyn en komposisie en oog wat 'n mens by dié meesters kry, val op: soms onpeilbaar, soms duideliker soos in Joy waarin Naudé se verkenning van lynwerk herinner aan Monet se verbeelding van water waarin lelies dryf.

Jare lank al 'n kunstenaar wat skilderkuns ernstig neem en vir wie verf op doek eindelose bekoring bied, gee Naudé hom as't ware oor aan die kwaliteite van die medium: vir die deugde van akriel, maar eweneens die opwinding van olie. En daarmee saam gebruik hy ruimskoots goud en silwer.

Die werke in Circumspect II is, benewens 'n portret-monotipe of twee, abstrak. Of eerder geabstraheerd. Ekstrakte wat steun op vorm eerder as betekenis. Daarom is Naudé se poëtiese titels dikwels misleidend. Titels, die verbale en nie-visuele sleutels tot werke, sluit in Naudé se werk soms meer toe as oop. Asof hy sy kyker wil noop om verby die serebrale interpretasie van kuns te kyk en om hulle oor te gee aan die vreugde van verf op doek, aan pigment, aan tekstuur en balans, aan kleur en komposisie. Aan dit wat "gebeur" in die skildery.

Dikwels "verstoor" Naudé juis die doek deur die inbring van 'n element of voorwerp om te kyk hoe dié inbreuk opgelos word (vergelyk byvoorbeeld die skuins lyne in Urban Fencing, die kobaltblou staaf in Sage, die Arp-agtige element in Hollywood Hats).

Naudé kyk terug op sy loopbaan as kunstenaar – die insluiting van palet-vorms sou daarop kon dui – maar hy is ook introspektief doenig.

Die patrone wat rame om werke vorm, laat die oog meer na binne neig, in na die binnewêreld (Intestinal Secret) of 'n landingstrook (Landing Strip). Of 'n blerts goud wat lyk asof dit van die doek wil wegkom.

Maar Naudé maak in dié versameling werk ook nuwe deure oop in die sin dat hy vorentoe kyk: omsigtig maar ongebonde (vergelyk die heerlike werk Pattern).

In 'n tyd wat oorheers word deur figuratiewe kuns is Naudé se doeke 'n kleinood, 'n besinging van verf.

Painting in Peace Palace

The Universal Peace Foundation South Africa presented a painting by Andre Naude as gift in Korea and is now in a special museum, at the Cheon Jeong Goog (Peace Palace), 2 hours from Seoul, South Korea.

Extract from University of Johannesburg Art Gallery Newsletter 6-27 July 2005

André Naudé returns with his new exhibiton entitled, "Fresh Toys to the List", to be hosted by the University of Johannesburg Art Gallery, to previously investigated territories. He draws on neo-colonial context to critically survey the painterly in art making. New imagery is interwoven to enhance an existing eclectic style. As he did in the 80's Naudé manipulates the concept of pseudo-political superficiality by means of dissecting cultural wallpaper, then and now.

He dabbles (and flirts) with nostalgic themes of exoticism and tea dances employing 3D-cut out mutations as incidental vehicles in this discourse. The work reveals a static impression reminding the viewer of anthropological remnants in forgotten display cabinets.

This artist concerns himself first and foremost with the process of painting. He is a colourist and over the years his subject matte has been concerned with human condition as well as with his immediate environment implementing the traditional tablescape as main vehicle of comment. His works reflect an incisive discourse with cross-cultural appropriation, capturing the transitional visual fusion of South African multicultural pluralism.

The works executed during 2003/2004 bear testimony to a process of visible brownuction in contextual content. The dialogue between surface colour and textural surface continues. The text becomes a sensual interpretation of obscubrown visual clues and layers of several planar obstacles. Certain icons remain as Leitmotif, but are minimalized to a silent sensual presence.

Naudé has been a practising artist since 1974 and has been involved in art education since graduating. His solo exhibitions number approximately 30 shows and 50 group shows in South Africa as well as New York, Washington, Toronto, Paris, Hamburg, Leverkusen, Riberac, Barcelona, Budapest and Beijing. In 2001 Naudé was invited to present a solo exhibiton at the Pretoria Art Museum. In 2002 he presented two solo exhibitions: one at the ABS gallery in Johannesburg and the other at Galeria Blau, Palma, Mollorca.

In February 2002 the artist completed four large works for the new Meropa Sun casino in Polekwane (Pietersburg). In February 2003 Naudé co-curated "Love in a time of ambivalence" at the Association of the Arts Pretoria. January 2004 saw a collaborative show with Chris Diedericks at the AVA Gallery in Cape Town.

ART: Andre Naude By Ashley Johnson

Extract from Business Day, Tuesday, 12 July 2005

FRESH TOYS TO THE LIST adds more works to the oeuvre of Andre Naude who must rank as one of our better painters. The exhibition has several different strands of thought running through it that engage with art history and reference African experience.

Naude is primarily a colourist who produces intricate compositions that scintillate with the unexpected. He is known for tablescapes, which allow him to use the serpentine forms vases offer as compositional devices within rectangular structures.

There is a surreal element lurking beneath the surface in the objects he chooses, which often have hints of other life forms.

For instance, a schematic log will also have animal properties, threatening to stand up at any moment.

Using colour effectively is quite an art and painters have to be aware of the expressive qualities evoked by different combinations. Naude often works in tones that are high key and close to one another in value.

When one contrasts complementary colours like this, the effect is an optical dazzle.

He manipulates these visual properties, which rely on instability and uncertainty, within structural compositions that also express a fleeting objecthood.

Thus there is a sense of aesthetic movement in his work as identity relaxes it grip. To do this he uses a cursory line that wafts over form, indicating the object but not embalming it.

There is a strong aura of Henri Matisse, on of the seminal early 20th century artists who headed the Fauvist group, or wild men.

He is famous for saying that art should be like a good armchair, which allowed him to concentrate on purely aesthetic issues of colour and form.

Similarly, Naude expresses a joy of life within his works, which although they contain references to African culture or neo-colonialism, never take a political stance. Indeed, many paintings seem light-hearted and take a dig at issues such as feminism almost in passing. They are primarily sensual evocations.

Unfortunately the current art discourse often demands a critical response from painters who risk being disregarded if they ignore these. In this exhibition, Naude is aware of texts within texts and produces a series called Investigated Territories Revisited.

These small paintings sometimes place a photograph of a previous work at the centre, which is then "framed" by a copious quantity of paint, initiating questions about how we create reality. The Deconstructionist philosophies of Jacques Derrida would seem to apply. Somehow these works are contrived and Naude is at his best when following his instincts.

Naude's prices are quite modest considering his depth of experience in painting. The show comes down on July 27 and the gallery moves to exciting new custom-designed premises for the next exhibition.

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