ARTicle

THREE YOUNG ARTISTS FROM THE WESTERN CAPE: 
ASHA ZERO, COLIN PAYNE, ADRIAN KÖHLER 

by Antoinette du Plessis 4 February 2007

 
34Long is delighted with the opportunity to present the work of three young artists to the Cape Town public during the course of 2007. 

The gallery’s present show, Twogether… continues through February with exciting modifications. Of particular interest are two portrait series in very different styles by two young artists, Adrian Köhler and Asha Zero. 
 

Adrian Köhler, a self-trained artist from Cape Town, entered the advertising and film industry worlds after attending a course in art direction at a local advertising school. Working as a model and prop builder, his innate aptitude for sculpture was employed in creating some wonderful objects, but he soon grew disenchanted with the extreme wastefulness of these industries. Objects and images are painstakingly built, no costs are spared and many hours of highly skilled work are put into objects which may have a lifetime of mere seconds on TV or in a movie before being dismantled and discarded. Adrian feels that art and invention get hijacked by commercialism, and believes that branching into fine art is a conscious attempt to have his work serve his own personal expression, in stead of the profit-making needs of others. He wants to assert the inherent integrity of artistic work by creating works to be contemplated for the truths they embrace, not for deceit. 

Adrian has done much work in model building, and has received recognition for sculptural works, but for this exhibition he chose to work with the theme of power as a projected identity in painted portraits of powerful men, translated from officially posed photographs. He transforms them into painted images, highlighting the artificiality and pretentiousness, the deceit and self-deceit of the sitters. Images of powerful men are ubiquitous; they stare down from the walls of school corridors, church halls, commercial institutions and government buildings, feigning omnipotence. Finely manipulated, brought down to size and hung as a group on a gallery wall, Adrian’s images become portraits of a different kind altogether. 

Asha Zero, like Adrian, investigates aspects of identity in his work. But there all similarity ends. 

Asha Zero? Who, or what, is that? It is his name, though not the one he uses on official documents. According to the artist, the name signifies a kind of cyber-identity, a persona, an invented self, a mock operation, similar to the persona of a rock star. Why? He explains: The random nature of an assumed identity allows one more freedom to create boundlessly. One’s creative self becomes variable, unpredictable, unstable. It is a marketing tool, yes, but also a free space for the imagination to roam, to play, to investigate, unfettered by ‘truth’ or ‘reality’. And what’s more, he adds, it is not my only persona; I use several. 

Whereas Adrian’s portraits expose iconic and public aspects of domination, Asha’s portraits are odd, idiosyncratic, slightly schizophrenic – his own term. They defy categorization. At first glance they may be mistaken for Dadaist collages, but on closer examination the power of minute, concentrated and über-skillful painting kicks in when the viewer realizes that they are not collages at all, but paintings. Every torn edge, every eyelash, every fragment, every knife wound, every flick of the wrist, every disembodied scrawl is carefully painted. The play between real and artificial, borrowed and created intensifies meaning; the painted surface articulates a deadpan enigma, a question more than a comment about identity in the twenty first century. 

Asha has been working as an artist since 1998, when he graduated with a fine arts diploma from the Tshwane University of Technology, which was the Pretoria Technikon at the time. Asha lived in Tshwane before moving to the Cape. He participated in various group exhibitions in Gauteng, has shown some painting in Cape Town, and is greatly excited by the prospect of exhibiting at 34 Long. 

The works Asha presents on this exhibition are portraits of imaginary friends and poets, artists, writers, musicians, contemporary and historical. All bear the same title: Mobile disco etcetera all stars, plus a unique number. And unique they certainly are.

Colin Payne, an exhibition designer by day and an artist by night, will be presenting a solo show at 34 Long in October 2007. As an artist who has lived in Cape Town for almost his entire life, his inspiration is drawn mainly from his local environment and the various forms of media that he has avidly soaked up for as long as he can remember. His love of the mountain and the sea, as well as a fascination with life in our crazy cities combines with a neo-pop stylistic approach that draws on a childhood spent watching Battle of the Planets, Thundercats and a more recent devotion to the work of Studio Ghibli.

According to Colin, pop culture presents a variety of systems of developing mythologies, which evolved from the human need for metaphorical storytelling. He is currently focused on the fantasy world of the comic book or animated film where battles of good and evil are played out by archetypal figures. He sees this as an increasingly subtle form of expression to draw on for his work, which focuses on the nature of characters and their relationship to their environments as well as to each other within those environments.

Here are worlds where anything goes – six arms, purple skin, why not, and the same goes for context – there are no limits. The choices that he makes are driven by feeling; the tensions and emotions that the colours and forms establish are the basis of the character of the work and the characters within it.

Identity in various forms presents itself as a leitmotiv in the work of these three artists: as a mantle, a variable or an interval. 34 Long invites you to come and see for yourself.

 

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