The Melrose Gallery is proud to present the upcoming solo exhibition by Christiaan Diedericks – In Search Of A New King, to be held between 9 May and 9 June.
Diedericks, one of South Africa’s most widely exhibited fine artists and printmakers, both locally and internationally, is known for capturing beauty in poignant, thought-provoking and often painful themes. Always pushing boundaries politically, socially and religiously, as well as personally, he is as unafraid of laying down his own truth as he is of the world… and In Search Of A New King is one of his most personal and indeed, important exhibitions to date.
For many years the artist has addressed issues of gender, sexual orientation, masculinity, body politics and environment in his work and his audience may be forgiven for expecting similar themes in his new collective. In Search Of A New King puts issues such as poverty, the possible failure of Capitalism, power, race, racism, the appalling legacy of Apartheid and colonisation in Africa, patriarchy and global slavery (modern corporate slavery) under a critical spotlight.
In doing so, his work continues to play devil’s advocate to not only spark debate, but also to question his own position as a privileged white, Western, gay man in his country of choice.
The artist realises he is only scratching the surface and continues to have many questions, having been positioned as an educated, and rather sheltered younger man who was perhaps blinded by his own upbringing. One specific question that continues to be a theme through this exhibition is “What is wrong with Africa?”
The vast and complex answers make writing an informed exhibition statement an impossible task. Growing up with the instinctive feeling that his white forefathers and kin were intrinsically wrong, the realization that it was indeed immoral only came much later.
The exhibition addresses more than the ‘white guilt’ that so many men from his generation hold. It takes a deep responsibility for his part.
In Search Of A New King attempts to address the pressing issue of ‘decolonizing our minds’ as a condition for thought insofar as it refers to the depth, rather than the superficiality involved in knowledge building communication – a depth that reflects respect rather than contempt, trust rather than suspicion.
‘Small stories and little truths is paramount, one big master narrative should never prevail. We are one race – the human race. And through his work and personal admittance of fault it has become clear that many white South African men are at the stage where they need to listen, rather than to dictate.’
This statement is powerful in itself but, that being said, a more comprehensive understanding is also needed.
Crime and corruption in South Africa is out of hand, not to mention poverty and unemployment. After twenty years of democracy, people in South Africa, of all cultures, seem to be angrier than ever. While this may very well be a direct side effect of colonization, slavery and oppression, we may now need an insurrection from black people against government lining their own pockets at the expense of the entire nation.
The vast majority of black people are currently living under the breadline in South Africa while a handful of white people and some black people are spending millions on luxury homes, cars and extravagant lifestyles.
The canyon between rich and poor grows bigger every day. This, among many others, are just some of the themes that are laid bare in Diedericks’ work.
One final explanation of any of the work in In Search Of A New King can never exist. Any conversation about an artwork enriches its conceptual content and ultimately sparks conversation and debate – something this rich and controversial but highly necessary body of work does with every offering.
The aim of the exhibition is just that – to spark debate, rather than provide answers, without inviting pain and anger. Debate about possible ways forward, without adding to anyone’s past plights.
Ultimately to learn from each others’ cultures.
An undeniably powerful collection of work, In Search Of A New King is one of Diedericks’ finest solos to date. This 41-piece strong exhibition has enough shock value to ensure radical awareness, and more than enough beauty to awe even the most hardened art critic. This is a must-see exhibition, curated by art curator and writer Melissa Goba.