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Gavin Jantjes: Screenprints 1974 - 1981 catalogue

Catalogue relating to an exhibition, 1985
Published by: The Black-Art Gallery
Year published: 1985
Number of pages: 8

image of Gavin Jantjes: Screenprints 1974 - 1981 catalogue

Small catalogue for a significant exhibition of 25 screenprints by South Africa-born artist, Gavin Jantjes. The exhibition took place at The Black-Art Gallery, Finsbury Park, London, a gallery that had opened two years earlier. The dates of this exhibition of Jantjes’ celebrated screenprints were 24 April - 25 May 1985. The prints included work such as “A South African Colouring Book”, a folder of 11 screenprints, and “Freedom Hunters”.

The catalogue’s main text was “Critical perspectives: the role of the visual artist”, a paper delivered by Jantjes at the Culture and Resistance Festival, held in July 1982 in Gabarone, Botswana.

The text began as follows: “In the early seventies I was asked why African painters and sculptors have nothing to say about their art. The questioner was a stranger to our cultural identity. She naively imagined all artists to be people who sat together in street cafes, wearing black berets, drinking glasses of wine and generally enjoying and expressing themselves. Those of us active in the arts know just how incorrect that image iis. But are we articulate about our art and if so have we discussed with each other or those who are genuinely trying to understand our culture? The answer must be yes. I intend to focus on the role of the visual artist. In a world moving rapidly from a literary to a visual assessment of day to day living we must have a part to play.

     …The African art history books of the fifties were rare and their content by and large exoticism in its ugliest form. Characteristics, curiousities, things, fill these pages. There was no acknowledgement of a cultural super-structure. No sense of depth or growth and no words about the dynamic potential of a culture. (There are admittedly serious scholarly attempts at understanding but mainly it was an outsider structurng the taboos that still haunt our art.)

     … Often European artists ask, “How is it possible to be creative in the oppressive South African situation?” I refer these questions to the very basic problems of survival. We have survived because of our parents (sic) creativity and their parents (sic) creativity. The very need to live and to improve on that living, is the motor of our creativity. That we have not lost our sanity or the will to struggle under increased government pressure, demonstrates not only the governments (sic) weakness but our collective strength.”

Jantjes’ text ended with something of a rallying cry: “Brothers and sisters, we have lots to do and it’s very late in the day. If we are to greet the sunrise with open eyes and resolute minds, we have a hard night’s work ahead of us. There is little time for rest.”

Contents as follows:

About this exhibition - preface wich includes “These prints, which were made over a period of seven years represent a particular period of observation, examination and growth by Jantjes, both as artist and individual.

     …we now view the work of an artist whose creative expression is quite consciously directed towards social and political beliefs about the world Jantjes’ work leaves no doubt about his deep commitment to the struggles of his fellow Afrikan sisters and brothers for ‘human rights equality and respect’. His work assumes a place in the struggle alongside the songs of unity, the freedom fighters, and the prisoners of resistance.”

There then follows a quote from Janthes: “I felt a need to shape a voice out of the culture of silence Western-Eurocentricism tried to keep us in. A need to cry rage. yet simultaneously I wanted a voice that could sing a visual song for and of Black people. Like Miriam Makeba or Fela Kuti or Stevie Wonder or Marley. But also to sing for the eyes of the whole world of our history and our consciousness of our contemporanity. In short I wanted to acknowledge, through the prints themselves, my preparedness to participate in the kinetic processes of culture and history.”

The Black-Art Gallery - brief statement on the philosophy on the gallery

Critical perspectives: the role of the visual artist” - Gavin Jantjes

The Prints - list of work

About the Artist - brief biographical notes

The catalogue has a folded and stapled back cover to allow for the inclusion of postcard-sized images of Jantjes’ work.


Related people

»  Gavin Jantjes

Born, 1948 in Cape Town, South Africa

Related exhibitions

Related venues

»  The Black-Art Gallery

London, United Kingdom