Writing Art History Since 2002

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Anton Kannemeyer I Erdmann Contemporary I Cape Town

To visit an Anton Kannemeyer show is to find delight in the details. One such is in a line written on a journal page presented for display. “Non omnis moriar.”It is Latin and translates as ‘not all of me will die’. It throws up something unexpected. Written as a crest above the first of many self-portraits of the artist, he suggests that self-analysis can now be held within a social context (one entry details the birth of his daughter) yet is also subject to an exploration of the analytical process itself, that self-worship and abasement are equally indulgent.The beautifully crafted pen-drawn journals gradually morph into gaudy – and not occasionally bawdy – works with no formal justification for being in the same gallery space other than the overwhelming unity of the artist’s progression. That is, his preoccupations – post-PW Botha, post-Bitterkomix – still have days and lives too.With the ink and acrylic Alphabet of Democracy series, a work in progress featuring transformative iconography (cricketer Hansie Cronje, Black ministers, etc.), Kannemeyer proves that the past needn’t be pass√©. His images are crisp, bitingly funny, tragic, and often delirious for their political incorrectness. In J is for Jack Russell the titular pup mourns its master, a faceless farm slaying victim.The Alphabet series works best because it strikes a balance between the free association of the journals and the content of his silkscreens. The latter drift towards overstatement, either in deconstructing the suburban nightmare (Bourgeois Horror) or the onset of age. Exceptions include the particularly moving Nineteen and Thirty-Eight, where the artist shows himself at these ages, a device that enables him to reference his estranged father’s birth year. The artist’s father is the Afrikaans literary scholar JC Kannemeyer.The show ends with journal pages once more, including evidence of trips to Namibia and Angola. There is a large vulva swallowing up the Democratic Republic of Congo, which makes one wonder if Kannemeyer is asserting a link between his lust and his African identity. Or is it that the veneer of respectable society is an anachronistic decoy in a place where life is cheap and days are usefully filled with brandy and women?A clue lies in the companion to this epilogue, a shirtless boy soldier who clearly has no time for either the chaos or the clitoris. Kannemeyer seems no such combatant but in each of his many lives seems just as naked and lost, and proves once again his foolish and highly admirable bravery in admitting this predicament.

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