Writing Art History Since 2002

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The Parking Gallery Johannesburg

The photojournalist observes the world in a studied manner. Typically, it is a declaratory way of seeing, unencumbered by artifice, and – oxymoronically – without the imposition of authorial presence. Possibly this is why so few photojournalists make good artists, no matter their habit of conjoining that lofty three letter word with their practice whenever they show in galleries. Seopedi Ruth Motau’s uninspiring exhibition of photographs at the Goodman Gallery offers a very recent example, although the list of culprits is far longer.In her attempt to break free from the language of photojournalism, former Mail & Guardian photo editor Nadine Hutton both fails and spectacularly succeeds. A show comprising three short ‘animations,’ Hutton’s work is best read as the work in progress project of a fledgling artist. This might sound cruel, but by her admission Hutton concedes that her animations are experiments, each an awkward grappling with the new and somewhat unfamiliar medium of film. In those instances where she succeeds, Hutton excels. In particular, I refer to her main projection, Night Watch, a voyeuristic observation of an all-night vigil by Christian Zionists. Much like Andrew Tshabangu and Paul Weinberg’s images of spirituality, Hutton allows light and blur to imbue her piece with something more than a painful literalness, a quality that fatally sunk Motau’s portraits of black Hare Krishnas.Shot on a digital stills camera, the resulting projection is a simple stop action animation composed from the multitude of single-frame images taken by Hutton. Elegantly framed by a window for the full duration of the piece, this window becomes a self-reflexive comment on Hutton’s perched and unmoving view. The result is a meditative study of ritual and spirituality. My only criticism of this beautifully observed piece of moving art is that it lacks a soundtrack, but even without Night Watch represents an accomplished debut.

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