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The 2010 Michaelis School of Fine Art graduate exhibition, which opens tonight at 18:00, is a good-looking and sometimes weird smelling exhibition

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Rose Kotze, Staying at a Friend (Club Bliss, Claremont), 2010, Lightfast pigment inks on cotton rag baryta paper, 56 x 145.5cm
CAPE TOWN, Dec. 8, 2010 — Earlier this year Nadja Daehnke was appointed curator of the Michaelis Galleries at the University of Cape Town. Formerly the curator of contemporary paintings and sculpture at the South African National Gallery and Old Town House, Daehnke is the silent star of the 2010 Michaelis School of Fine Art Graduate Exhibition, which opens tonight at 18:00.

Daehnke has managed to invest this year’s graduate exhibition with both narrative and neatness. This was no small task: there are 47 undergraduates and four postgraduate diploma students all vying for equal attention. One strategy employed by the new curator has been to thematically group work; but Daehnke has also evacuated studios, lecture rooms, gallery spaces, broom cupboards and more in her effort to find sufficient room for the very new artworks by very new artists to live, breath and do their thing.

Photography and sculpture predominate on this year’s graduate exhibition, which one insider described as notable for its technical sophistication but generally lacking in risk.
Sigourney Smuts, installation detail
Sigourney Smuts’ sculptures, which seemingly defy gravity, drew curious interest during the press walkabout. “Magnets allowed me to engage with one of the hidden forces of nature, electromagnetism,” explains Smuts in the accompanying catalogue. Like the exhibition, this 252-page document evidences the workmanlike professionalism of the 2010 graduating year.

Be sure to look at the George Chapman’s astute painterly compositions of familiar but abstracted urban sites, Safia Stodel’s painstakingly achieved dual-channel stop animation projections dealing with forced removals, Rose Kotze’s finely observed documents of rich and idle young Capetonians, also Ian Grose’s unexpected and accomplished debut as a realist painter heading somewhere new.
Ian Grose, Colour, Separation (detail, one of three), 2010, oil on fabriano, 100 x 67cm
Tip: a nose for scents will enrich the viewing experience. Where Caroline Vincent’s installation is pungent with the scent of a famous green soap and Frith Carlisle’s darkened installation is fragrant with whiff of red wine, it is Danielle See who wins the award for the work with the most distinctive pong. The young artist’s ecologically informed installation smells of rotting manure.

The 2010 Michaelis School of Fine Art Graduate Exhibition opens on Wednesday, December 8 at 18:00.
Adriaan Alkema, Untitled (Installation view), 2010, found object and wood, dimensions variable

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