Writing Art History Since 2002

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34 Long | Cape Town

A sense of quiet contemplation pervades the images in Tony Meintjes’ first solo exhibition, Becoming History. Rejecting the notion of history as a chronicle of grand events, the work focuses on small cameo moments unique to a specific time and place. The images offer a long, satisfying look at ephemeral events poised in the present, linked to the past, flowing into what the photographer describes as the “bow-wave of history”.Meintjes is concerned here with the intersecting points of geographic history, layered with imprints of cultural and industrial interactions, and the chosen moment. The work conveys a sense of fully ‘being in the present’, evoking a heightened awareness of the passing of time. This concept is most successfully conveyed in the photographs that portray small, occasionally minute subjects in expansive 68 x 96cm images. The work titled Bees and Sunflower depicts a tightly framed image of lavender-hued flowering creeper, topped by cloud-littered sky. The small yellow head of a sunflower peers from the green expanse of creeper. In the centre of the frame, barely visible against the sky, a swarm of bees hovers around a protrusion in the foliage. The photograph is a studied portrayal of a transient moment. The work titled Five Doves and a Cat is most striking for the geometry of composition. Tumbled dolosse form a towering jagged horizon line and, far right in the frame, tilted diamond mesh gates cast angular foreground shadows. A cat rests on a dolos, the doves perch on a gate; together they form a petite tableau of a shifting moment. A richly subtle piece, titled Terry’s Bedroom and Dining-Room Muizenberg is a softly blue-grey hued view of the Muizenberg beachfront at late twilight. The muted hues of rooftops and apartment blocks dot the foreground landscape, receding into a quiet sea and mist-clouded mountain. Lower left in the foreground, a yellow patch of window light burns through the shadows. Diagonally above, a white moon dots a pink-tinged sky. The intersections of geography, culture, and the chosen moment are expressed in stunningly understated detail. Becoming History is a considered, reflective and often humorous expression of the discreet elements that serve to fix a transitory moment in the annals of memory – each memory a layer in the strata of our personal and universal histories.Joyce Monson is a freelance writer based in Cape Town

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