'Out of the Furnace' by Willie Bester & Wolf Werdigier

The Melrose Gallery
Mar 25, 2019 11:32AM

Curator Beathur Mgoza Baker delivering an opening address to exhibition attendees. Present - Artists Willie Bester & Wolf Werdigier alongside Albie Sachs. March 2019 at The Melrose Gallery.

Celebrating the artist’s voice, freedom of expression and healing the past through the work, ideas and conscious intervention created by artists Willie Bester and Wolf Werdigier through their unique and exciting, transcultural collaboration.

The Melrose Gallery is pleased to invite you to the opening of the exhibition: `Out of the Furnace’ which is the culmination of months of collaboration between two celebrated contemporary artists and thinkers.

The combustive creative journey of these two renowned artist and social justice activists represents a deeply immersive and reflective process which has resulted in a powerful body of new and older works that is both triumphant and challenging, topical and celebratory.

The exhibition represents a galvanizing process, a cleansing through fire across generations, and within the cultures both artists embody, while not forgetting the harm inflicted.

For architect and artist Wolf Werdigier there is an important need to confront historic injustices inflicted upon his Jewish ancestors, and equally, acclaimed artist Willie Bester pulls from the fire the need to never forget or allow the dehumanization and silencing of Black South Africans across the spectrum as experienced during apartheid.

‘We are excited to present this critical body of work produced by artists Willie Bester and Wolf Werdigier, the result of their trans-personal and creative exploration of the most critical rights and freedoms afforded us, and the eradication of their violation’, says Craig Mark, the gallery director.

This important dialogue between the artists across cultures, faiths and personal ideologies to find confluence through shared expression was undertaken with a deep sense of striving and truth, with trust, toward their creative articulation.

To Destroy is Not To Silence

The Melrose Gallery is proud to present this compelling creative and intellectual intervention and journey beautifully curated as a journey linking seemingly disparate experiences of past silencing and trauma through the representation of their confluence and harmony within difference, by curator Beathur Mgoza Baker - a critical discourse entered into and represented by both artists across space, through time and the invocation of memory and healing.

Reflecting on the narrative thread and underlying themes at play in the exhibition, curator Beathur Mgoza Baker says: ‘Artists are important agents for conscientising and moving us from a place of complacency, inaction and distance, toward connection, and the desire to take action for impact.

The exhibition works with the urgency in the work to invoke memory and to release trauma while upholding truth and proclaiming rights, freedoms and our shared humanity.

History has repeatedly shown us why it is important to act and speak out against injustice and toward the understanding that to silence is not to destroy, truth and justice should ultimately prevail. Artists are vital to this striving toward agency and justice, and this conversation is current, vital and beautifully conceived by artist Willie Bester and Wolf Werdigier through their joint and individual works. It is a melding of their truths and personal histories and journeys - out of the furnace and into the light’.

A Journey Through Art, Across Cultures & Time Toward Healing & Catharsis

Artists Willie Bester and Wolf Werdigier have a deep friendship that is tangible in the assembled presentation of their works. Each was deeply drawn to the other because of their outlook, personal ideology and professional expression almost naturally.

For several months now been engaged in a deeply personal and reflective creative journey and shared process toward making art and finding a language and shared expression – an alchemy of mind, artistic craft and spirit toward producing their critical and exciting new body of work for this joint exhibition.

Both have navigated excruciating encounters in their history and lives, standing at the centre of the symbolic furnace for what they believe in. The resulting art works in the exhibition as a result come from a process of creation that is deeply personal, immersive and intimate.

Each artist contributes to the shared journey of making, interrogating and discarding loss by invoking memory toward healing. In reflecting on the creative process and the journey toward realizing their works for the exhibition the artists excitedly reflect on the learning, sharing and mutual support they experienced and were able to give.

The art works in the exhibition represent a conversation realized through sculpture, installation and painting and reflect important personal and political themes for both artists with a tangible intimacy and urgency. The works poignantly explore loss, remembrance and the healing power of memory toward overcoming personal and historical trauma, and the triumph of freedom against all odds. Their collaborative process mirrors the kind of collective exploration of justice and truth we are called on to undertake as a society toward individual and collective healing.

Willie Bester

For artist Willie Bester there can be no personal freedom or the freedom of expression without political freedom and fundamental rights and dignity for all. The distinguished artist and long-standing political, social justice and environmental activist has successfully used his profile as a celebrated international artist to create agency, awareness and access through art that stimulates change and sets critical conversations in motion through his work.

Through his work he transforms matter from the materials in the form of found and discarded objects into life-infused, three dimensional sculptures and installation works that convey his passion and convictions uniquely and with an urgency that has seen him become a fearless voice of the historically silenced and earned him presidential honours and international acclaim.

One of the most important voices in contemporary South African art he has created an impressive body of work over time which resides in key museum and private collections, and in a career spanning over twenty five years as a sculptor and visual artist, and he has become a name synonymous with activism and political agency. He has been and continues to be the voice of the disposed in Africa.

Wolf Werdigier

Artist Wolf Werdigier studied architecture in Venna and London as well as painting and design with Jaap Bakema, Xenia Hausner, Jakobo Borges, Herman Nietsch and Markus Lupertz. His works include urban designs, installations and city interventions. He is also the visiting professor at Pratt Institute of New York and the University of Stuttgart. Wolf works in the area of interactive art and paintings with exhibitions held in Vienna, Barcelona and Vieussan, France, New York, Jerusalem, Philadelphia and Venice. Since 2003 he has been the director and is also the founder of the International Summer Academy of Fine Arts and Media in Venice. He is also the co-founder and artist of the Produzentengalerie Wien.

Forward Ever, Backward Never!

In drawing together two artist that traverse difference and discrimination the exhibition solidifies the need to use art as a tools for creating tolerance and allowing free expression. It also raises the important longer term question around how we continue our struggle for autonomy, freedom of expression and social justice to enshrine these rights for our artistic and creative voices in society, as securely as our rights as citizens are meant to be enshrined in our country’s constitution within the framework of democracy.

Reflecting on the importance of the work produced through this collaboration curator Beathur Mgoza Baker says: `Respect for artists and their voices is deeply symbolic of the balance and tolerance in our society. Wolf and Willie have swung open the door of history’s furnace to remind us. We need to pick up this thread continually and keep it alive so we never forget or allow history to repeat itself. How else do we observe the right to freedom of expression and curtail censorship social, political and economic injustice in a post-democratic South Africa?’. (Baker, BM: March 2019

The Melrose Gallery will facilitate a forum for collective reflection, discussion and exploration of how we address the importance of the artist’s voice and freedom of expression in the face of increasingly overt attempts at silencing and containing it.

On March 14th we will host an event that enables the space for artists, thinkers, societal leaders and community to engage in debate and discussion.

Curation and Texts by Beathur Mgoza Baker, March 2019.

Albie Sachs delivering a speech to exhibition attendees at the exhibition opening. March 2019

Installation View: Willie Bester & Wolf Werdigier. March 2019 at The Melrose Gallery.

The Melrose Gallery