Home Truths: Domestic Interiors from South African Collections
16 November 2016 – 3 February 2017
at Sanlam Art Gallery, 2 Strand Road, Bellville, Cape Town
Home Truths: Domestic Interiors from South African Collections, curated by Emeritus Professor Michael Godby
The Domestic Interior has never been a fully recognized category in artistic practice: few exhibitions have been curated around this theme and no theory developed around the representation of domestic space, whether empty or inhabited. Home Truths: Domestic Interiors from South African Collections, is a diverse multi-layered showcase of artworks ranging from historical paintings to contemporary pieces and installations.
From canonical artists such as Pieter de Hooch and Eduard Vuillard to modern South Africans Freida Lock and Gerard Sekoto, the Domestic Interior has been the subject of some of the most beautiful – and affecting – works of art.
The domestic interior not only changes over time and through space: it actually means different things to different people. The evolution of representations of the domestic interior over the centuries is the focus of this specific exhibition, and tracks the changing styles and tastes of home decoration, from expressions of modest economy in the Dutch Golden Age, to displays of material wealth in the Victorian era, and the manifestation of individual artistic sensibility in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.
The domestic interior is often understood in relation to the outside world: indeed, the German philosopher, Walter Benjamin, argued that the ‘interior’ was invented as an alternative reality at the precise time when the individual appeared to ‘lose control’ of his destiny in the modern city. On a more literal level, the security of the home may be defined in relation to a threat, real or imagined, from the outside world.
Domestic Interiors may also act on a symbolic level. They generally represent the status of their occupants – who may also stand for their gender, their class, their culture, or even humankind as a whole. By the same token, domestic interiors have been used at different times as stage sets on which various moral, and other dramas are played out. And in modern art, domestic interiors have been used as the starting point for the translation of three-dimensional space into two-dimensional signs; and as vehicles for the expression of atmosphere or mood with little reference to actual physical forms.
Men and women seem always to relate to domestic space in different ways. While the domestic interior may encapsulate the very idea of ‘home’, with associations of domesticity, security, comfort and culture, it may also take on emotional dimensions ranging between a place of refuge, on the one hand, and a prison on the other: the place behind closed doors that constitutes an intimate expression of the ‘self’ may also be the scene of horrendous domestic abuse. As historical constructions, domestic interiors may be changed, or even destroyed.
The subject of the Domestic Interior in art is so rich because the impulse to make a home, to find comfort within it and express oneself through it, is a defining feature of what it means to be fully human.
This exhibition has been substantially sponsored by Sanlam and Iziko Museums of South Africa.
Home Truths: Domestic interiors from South African collections, boasts an impressive assembly of art works from the Iziko SA National Gallery and Michaelis Collections, the Johannesburg Art Gallery, the Constitutional Court, the Tatham Art Gallery (Pietermartizburg), the Durban Art Gallery, WITS Art Museum (WAM), the University of Stellenbosch, the University of Cape Town, the Goodman Gallery, The New Church Museum, Erdmann Contemporary, Sanlam Art Collection, Stellenbosch Modern and Contemporary (SMAC), Homestead Holdings, the Kotze Collection, the South32 Collection as well as many artists and private collectors.
A full colour exhibition catalogue with text by Michael Godby will be on sale.