Vivien Kohler at IS Art

Residuum | Solo Exhibition by Vivien Kohler:

26 March – 16 April 2017

at IS Art, 11 Huguenot Street, Franschhoek


Appropriately titled ‘Residuum’, the exhibition fits in meaningfully and authoritatively with the mosaic of work Vivien has produced. The word ‘residuum’ is the original Latin from which we went on to derive the contemporary ‘residue’ – conceptualising a remnant, remainder, sediment or a meagre amount left over after the main parts have been taken or used. The inspiration for the title is that of Vivien’s own genesis, the Cape Flats. Noting that he, along with so many others, was raised amongst the ‘residue’ of society – whether it be commercial, industrial or social. He perceives an objectively forlorn reality of lived experiences: homes constructed from discarded materials and scraps, occupied by individuals wearing clothing bequeathed from generation to generation, these both carrying the scars, marks and decay of an outcast and ejected portion of society. Vivien, however, states boldly that these circumstances, despite being formative, are not nor could they ever be the defining characteristic of the individuals and communities found within them. From a subjective point of view and to him, there is so much more to them than perceived. To him immense complexities and layers exist within, as juxtaposed with society’s view of them. Vivien recalls that from these badlands, esteemed, revered and adored individuals have bloomed.

Following this line of thought, Vivien believes that artists such as himself have a particular liberating duty towards these parts of society. He states that artists ‘have the ability to restructure the residue’. They can find meaning within the chaos and build on the inherent positivity, optimism and history that emanate and flow from the cracks among the residue. His works are an ‘exploratative redefining’ of the identity of these communities, a place called home.

Vivien Kohler – About the artist:

Vivien can be quite appropriately described as ‘a fine South African export’ if ever
there was one. He is an experimental mixed media artist with his roots firmly set in South African soil, with a unique appreciation for its social culture. Vivien was born in 1976 in Cape Town and is currently based in Johannesburg, South Africa. In staying true to his origin, however, he boldly asserts the Cape Flats to be his breeding ground and a primary influence of the work he produces.

Vivien went on to attain his National Diploma in Fine Art from the Ruth Prowse School of Art Design in Cape Town in 2000 and hasn’t looked back since. Vivien has since exhibited in numerous national and international art fairs and shows. Some of his
notable group exhibitions include, ‘Is There Still Life’ (2007) which was curated by Prof. Michael Godby of Michaelis School of Fine Art (Cape Town), and featuring some of South Africa’s most influential artists including William Kentridge, Penny Siopis and Willie Bester. As well as, ‘Of(f) Africa’ (2014) hosted at the Sulger-Buel Lovell Gallery (London). His solo shows tally to; ‘Given to Fly’ (2012) and ‘De(re)tritus’ (2014).

As relates to the work Vivien produces, his motives are largely driven by social commentary and relate to the issues plaguing his surroundings, origins and community. To this end; his work highlights the derelict transitional volition in which communities akin to his own find themselves in. Thus, the themes dealt with in his work are primarily those relating to the social, racial, financial, ancestral and physical aspects of the marginalisation and displacement of the urban landscape in post Apartheid South Africa. The Inner city’s cold and neon-lit strife along with the desolate dilapidation of the outskirts are echoed in his work. Vivien masterfully assembles two and three dimensional constructs from discarded materials and with the infusion of paint, discarded individuals are created and set in a relationship with their decrepit surroundings. These works then culminate in a visual metaphor, a depiction and characterisation of those individuals caged in the periphery of society and its decaying milieu.

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