Johannes Phokela is an inIVA touring exhibition produced in collaboration with The Gallery, Cafe Gallery Projects, London.
Johannes Phokela’s beautifully painted takes on iconic images by Rubens, Jacob de Gheyn and others weave a personal history into the historical canon of Dutch and Flemish old master painting.
Working deliberately from reproductions found in art-history tomes, the gender and colour of key protagonists are often altered from their Northern European origins to result in unsettling images that challenge nationalistic and ethnic narratives around contemporary and historical art.
Undoubtedly Phokela’s Soweto roots and subsequent move to the UK, where he studied at the Royal College of Art, are intrinsically linked to his reinterpretation of the Golden Age and his interests in parallel histories of the Enlightenment and the African continent. His paintings are as much about the violent and twisted history of the Dutch in Africa as they are about the history of painting.
inIVA and Cafe Gallery Projects presents series of eight large-scale paintings by Phokela, commissioned by inIVA. Four are based on Jacob de Gheyn’s Allegory of Death, a series of paintings that looked into an overly moralistic and heavy-handed way at mortality and human vulnerability. A certain sycophantic beauty in human weaknesses is conveyed in Jacob Jordaens’ series of paintings titled As the Old Ones Sing, so the Young Ones Pipe.
The exhibition opens at the newly refurbished Gallery in Southwark Park, London and will tour internationally to Cape Town South Africa and New York in 2003.
Johannes Phokela, b. 1966 in Soweto, South Africa, studied at FUBA, Johannesburg before moving to London to continue his studies, completing his MA at the Royal College of Art in 1993. Recent exhibitions include Unpacking Europe (Rotterdam, 2001); EV+A (Irish Triennale, Limerick, 2001); Fixations, Art Exchange Gallery (solo, Nottingham, 2000); Routes (Brunei Gallery, SOAS, London); Trade Routes and History (Johannesburg Biennale, 1997).