‘Whereas before, my animal sculptures might symbolically mock predators, policemen, politicians, oligarchs, sycophants, the corrupted and the like, during lockdown I felt impelled to look closer to home for my subject matter. My interests had been shifting from perpetrators to people and I have been wanting to transition from an accusatory position to one that is more compassionate and empathetic.
– Brett Murray
Brett Murray’s recent sculptures have a shared sense of vulnerability and fragility about them, not unlike the Japanese netsuke that inspired them. His symbolic portraits represent all of us, looking skywards for answers and certainty.
The Fundamentalists by acclaimed South African artist, Brett Murray, were created as part of a recent body of work entitled Again Again and continues the artist’s abiding preoccupation with our tendency to perpetuate past mistakes and repeat the cycle again. And again.
Murray’s monumental gorillas butt heads, seemingly locked in an eternal impasse. The artist ‘darkly ponders the fatal turn in every conversation that reduces conflict to its extremes … thereby killing the very heart of debate. If no one can speak each to each then what is left but a crazed blather full of sound and fury, signifying nothing? It is this nullification, this dead-end, which for Murray sums up the times.’*
‘I think we live in interesting times,’ says Murray, ‘where conversations are becoming more and more polarised and the rights and the wrongs of your political positions are becoming more difficult to define, and there’s a big grey area in the middle. Often what an artist can do is prick holes in that divide and I think some of my work does sometimes do that – and it’s potentially uncomfortable. I continue to feel the urge to expose the absurdities of the powerful through satire. Through my work I hope to explore my jaundiced love/hate relationship with South Africa’s unfolding democracy.’
* Ashraf Jamal, writer and cultural theorist
Image Credit: Michael Hall / Artist portrait: Stephanie Veldman
Specialists in contemporary art from South Africa. Established in 1913. South African artists are part of the global conversation. We seek to make their voices heard.