– Hendrik Theron. Above: Eminence from little instruments – Mixed media on canvas – 67cm x 92cm x 4cm.

Just before lockdown struck IS Art presented a duality of exhibitions at its Franschhoek location, featuring the works of Arno Morland and Malose Pete.

It is often a pursuit of artists to force emotion and aesthetic together to forge a single likeness, destined for greatness. In truth, it is not hard to understand why – these two aspects arguably being the foundational pillars supporting truly great, iconic, and timeless artistic expression. It is, however, the unfortunate reality that this fusion seldom transpires.

What manifests in its stead, is that one pillar might crumble, losing out to the other; resulting in a work that either sways itself towards the realm of the aesthetic – that which is considered beautiful, pure, visually stimulating and appeals to the onlooker instantaneously. Or alternatively, the work is flung towards the sphere of outright emotion – that which speaks to the onlooker on a primal level and evokes within him an inexplicable resonance. Often the latter being to the complete disregard of any specific or ascertainable aesthetic cue.

It is in light of this alchemy, and with both pillars of the shrine stood upright, that the two artists forming part of this dual exhibition each find their solace, ever so slightly adjourned to their respective sides of the courtyard.

With his body of work titled ‘In thought’, Arno Morland creates theatre in plain sight, evoking an open dialogue with the onlooker and casting upon him an environment to exploit. Being thrust into playful and somewhat familiar scenery, one’s own narrative can dance and dwell among the four corners of Morland’s expression. His work weaves suspended fragments of storyline and glimpses of unfinished dialogue for the onlooker to pick up, connect and interact with. The underlying familiarity in the scenery portrayed, however, is key – it creates the resonance whereby one’s thoughts can harmonise. Throughout his work Morland composes ethereal dreamscapes in muted yet vibrant, calming pastels. This it seems is Morland’s recipe for true expression, being a captivatingly shrouded mirror for the onlooker’s own thoughts – a dream cast to light and sketched upon a canvas.

In turn, Malose Pete’s work radiates pure emotion, yet is complex in its presentation. At first glance, it is difficult to dissect, emerging as hazy and transient spiritual dreams and character sketches – each portrayed in their most raw and chaotic form. Titled ‘In the language of my forefathers’, Pete contorts imagery from his own life with that of his forefathers, merging fragments of rural life with urban milieu and cityscapes, culminating in a truly intimate self-expression. In this, the truth beneath Pete’s work is uncovered; his work being an allegory of the familial silhouettes, weary and watching, behind the eyes of every son – the long shadow of the Baobab tree, the sediment at the bottom of the bowl that we just can’t shake loose. The work is lathered in a revelry of lived experiences, both new and old, and seeks to play commentary to the concept of what we paint with worth, which in itself has been contorted with time. Pete’s work is a reminder that the ancestral weight upon our shoulders will never desist.