28 August - 4 October 2014

Zander Blom


STEVENSON is pleased to present an exhibition of new paintings by Zander Blom.

Blom writes:

It's solo exhibition time again and with it comes the inescapable task of writing an artist statement.

This, to be honest, fills me with dread. The usual questions are floating about the room, nagging at me while I paint during the day. Yes I know the act of writing something will clarify things that are just moods or vague feelings right now. Yes it will give me a slightly zoomed out view of where I am in this moment in time. But I don't want to hear it. I'm in a strange schizophrenic moment and I want to crawl around inside it. The press release looms over my head for weeks - it says: 'Hey man, just write me. I'll give you some perspective, put things in context...' I say to it: 'Fuck off with your "context" and your tired art jargon. Leave me alone. Let me be gross and obscure and delicate and pedantic and a brute and irrelevant... and... what-the-fuck-is-that? What am I looking at? What is that lump? It's creeping me out... Great! That's perfect! Let's add some green... No yellow.. No pink... No no no no... Brown!'

'This makes no sense,' whispers the artist statement.
'Of course it does, you stupid animal,' I hiss back.

This game goes on for weeks, till the yapping reaches such a point of irritation that I eventually force myself to sit down and write the damn thing. To pin it down. To shut it up. For the first hour or so I fill the page with angry knee-jerk reactions. These I mostly delete, because like a child that goes into a bath kicking and screaming, the screams and sobs generally tend to subside once the realisation of already being in the bath sets in. This phenomenon coincides with noticing that it's actually quite nice and warm in this bath.

I'm looking around the room. There are instruments and books in here and the computer... Let's start with the computer. As I'm typing this, a two-hour free-form music session from earlier tonight is rendering out just behind this window on the screen. On the screen I see purple, green, orange, light-blue, grey and red-brown bars of sound in layers. In the last week I have noticed a similarity between some of the marks on canvas and the arrangements of the recorded sounds. The white bright screen and the various open windows may also correspond with some of the crude white rectangles I've been painting. But it's too soon to know, something about digital space perhaps... no... it's much more primitive, more caveman... more Battiss... and Rothko maybe? I don't think I'll pin it down any further than that. Currently it's there, stapled to the table, flopping about. If I keep stabbing at it will surely die and quickly turn trite, contrived, lifeless and become uninteresting. I'm going to let it go free.

Through the corridor in the room behind me is a large canvas with crude colour rectangles and odd shapes. I watched a video podcast about a retrospective of Matisse's colour cut-outs a couple of days ago. I started this arrangement shortly after seeing that video. I also found a reproduction of another Matisse cut-out that I stuck to the wall over a year ago. Seems like I've been meaning to break things up/apart into big crude shapes, but the moment to do so has only now arrived. This may lead to a large series of works or perhaps only a few. Before I know it I'll find myself working on something else. To complicate the writing of this press release, I currently find myself going back and forth between radically different types of work from one moment to the next. Yesterday I thought I was done with one thing, now I'm back at it. I tell myself this: if you wanted to be bored and slavishly repeating yourself you could have chosen virtually any other profession. So the mantra becomes: 'I'll do it only if I don't know what I'm doing.' Because that will most likely be more interesting and exciting than anything I could have planned or conceived of.

My painting practice is driven by finding new tools and developing new techniques. Currently my techniques rely heavily on palette knives and the paint tube itself. When working with oil straight from the tube you are limited to the available premixed colours. So I have had to develop homemade devices that mimic the factory tubes in the form of altered medical injections. Now I can mix any colour and make it look like it came straight from the factory out of a tube and onto the canvas! I find the drawings of many painters to be more interesting than their paintings. In order to resolve a composition spontaneity is often a necessary sacrifice. So it is understandable that a composition can lose much of its life and energy by the time it ends up on canvas. I've drawn on canvas before to try and avoid this but it never really worked to my satisfaction. I've used other techniques to try and make work that is loose, alive and still crisp, but now the modified syringes have led to the ability to control the nozzle size. This has finally opened up a way to make perfect solid line drawings with oil on canvas of various widths. This allows me to do things that are impossible with a brush or an oil stick. There is also a new palette knife that I'm enjoying using. It has tiny teeth and makes these shell/scallop-type marks. It gives me contour lines and a gradient in a single scoop. I'm following it down its own rabbit hole. I've also started producing my own palette knives to sculpt with, in hopefully interesting new ways, and I've started bleaching some canvases with household bleach.

Let's put some more warm water in this bath... For the sake of consistency it may be time to take a quick look at the last press release from 2013. Yes, long windy roads, piano sonatas and all that. I feel much younger than I did last year, less mature even, I may actually have devolved. It's kind of what I hoped for, but it also just sort of happened. I spend a lot of time each day in my tiny music room teaching myself how to not play the guitar. The music I'm recording at the moment is as raw and schizophrenic as the paintings. The two seem to be egging each other on, like two unruly teenagers. The act of playing the music loosens my inhibitions, and takes quite a lot of physical energy which allows me to feel a certain satisfaction and release. This helps me to not overwork paintings that come out loose and wild purely because I feel that I haven't exerted enough physical labour in order to justify their merit. In short, a trick to keep a rational, domineering brain at bay. In return with painting I'm plastering paint onto the raw linen in various shapes with a big palette knife in a very crude haphazard way, similar in approach to my free-form punk experiments. When I think about what's going on in the main painting room it feels like a child colouring in massive drawings with a trowel and coloured cement... browns and green and red and purple and lemon yellow and cobalt blue and black... I see bits of Matisse, Rothko, Klee, Picasso etc, all floating or crawling around on the canvases. Sometimes they play nicely, other times they fight each other for space or dominance.

Anyway. Much of this may not even be important or relevant to the show. There is still plenty of work to be done and by the time everything is finished, selected and sent off, these thoughts may already be completely outdated.

Zander Blom was born in 1982 in Pretoria, and lives in Johannesburg. His first major body of work, The Drain of Progress, showed in Johannesburg (2007), Cape Town (2008) and London (2009). The Travels of Bad followed, showing in Johannesburg and Cape Town in 2009. Subsequent solo shows have taken place at the Savannah College of Art and Design in Savannah and Atlanta, Georgia, USA (2011-12); Galerie van der Mieden in Antwerp; and 5x6x9, Berlin (2010), in addition to Stevenson. Group shows include The Evolution of Art 1830-2140, Kuckei + Kuckei, Berlin (2013); The Global Contemporary: Art worlds after 1989, ZKM Center for Art and Media Karlsruhe, Germany (2011); Ampersand, Daimler Contemporary, Berlin (2010); and .ZA: Young art from South Africa, Palazzo Delle Papesse, Siena, Italy (2008). Blom is the winner of the 2014 Jean-François Prat Prize, Paris.

The exhibition opens on Thursday 28 August 2014, from 6 to 8pm.

Blom will give a walkabout in support of the Friends of the National Gallery on Friday 29 August at 11am. Cost is R20 (members and non-members); all are welcome.