Inside the Labyrinth

Sean O’Toole has curated a selection of exceptional contemporary artists for this year’s solo project at the Investec Cape Town Art Fair.

By Matthew McClure
Static by Johno Mellish

As you stroll through the ICTAF this weekend, you’ll notice smaller, separate booths attached to some of the main galleries. These are South African art writer, critic and curator Sean O’Toole’s contributions to this year’s art fair. It’s an exhibition of 10 artists from each of the five main sections of the fair (Main, ALT, Past/Modern, Editions and Tomorrows/Today) working within the disciplines of painting, photography and drawing, under the title SOLO: Time’s Labyrinth.

Sean O Toole. Photo by Oliver Kruger

Sean has been an instantly recognisable feature of the South African cultural landscape for a number of years and was approached by ICTAF director, Laura Vincenti, to curate a show that responded to the fair’s overall theme of ‘Time’. His initial concept for the intervention involved focusing exclusively on artworks that incorporated photography and/or drawing, so he approached existing fair exhibitors and galleries that might be interested in participating. However, the feedback he received pushed his concept in a different direction. “Dealers will tell you this is the hardest work to sell in South Africa, so it didn’t unleash a deluge of applications,” says Sean.

Happily, this unexpected outcome resulted in a fascinating exhibition. “I’ve had to think about what curating means. It’s staging a story, an argument, and asking a question through a set of objects that are placed in relation to one another. What I like about this is the density and that you’re able to see more than one work by an artist.”

The SOLO booths create an environment where you’ll be able to understand and appreciate the development of work from each artist – something that might be missing from larger gallery spaces where the emphasis is on putting up as many saleable pieces from different artists as possible. At its most elemental, Sean says that SOLO is about the joy of looking. “I think often in the art world, you tend to get caught up in the politics and forget about the basic pleasure.”

What this project offers is not only a delightful insight into the minds and practices of some local and international contemporary artists, but also a deep reflection on how we define and depict drawing and photography as creative disciplines, and how these methodologies relate to time. For these reasons alone, you should certainly set time aside to visit the SOLO: Time’s Labyrinth booths.

Metallic Ratio by Jeanne Gaigher
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