PRETORIA.- Photographic artist Richard Strydom's work entitled Familieportret 2 is the R60 000 first prize winner of this year's Sasol New Signatures Competition.
Strydom's winning work is a picture of loss and the loss of human dignity depicting the extreme misery, pathos and dehumanisation of poverty. Its message is that when earthly possessions are lost, there is still an obstinate will to live and love.
"Strydom's image depicts the traditional family portrait as a disturbing presence of lives halted at a particular moment. The sepia shadows in Strdyom's work are almost phantom-like and undecipherable," explains Franci Cronje, Sasol New Signatures Competition Chairperson, "In this work, the photography has not created eternity as art typically does, but rather it has embalmed time."
The work depicts a controversial level of nudity. However, the judging panel felt the entry could be any South African family, or part of the global community of suffering middle-class.
"This year's judging process excited me," Cronje adds, "Not because of the unanimous nature of the panel but because of the diversity in background and opinion."
The runner-up prize of R15 000 was awarded to Nare Mokgotho from Berea for the conceptual intervention piece, Claim.
Mokgotho's work took the form of public interventions and simple actions to question the ownership of public space. By having her name inserted on to each work as a collaborative partner, she asserts the idea that artworks emerge as a result of social engagement and interaction.
"Conceptually, this work is one of the clearest on exhibition," says Cronje. We found the work brave, uncluttered in principle, and challenging to any curator. It goes to the heart of the exhibition; to serve as a platform and space for artists to breathe, so to speak, to work towards that which is the holy grail of creativity. They are daring and individual works, accessible with a clear intention."
The judging panel awarded five merit awards of R5 000 each to:
Maike Backeberg, for the photographic print on 100% cotton rag paper, called Don't look away.
St John James Fuller, for his photographic work, "The Judgement".
Christiaan Hattingh for the archival digital print, "Only the F's mean anything".
Marthinus Jacobus la Grange's piece, "Bly volhard, soos atlete".
Lyle van Schalk's oil on canvas, "Pause".
This year's Sasol New Signatures Competition exhibition features pieces from across South Africa.
"More than 500 entries were submitted this year. To be included as a finalist in the exhibition means your work has made it through a very stringent regional selection process. Free entry into the competition does not account for the blood, sweat and tears, many hours, anxieties, creative juices and bravery, most artists endure just to enter their work," says Cronje.
The Sasol New Signatures Competition provides a platform for young and upcoming artists aged 18 years and older to exhibit their works and enter the professional art world. In its 19th year, it is both the longest running and most prestigious competition for emerging artists in South Africa. The competition has played an important role in launching the careers of many of South Africa's established and respected contemporary artists.
The Sasol New Signatures Competition Exhibition runs from 20 August to 21 September 2008 at the Pretoria Art Museum. For more information on the competition and exhibition contact Nandi Hilliard on (012) 346 3100 or visit www.artsassociationpta.co.za or www.sasolsignatures.co.za