Johannesburg’s newest art gallery – the Afropolitan Gallery at Victoria Yards – has opened with a stunning exhibition of new works by John Moore which will run until August 1.
Moore’s passion for wildlife and natural heritage visually fuses themes of spirituality and mysticism and, in addition to depictions of wildlife and the plight of endangered species, his work often also includes references to Southern Africa’s ancient San- and Koi- bushman rock painting heritage.
Moore’s show at the Afropolitan Gallery is titled In the Beginning in which he engages primarily with a coloured pastel medium yet there is a body of classical work from this master printmaker in etchings, linocuts and mixed media.
Schooled at St John’s College in Johannesburg, Moore’s childhood was marked by long holidays and explorations of South Africa, particularly the Kruger National Park where he
was taught to love and appreciate wildlife in every form, and learned to enjoy not only the wonder of the “Big Five” but also the complexity and detail of “the little things”.
Moore remembers sitting at waterholes for hours armed with binoculars and nature books. He studied birds, trees and insects and over the years his appreciation for detail and microorganisms was firmly fixed into his growing imagination.
Moore also learned to appreciate the different ecosystems that inhabit Southern Africa, visiting the contrasting coastal forests of KwaZulu Natal and the arid deserts of Namibia, and he was also able to witness and appreciate the indigenous people of the country and its neighbours, sharing and listening to tales of the fauna and flora around the fire.
Moore has South Africa’s largest printing press in his studio which allows him to focus and work on large-scale images creating immense detailed mark-making in the works. Moore’s inspiration for his images comes, he says, from “experiencing life in all its forms”.
We asked Moore some questions about his life and his work:
What inspires you?
I look at all aspects of my life to create inspiration in my work, from daily activities, walking in nature, movies, reading, trance experiences nothing is exempt from my continual scrutiny. Once an idea has surfaced, I then journal it for future reference.
What is your daily routine?
I work hard and am known as a productive artist. I often get up at 6 am, go to the gym and get into the studio by 8 am to set up for the day. I don’t work normal hours but take frequent breaks through the day, allowing me to fetch children, look at my research, attend meetings and catch up on admin. I usually work for two hours and have a 30-minute break. In peak times this working ethic can allow me to work till midnight. Close to exhibitions has me working even later. At night I find work the best, no distractions.
What are your preferred mediums?
I work in any medium that I feel is best to express my work. I am a printmaker and use these mediums often to express ideas, namely woodcuts, linocuts, etchings, perspex plates. However, I don’t just use the printmaking mediums, I also use charcoal and pastels to create large scale work. My next show predominantly has large charcoal and pastel images, supported by ceramics and smaller etchings. I use whatever is needed to best express my ideas.
Tell us about your latest work ‘In the Beginning’ which is now on show at the Afropolitan Gallery?
My previous show was focused on charcoal and silver pigment. It took me a year and a half to make those images. I was so tired of the limited monochrome perspective that I knew most of the work at Afropolitan Gallery would be colour. With this show, I am looking at time, and how that influences us. We can choose to change our future whilst acting in the present, our past can never be changed. My imagery is again the fauna and flora of Southern Africa using vibrant colours to shift my work as I progress further into this theme. I am also using cattle in my work, specifically targeting the Nguni, a symbol of wealth. I am trying to show how important and precious all our species are whether wild or tamed.
In the Beginning runs at the Afropolitan Gallery, Victoria Yards, 16 Viljoen Street, Lorentzville, Johannesburg until August 1. Opening times are Wednesday to Friday from 10 am to 4 pm and the first Sunday of every month as part of the First Sunday’s arts and entertainment events in east downtown Johannesburg.
About the Afropolitan Gallery
The Afropolitan Gallery showcases works by artists from South Africa and the African continent while educating the emerging collector on the value and investment in art. It creates a platform to showcase and develop a narrative around Afro-Futurism. What is and what exists in society today and positively re-enforce what is a complex and ever-changing expression of who we are and where we have come from, as socially conscious humans. We hope to engage and inspire a cross-generational, cross-cultural public. Making art accessible and promoting great talent, in what is a significant time for contemporary art in Africa today.