(b. 1963, Pretoria, South Africa)
Wayne Barker's artistic career spans almost two decades, marked by a bitter-sweet mix of politics, poetry, and a passion for subversion. Tracking that career from apartheid South Africa's most violent years to a new democratic dispensation, the artist's monograph explores the contradictory impulses of "African identity", and Barker's exploration of a continent's commodification.
At times part Pop Art, at others a layered deployment of traditional genres and media, Barker's work stands as much as an indictment of colonialism as of misplaced political correctness. From the first seduction to the twist in the gut, it is as beautiful as it is provoking.
Wayne was born in Pretoria, South Africa, in 1963. In 1981 he took his Diploma in Fine Art, at Technikon Pretoria and later completed a BA (Fine Art) at Michaelis, University of Cape Town in 1984. He completed his education with a Postgraduate Degree (Fine Art) at the Ecole des Beux Art, Luminy, in Marseille in 1998.
Barker has been involved in numerous projects, symposiums and workshops, involving academics, artists as well as children and communities. He founded the Famous International Gallery, South Africa, 1989-1995.
“Wayne Barker’s coming of age in the 1980s in a South Africa fraught with conflict, violence and the repression underscored by various States of Emergency, border wars, racism and conscription, undoubtedly influenced his artmaking. This aspect has been examined extensively in various texts written about the artist. However the turbulence of the time was not exclusive to South Africa and internationally the world was on the brink of the massive changes which would occur in the next decade: the advent of democracy in South Africa, the fall of the Berlin Wall, the decolonization of many countries and the spread of the World Wide Web. In art, the YBAs changed the face of British art and their seemingly radical works argued that modernity had run its course and that the autobiographical and introspective was what now constituted authenticity.
Barker is a product of his place and time and his work interweaves the global with the local. As described in the quote by John Berger, Barker’s encounters have certainly informed his art. The exhibition can be seen as a visual diary of his life and a chronology of the encounters which include other artists, musicians, dancers, models and the media which has been so pervasive in our era. One of the most important of these encounters has been with the work of Pierneef. All South African art students were indoctrinated into the idea that Pierneef was a Master of Landscape - much has subsequently been deconstructed about his monolithic vision which emphasised the ownership and power of the white settlers over the land. It was, therefore, Pierneef (or more specifically Pierneef’s vision of the land) to whom Barker turned in his early critiques.
By using the post-modern technique of re-cycling and appropriating he took the canonical landscapes and overlaid them with signs of consumerism and exploitation allowing us to read this familiar landscape differently. Working directly over digital prints of Pierneef’s works Barker inserted signs and symbols of commerce and greed such as the Black Label, Coca-Cola and the VOC logo. As his work developed, these inanimate symbols of a consumerist society extended to images of real-life people who were his models, bringing a human element to these previously unpopulated images. His models have frequently and deliberately been selected from an immigrant population whose relationship with the land is an ambiguous one but whose labour has been imprinted onto this same land in the same way as the indigenous population.
This layering of the land and how it has been used and abused has absorbed Barker for the past twenty years and more recently has developed into a more gendered representation with the beaded works. These latest works express a vision of the landscape where the formerly masculine dominated vision is being overlaid by what is considered a feminine craft. Beading has more complicated associations than that of simply being women’s work. Beads were traded for land in many colonized countries and they represent trade routes - although in South Africa they are currently associated with indigenous craft. The overlaying of the essentially masculine, nationalist landscapes of Pierneef with beadwork therefore places new meaning upon the viewing of the landscape as well as the ownership of imagery and the authority of the artist. This technique also subverts time. Barker’s work is characteristically spontaneous with seemingly hurried brushstrokes and sketches suggesting a revelation of a lived life where the artist has been present and his emotions are transparent. This is subverted by the precision and time-consuming act of beading which is done for him by experienced women crafters. The precision, skill and sheer labour involved in this craft also resonates with the layered conceptions of a landscape which has been worked and exploited over centuries. A single image can express the complexities of time – there is the ultimate endurance of the artifact and art itself whilst there is the also the idea of the rapid passing of time contained within the hasty marks made by Barker over the original precise and geometric Pierneef constructions.
The idea of the passing of time has frequently been expressed through the image of the skull - this object has long fascinated artists with its suggestions of mortality and what is left behind as tangible evidence. Barker uses this imagery as a nod to history in his bronze sculpture which integrates the skull, his hat – a personal trademark, the ubiquitous bottle of wine and the palette. This work is reminiscent of early European still lifes in its collection of objects each of which holds a meaning – and it clearly locates the life and work of Wayne Barker in the present.
Baker brings the past and present into a conversation with each other, and subverts not only tradition and modernity, masculinity and femininity, but also auteurist ideas of artistic production. His encounters with the world show us new ways of seeing and of experiencing the world, and leave us richer for it.”
- Carrol Brown from Wayne Barker’s 2012 Catelogue text
Art Paris Art Fair, Grand Palais, Paris.
Postcards, Everard Read, Johannesburg.
The World that Changed the Image, Everard Read, Johannesburg and CIRCA Cape Town
Normal Man, CIRCA, Johannesburg
Love Land, CIRCA, Johannesburg
Super Boring, SMAC Art Gallery, Stellenbosch
Super Boring, Standard Bank, Polokwane
Super Boring, Standard Bank Gallery, Johannesburg
Heal, UCA gallery, Cape Town
Land and Desire, Gerard Sekoto Gallery, Alliance Francaise, Johannesburg
Lovers and Gurus, Contemporary Art Space, Caen, France
ITS ALL GOOD, Crosspath Culture, New York.
Two Cousins, Fig Gallery, London
Fin de Ciècle, Nantes, France
Kunst is Kinderspielen, Kunsthalle, Krems, Austria
Beauty in Politics, Millennium Gallery, Pretoria
All Washed Up in Pretoria, Millennium Gallery, Pretoria
All Washed Up In Africa, Gallery Frank Hanel, Cape Town
All Washed Up In Africa, Gallery Frank Hanel, Frankfurt, Germany
Nothing Gets Lost in the Universe, Fig Gallery, Johannesburg
Nothing Gets Lost in the Universe, Gallery Frank Hanel, Frankfurt, Germany
Peace Through Blood, Fig Gallery, Johannesburg
Coke Adds Life, Everard Read, Johannesburg
Three Bodies of Love, Everard Read, Johannesburg
Images on Metal, Market Theatre, Johannesburg
SELECT GROUP EXHIBITIONS:
My Joburg, la maison rouge, Paris (F), 20 June – 22 September, Curators: Paula Aisemberg and Antoine de Galbert. On the occasion of the South Africa-France Cultural Exchange
I Linguaggi del Mondo: Languages of the World, collateral exhibition to the Venice Biennale, Pallazzo Querini Art House, Venice, Italy
Great South African Nude Exhibition, Everard Read, Johannesburg
History, UCT Gallery, Cape Town, South Africa
Collection 10, SMAC Art Gallery, Stellenbosch
Sasol wax art award Exhibition, Johannesburg Art Museum
Urban Jungle, Afronova, Johannesburg
No Logo, Prince Albert Museum, London, UK
Kleine Plastiche Triennale, Stuttgart, Germany
memórias íntimas marcas, Electric Workshop, Johannesburg
All Washed Up Africa In Africa, French Pavilion, Venice Biennale, Italy
Köln Art Fair, under the Auspices of Frank Hanel Gallery, Frankfurt, Germany
Frankfurt Art Fair, under the Auspices of Frank Hanel Gallery, Frankfurt, Germany
Three x Ten, Frank Hanel Gallery, Cape Town
Future, Present, Contemporary South African Art, Goodman Gallery, Johannesburg, South Africa
Colours, Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Berlin, Germany - opened by President Nelson Mandela
Groundswell: Contemporary Art from South Africa, Mermaid Gallery, London
Africus, Black Looks White Myths, First Johannesburg Biennale, South Africa curator: Octavio Zaya Africus
The Laager, First Johannesburg Biennale, Johannesburg
Scurvy, New Town Gallery, Johannesburg
Can Art Exist Alone: Art and Politics, Pretoria Art Museum, Pretoria
Brown and Green, Pretoria Art Museum, Pretoria
Something New Always Comes Out of Africa, Newtown Gallery, Johannesburg
Volkskas Atelier, Pietersburg Art Museum, Pietersburg
Breaking Down the Wall: Pierneef Series, FIG Gallery, Johannesburg
Anglo American Collection
Durban Art Museum
Iziko South African National Gallery
Johannesburg Art Gallery
Polokwane Art Museum
Pretoria Art Museum
Rand Merchant Bank
Sandton Civic Gallery
Standard Bank Gallery
Wits Art Museum (formerly Gertrude Posel Gallery), University of Witwatersrand
SELECTED PUBLICATIONS, CATALOGUES AND ARTICLES:
'Super Boring', 2010, SMAC & Standard Bank Gallery
‘The ID of South African Artists’ (catalogue), 2004, Sharlene Khan (ed). Fortis Circus Theatre, Holland
“Wayne Barker: Artist’s Monograph”, 2000, Brenda Atkinson (ed)
“Trade Routes: History and Geography”, 1997, Matthew DeBord (ed) Catalogue, 2nd Johannesburg Biennale
“Contemporary South African Art: The Gencor Collection”, 1997, Kendal Geers (ed)
“Art in South Africa: the future present”, 1996, Sue Williamson and Ashraf Jamal (eds)
“Colours”, 1996, Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Catalogue
“Africus: First Johannesburg Biennale”, 1995, Candice Breitz (ed), Catalogue