Q&A with Gallery Award Finalist: ADELE VAN HEERDEN

We asked the Ten Gallery Award Finalists some questions to help you get to know them. The work of the shortlisted artists will go on show in a special exhibition at StateoftheART’s Cape Town gallery from 06 – 22nd September 2018 for the final round of judging. The winner will be awarded a R10 000 cash prize and a solo exhibition with the gallery in 2019.

See more about the Gallery Award here.



Tell us about yourself. Where are you based and where do you get your inspiration for your work?

I am an artist and curator living in working in Cape Town, South Africa. After graduating in Fine Arts at the Ruth Prowse School of Art in 2010, I continued my studies at the University of South Africa where I obtained a BA in History and Politics. In 2015 I graduated from the University of Cape Town with an Honours Degree in Curatorship. My work has been widely exhibited in group shows throughout Cape Town and Johannesburg. Other professional experience includes a two year position as Gallery Manager at the South African Print Gallery as well as internships at The Spier Arts Trust (Yellowwoods Art Consultancy) and UCT's Michaelis Galleries.

My work is a direct, personal response to the particular social, historical and political conditions I am living in. I am very observant of the cultural zeitgeist, and I'm obsessed with historiography, national mythologies and identity. My most recent body of work observes the global debate around the removal of monuments and the relevance of colonial statues in a contemporary context.

My work relies on the juxtaposition of images such as statues, toys and flowers to subvert, memorialise and feminise these cultural objects of the past.

Do you have any rituals or habits involving your art-making that you can tell us about?

I try to walk to the studio every day. The things I see when I'm walking with my dog definitely find their way into my work. I find being outside and exploring places has definitely become part of my creative process.
I try to make drawing a daily habit, and there is definitely an element of obsessiveness in my drawing style. This is most evident in my preoccupation with line, hatching, cross-hatching and fine detail. Drawing and walking are both meditative practices for me.

Which new trends or South African artists do you find inspiring at the moment?

I think more and more we are starting to consider ourselves citizens of the world, rather than belonging to a single country or area. A lot of artists prefer to keep on the move, always visiting and staying in different places. So many artists are leaving their home countries to explore and live elsewhere for different reasons.
This is especially true in relation to out digital lives and social media where we make stronger connections and relationships with individuals on the other side of the world. I often think about what national identity will mean in the future, and whether this distinction will be relevant at all.

How is your work relevant in a South African context? And globally?

I investigate the debate around the destruction, effacement and reformation of monuments and nationalist symbols in both a South African and international context. A lot of my initial research was directly aimed at the vandalism of South African monuments in 2015. Protests and vandalism around the  Louis Botha Monument outside Parliament in Cape Town, the Port Elizabeth Horse Memorial and the Cecil John Rhodes statue at UCT all happened within a few days of each other.

After that I started looking into global trends of iconoclasm (such as the current drive to remove Confederate statuary in America), and I realised that the erection, vandalism, and relocation of statues and monuments is a cyclical process that moves with ideological change.
The memory of the Firdos Square (Saddam Hussein) statue destruction in 2003 was very formative to my understanding of the power of statues. I watched this statue being torn down on TV and the repetitive, obsessive coverage by the media left a lasting impression. A lot of the imagery in my work comes from news media covering the monuments debate.


What do you think South African artists can contribute to the global art market?

There is a visual conscience that South African artists are unpacking in their work. There are narratives from many different perspectives in this country, and artists are all dealing with political, spiritual, social and economic issues in their own ways.
Our history and memory drives us to create art from a different perspective.

What do you think of the StateoftheART Gallery Award as a platform for emerging artists in South Africa?

By hosting a competition, the StateoftheART Gallery are demonstrating they are more than a commercial gallery – they are contributing to the arts community and forging a unique identity. The online presence of the gallery reflects both the interests of the gallery and the artists.

How do you think selling art online and marketing through social media is valuable?

There is definitely a global shift from brick-and-mortar spaces to more non-traditional, web-based models. While I think a physical gallery space is still important and relevant, I believe the expansion into the digital realm will grow and diversify audiences beyond the capabilities of a corporeal space. This will hopefully lead to a democratisation of the arts and better exposure for artists.

I am especially interested in the future of Virtual Reality and the possibilities for both artists and galleries in this arena. I think there is great potential and value in being able to view an exhibition in a remote location with the aid of a computer or VR head-set. I am watching advances in this sector very closely.

How do you feel about the upcoming group exhibition and the other shortlisted finalists’ works?
I am very excited about the overlapping themes of geometric forms and botanicals in the work of the finalists. I think all the artists chosen demonstrate attention to detail and a sensitivity to their subjects. I can't wait to see all the works together in the Finalists Exhibition!

Do you have any plans for the coming year?
I have fully committed myself to a full-time creative/artistic practice for the next year. I have growing relationships with galleries in both Cape Town and Johannesburg, so I'm aiming to produce works for a more diverse audience.
I am also in the process of planning a few curatorial projects and group exhibitions on a freelance basis. I was recently appointed to the committee for the Association of Visual Arts in Bellville (Art b. Gallery), so I'm hoping to make a meaningful contribution there. 

If you win the Gallery Award, tell us about what you have in mind for your solo exhibition in 2019?

The work I produce for a solo exhibition would be a continuation on the theme of monuments and botanicals. There is still a lot I want to explore here. I also want to focus on developing my layering technique, and possibly further developing collage and paint media.  


Adele van Heerden is an artist and curator living and working in Cape Town, South Africa. After graduating in Fine Arts at the Ruth Prowse School of Art in 2010, Van Heerden continued her studies at the University of South Africa, where she obtained a BA in History and Politics. In 2015, she graduated from the University of Cape Town with an Honours Degree in Curatorship. Van Heerden recently opened a successful solo exhibition, "In Memoriam", at the Association for Visual Arts (AVA Gallery) in Cape Town. Her work has been widely exhibited in group shows, at galleries such as Salon 91, the Gallery at Grande Provence Heritage Wine Estate, 99 Loop, DF Contemporary, Rust-en-Vrede and Art.b. Other professional experience artistic experience includes a two year stint as gallery manager at the South African Print Gallery as well as internships at the Spier Arts Trust (Yellowwoods Art Consultancy) and the University of Cape Town's Michaelis Galleries. She regularly engages in curatorial projects on a freelance basis.