ABOUT: Guest curator Mandy Conidaris co-founded the online platform outoftheCUBE two years ago. The initial aim of outoftheCUBE was to offer exhibiting opportunities to early career artists who had not yet entered the traditional gallery system.
The site now has almost 60 full exhibitions, and shows the work of a variety of artists ranging from that of visual art students to more established artists.
Mandy’s role is to run the site on a day to day basis: dealing with admin and correspondence, managing the social media, researching and negotiating with artists, and curating or co-curating the outoftheCUBE exhibitions.
What five words best describe you?
Well, I’m not sure how others would describe me! But these are the qualities that are important to me in others, and that I try to hold to myself in relation to my dealings with family and friends through to casual business acquaintances: loyalty, humour, integrity, honesty and openness. But I would have to add that I am quite subversive and a bit stubborn!
Where did you grow up? Tell us a bit about your background.
I grew up in Exeter, a town in Devon, England. I was very fortunate in having a childhood that epitomized the safety and freedom of movement common to children in Britain in the 1960s, with a large, warm extended family. A lot of the way I function as an individual is a result of that.
In 1970, when I was 14, my parents emigrated to South Africa with me and my younger brothers, then aged 12 and 11. Over the years I have learnt to embrace the diversity of cultures and people here. Although the rest of my family have relocated back to the UK and Spain, I consider myself more South African than English.
In 1986 I married Costa, a South African man from a Greek family, and have enjoyed that culture enormously – not only the food! but my ‘out-laws’ have taken the place of my first family in my heart. So I am a true hybrid of this country – an Anglo Saxon/Greek/South African!
Tell us about the path you took to get to outoftheCUBE.
When Costa and I married in the mid-80s, I gave up my first profession of Radiography (an X-Ray technician) and began to study Fine Arts through UNISA. In the mid-90s, in the earlier days of conceptually-based art in South Africa, I spent two years studying at the then Technikon Witwatersrand. This was followed by my MA (FA) studies at Stellenbosch University which I completed in 2003. I developed a passion for printmaking at TWR, and as well as focusing on this medium in my own artmaking practice, I have worked ever since as a print consultant and print workshop facilitator, representing The Caversham Press for over 20 years. From 2008 to 2012 I also had a contract lecturing post in the UNISA Visual Arts Department, particularly focused on the senior undergraduate students’ conceptual and writing modules. This long and tortuous path instilled in me great respect for and fascination with the creative process! In the early 2000s I went back to work part-time as a radiographer, juggling my two careers. Kevin Sneider (the other outoftheCUBE co-founder) and I worked together in a large Joburg radiological practice. What initially sensitised my mind towards images on the internet was that this practice became the first to fully use digital radiography/radiology, and we provided a reporting service to small X-Ray departments country-wide who had no access to a Radiologist.
In 2012 Kevin and I left this practice, and due to our mutual interest in art, looked into opening a gallery together – but since we wished to exhibit early-career artists, realised we would be blown out of the water financially within 6 months! Through endless conversations, exploration and research, and mindful of our image-based X-Ray experience, outoftheCUBE slowly evolved. We launched officially on 14 March 2013.
Do you come from a creative family or are you the lone creative?
An interesting question, because I feel that a creative spirit reveals itself in many ways. My immediate biological family are all creative in different ways. My father has always been an off-the-wall original thinker, which didn’t serve him well in the world of corporate South Africa in the 1970s and -80s! But he never stopped coming up with ideas that were ahead of his time. My mother, even today at 82, has always been very fashion-conscious; and when I started teaching private art classes 25 years ago, she started drawing for the first time. She persevered, and now makes wonderful drawings, mainly using graphite. And both my brothers, although not having drawn more than stick figures since childhood are very creative in their business skills and lifestyles – one brother has started an online business accelerator consultancy for start-ups and small businesses, and has helped me enormously in this regard with outoftheCUBE; the other started surfing as a hobby a few years ago in the icy seas of Britain!
What do you do when you aren’t working?
My best is to have coffee with friends; I like to read; and when I’m totally exhausted, I’ll slump in front of the telly – my favourites are detective series.
What makes an artwork successful in your eyes?
When an artist has resolved that sensitive dance between concept and making, preferably dealing with a subject that reflects their own life or passion.
What are your thoughts on the growing accessibility and affordability of art on the Internet?
I think that artists must embrace the way the world is evolving, and that today it represents one of the significant ways forward for them to ‘get their work out there’. For early-career artists, whose sales are uncertain or who are not yet able to sell their work for higher prices, it is a cost-effective way to promote themselves – no high rentals or framing/installation costs - and it is online for as long as they wish. Art on the Internet also exposes art to folk who normally would not go to exhibitions and galleries for a variety of reasons, and who may be encouraged by the online viewing encounter to look into aspects of artmaking, and even to start embryo collections. The challenge for both artists and buyers is to negotiate their feelings around the inherent ‘flatness’ of the work on the computer screen with the usual bodily experience of engaging with the work ‘in real life’. However, a good internet site will offer the viewer important detail images of the work that may not be initially recognised in a physical gallery setting; the opportunity to concentrate on the work in a one-on-one, undisturbed way, and to revisit it whenever they wish; and accessible information about the artist.
Who are a few of your favorite artists?
This constantly expands – for example, before outoftheCUBE I was very focused on prints, and still am - but currently I’m appreciating the work of Karin Daymond, Haneke Benade, Walter Oltmann, Strijdom van der Merwe, Flip Hattingh, and of course I find Deborah Bell’s mark-making exquisite, both on her prints and her sculptures.
Is there anything you learned in the past two years that surprised you?
Through outoftheCUBE, I’ve learned patience – that there is a right time for things to evolve, they can’t be rushed, and that they often end up in a totally different form from the way I first imagined! This has extended through into my relationships with family and friends. Ditto deadlines – they are only important to a few people, better a bit late and more resolved than rushed and compromised. And that running an online business, unexpectedly, is 24/7!!
What are you reading?
My tastes are eclectic – for instance, I’ve just finished reading Vita Sackville-West’s All Passion Spent and dipping into Trevor Romain’s RANDOM KAK I remember about growing up in South Africa! I’m currently reading P G Wodehouse’s Jeeves and the Impending Doom.
What is your personal credo or motto?
Always trust your gut feel.
If you could have any piece of art on StateoftheART, regardless of price or size, what would it be and why?
Sally Rumball’s Of Natural Causes Bicycle Petals (photography). Visually, it draws me in and holds me there. I enjoy the cross-over between the new media of digital photography and the subject of the ancient form of the mandala. And the bones on sand speak so much to me of the land and bushveld of South Africa.
outoftheCUBE curated collection #1: The Monochrome Land: tensions and associations
ARTISTS & ARTWORKS:
Janet Botes: Wild Cape Point Meander
Sally Rumball: Of Natural Causes: Bicycle Petals
Chris Snelling: The Road Into There
Claudia Emanuel: Connection Series: Perception
Liffey Speller: Disturbance
Ross Kerr: The Adult Exoskeletal – Wasteland II
Catherine Ocholla: Griffin
Joanne Reen: The Day the Rains Came
The land is – and always has been - a constant source of inspiration for artists living in South Africa. Throughout the years there have been many reasons for this, ranging from a simple need to document it - either to preserve personal memory or to inform others - through to an individual expressive linking of the self with the land.
In this collection two different mediums have been selected, mediums usually associated with portraying realistic ‘landscape’: photography and oil painting. But rather than the comfortable traditional representations that we are familiar with, the subjects that these eight artists have used in their works, and their ways of handling the formal elements of artmaking, have created different ways for the viewer to engage with land imagery.
Also, the South African landscape is often imagined in colours: the raw ochres and umbers of the Karoo and veld; bougainvillea and azalea pinks; the greens, greys and Fynbos sparks of the Cape; the lush tropical palette of KZN … and of course, always the vivid blue of sky and sea. But in this exhibition the colours used by the artists are monochromatic or low-key, and this emphasises details, textures, and mood, creating a certain tension in our understanding.
Unlike traditional photographic compositions of the land which feature elements we recognise immediately, these land images are formed by fragments and intimate views, and carry strong metaphors.
Janet Botes’ Wild Cape Point Meander evokes the true sense of the word ‘meander’. Here the image of the land is disjointed, giving the impression of a visual memory of just such an unstructured wander, looking up to the distant view and down to the nearby textures and reflections.
Of Natural Causes: Bicycle Petals by Sally Rumball is pure pattern using natural elements found in the veld. The sand and bones, which seem to have fallen into the shape of a mandala, speak of the essential opposite states of mortality and eternity, delicacy and strength.
In Chris Snelling’s work The Road into There, tension is created in the way there is the sense of both travel and complete stillness; the combination of the harsh foreground light with the distant storm clouds and the barren emptiness of the surrounding land activates the strong awareness that time is not for wasting.
The fisheye lens format of Claudia Emanuel’s photograph Connection series: Perception gives the viewer the impression of having been given a telescopic, focused and intimate view of a fragment of the landscape, and the distortion almost suggests an act of voyeurism.
Here the artists approach the subject of the land using certain abstractions. We find that these non-realistic or exaggerated representations open our thought processes, allowing our own associations – and questions - to rise to the surface.
The imagery in the painting The Adult Exoskeletal - Wasteland II by Ross Kerr is abstract yet structured. The title and image both speak of an exoskeleton - an insect’s rigid outer casing without its soft bodily contents – as well as a wasteland – here, the visual structural underpinning of a burned or ravaged landscape?
Liffey Spiller’s painting Disturbance shows the dislocating of the earth by a storm, and the focal image is ambiguous: is lightning striking the earth or is a tree being torn up? The loose violent marks made on the canvas mirror the storm raging across the land.
Catherine Ocholla’s Griffin is an evocative rendition of an empty sky with a few dark clouds - is the storm imminent or departing? And the tiny tree tops at the bottom of the picture format, do they hint at the start or end of the day?
The final artwork, The Day the Rains Came by Joanne Reen is again a skyscape, monochromatic and somber but holding that special tinge of lightness that may suddenly appear at the centre of darkness. Such a threatening sky seems too ferocious for the relatively small scale painting.
Find meanings of your own within these artworks … but more importantly, spend a little time with each one and let your own minds wander.