The Line of Beauty
16 July - 12 September 2015
“…but he felt the relief of being alone as well…the forgotten solitude which measures and verifies the strength of an affair, and which, being temporary, is a kind of pleasure.”
Alan Hollinghurst, The Line of Beauty (2004)
In The Line of Beauty, his second solo exhibition with WHATIFTHEWORLD, Morné Visagie continues his affair with colour, and gestures towards the possibility of relations; an encounter between two anonymous figures in a changing room, an encounter between a pink circle and a deep blue background. His works on paper and sculptural collages appear as abstract notations, with a distinct vocabulary of form and colour. Among these descriptive installations and scenes, a sense of untouched silence is evoked. Like the flat colour backgrounds of his relief prints, Visagie’s installations present places or planes for chance meetings. The nonspecific in these works lends it the quality of dreams, or places half-remembered. Has the tryst already taken place, or is it yet to come? Who are the characters for this empty stage?
The exhibition’s title, The Line of Beauty, alludes to both the aesthetic theories of William Hogarth and to a novel of the same name by Alan Hollinghurst. It illustrates Visagie’s negotiation of abstraction and narrative, a tension apparent in the contrast between his collages and installations.
A series of collages, titled Collapsing Sunset / The Abandonment of Romance, deconstructs the elements of a sunset – the horizon line, the sun and it’s reflection, the sky and the sea – to produce new compositions. A pink circle intersects a gold rectangle; a thin blue line hovers on a pale mint background. These works skillfully marry both repetition and variety, two primary aesthetic components discussed in Hogarth’s The Analysis of Beauty (1752). In addition to aesthetic exercises, these sea scenes provoke particular associations. Allusions to the deaths of two ill-fated lovers, Rijkhaart Jacobsz and Claas Blank, condemned to drown in 1735 for their homoerotic relationship, continue to recur in Visagie’s work. Two deaths in the deep blue. And perhaps, for the sake of poetry, at sunset, and under a pink sky.
In other works on paper the individual colours become characters in an unclear narrative; with a dramatis personae of nostalgic mint, seductive blue, luxurious white, and aristocratic pink. But their roles, besides the ostensively visual, are uncertain.
Visagie’s use of colour and material is luxurious and sensuous; African Blackwood, marble, an elaborate flower arrangement, rich colours and gold ink, highly-polished brass and copper plates. They suggest a luxury familiar to certain novels and films; luxury particular to fiction, untouched by the tedium of real life, inviolate. The material indulgence of the works distances them from the effect of the everyday. And this indulgence extends to the works’ titles too; grandiose with their adjectives, and their drama.
The Line of Beauty continues Visagie’s negotiation of abstraction and representation, the explicit and the implied, presence and absence, and of a melancholic longing.
Morné Visagie (born 1989) is a South African artist and printmaker who lives and works in Cape Town. Visagie graduated from the Michaelis School of Fine Art in 2011. He was ranked one of the leading Young African Artists by Business Day WANTED in 2013, the same year his debut collaborative exhibition with Mbongeni Dlamini, Far From The Sea, Perhaps…, was shown at WHATIFTHEWORLD. He currently works as a printmaker at Warren Editions, Cape Town’s leading fine art print and publishing studio.