For the gallery presentation at Nomad Capri 2023, WHATIFTHEWORLD will show a selection of new works by three South African artists, ceramicist, Ben Orkin, photographer Strauss Louw and multimedia artist, Pierre Fouché. These three artists use their chosen media in complex ways to explore modes of representation relating to queer male bodies.

Ben Orkin’s clay sculptures explore the tension between forms. Orkin’s practice began with his observations of the visual symmetry between conjoined bodies in the act of intimacy where one body reaches out, while the other internalises or opens up to create space.

Orkin’s works for Nomad Capri 2023 explore how the parts of his ceramic vessels or “bodies” slot together and separate. The works are adaptable, playful, vulnerable and fragile forming a type of sculptural pictogram for the dynamics of emotional and physical encounters.

Working tirelessly in his home-based studio, Pierre Fouché creates labour intensive works that are painstakingly slow to come to fruition. Using techniques borrowed from 16th century lace-making, he constructs fragile and sometimes erotic portraits of male subjects.

The photographic reference material from which he works is drawn from a surprisingly broad range of sources including reportage, historical archives, personal snapshots and found images.

Whilst undoubtedly contemporary in sensibility, compositionally he positions his subjects in a way that references historical mannerist painting traditions. The works presented at Nomad Capri 2023 focus on portraiture and the gaze. As well as an intentional subversion the gendered notions of traditional lace making.

Continuing the thematic thread of the gaze, photographer Strauss Louw’s practice can be described as a visual exploration of desire and the environments in which it unfolds. In this new series of hand-printed works on mirror and polished gold leaf, Louw turns the gaze both ways presenting the viewer with their own reflection.

Instinctively capturing his subject in unposed candid moments and working with analogue film photography techniques, Louw enacts a delicacy in both the craftsmanship of his practice, as well as the guileless male figure that emerges through his images. Utilising a 19th century printing process, photographs are exposed through sunlight onto glass or mirror that is coated in a solution of gelatine and potassium bichromate. The gelatin hardens in the areas that have been exposed to light. The unexposed areas of the gelatin remain soft and soluble in water and are rinsed away to reveal the final image.

In tandem with these works he has created an exquisite series of photographic images on silk, these finely stitched “veils” are produced by soaking the cloth in the Atlantic ocean, the salt saturated cloth then becomes photosensitive when combined with a silver nitrate bath. Encased in custom frames, the silk squares are then directly exposed to the sun to allow the photographic image to develop. Salt, silver, sunlight and time coalesce to reveal Louw’s fragile and beguiling images.

The exhibition seeks to create an intriguing visual dynamic by bringing together abstraction and figuration, two-dimensional and three-dimensional works as a testament three artists’ shared yet personal queer experience.