SMAC Cape Town
28 June – 11 August 2012
SMAC Art Gallery is proud to present Youth Day, a new exhibition by Anton Karstel in Cape Town. This is Karstel’s second solo exhibition with the gallery.
In Youth Day, Anton Karstel works from archival film footage taken by his father during a gymnastics display held at Loftus Versveld in Pretoria on May 30, 1966 as part of the Republic Day Festivals. Karstel painted stills from a fifty-eight second strip of 8mm Kodak film. From the vantage point of his father’s camera, the old South African flag dominates the foreground. Behind the flag, choreographed youth perform various acrobatic exercises designed to display the ideology of Volksgesondheid.
Rendered over a hundred and twenty times in oil on canvas, the image of the flag shifts further away from its origin in time and in format. Working from a poor quality digital version of the original film footage, and re-photographing frames of the flag, Karstel proceeds to paint the subsequently corroded images of effected quality-loss and “digital distortion”. Here, Karstel is interested in the imperfections and pixelations that occur in the re-recording of these stills. In this installation, Karstel formulates a personal dialogue between video and painting.
The fleeting fifty-eight seconds, captured by his father, is reworked and reclaimed by Karstel’s hand in an excess of paintings produced over almost a year. For the artist, there is an acknowledgment of this production as “excessively unnecessary”, a labour-intensive replication of “mass repetition” as if in an infinite drawing out of meaning and information.
Karstel’s painted renditions are somewhat ironic, emphasizing his father’s use of relatively advanced technology at the time to record what, almost fifty years later, the artist reproduces in an outdated ‘old’ means of production. Embodied in Karstel’s typical impasto and gestural painting style, the pixelated image of the old flag is translated into a more physical format. Karstel’s brushwork is expressive and confidently instinctive and his use of colour simultaneously subdued and rich. The exhibition shows Karstel’s compelling passion for painting. He perfects the place between abstraction and naturalism, giving relevance to painting as a traditional medium in a contemporary, ‘post-photographic’ age. The old flag as subject adds an element of ambiguity to the exhibition as it continues to be a controversial and evocative historical symbol. He does state that he “toys with nostalgia”, however in this body of work, Karstel’s emphasis is not overtly political, but rather a reserved rhetoric between father and son that focuses on the painted surface as a remediation of a striking image four times removed.