Ruann Coleman


Solo Presentation – FNB Joburg Art Fair
Sandton Convention Centre, Johannesburg
South Africa
09.09.16 – 11.09.16

Ulterior is a solo project by South African artist Ruann Coleman. Consisting of floor and wall-mounted sculptural works, the artist combines organic and synthetic found materials to create a juxtaposition that initiates a rapport with current discourses of post-minimal creative practice. In Ulterior, he presents a collection of meticulously selected, and intuitively manipulated, found objects that have been translated into symbolic structures imbued with subtext, tension, humour and beauty.

The best way to approach Ruann Coleman’s practice, is to regard it as prose – his minimalist, visual language always works towards achieving the greatest poetic charge, produced by the smallest poetic energy. As with poetry, engaging with the work’s many layers allows viewers to identify common themes, eloquently developed by the artist. When reading poetry, one notes the structure of the poem, analyzes patterns, the rhythm, metaphors, and reoccurring symbols.  Coleman’s work should be interpreted in a similar way, as if it were a visual poem -or rather- a material poem, where physical substance carries both symbolic and emotional weight.

Coleman’s pratice is a codex of materials, a record of elements with which he has had personal encounters. His sculptural works often require the physical involvement of the artist’s body. The material becomes a measurement of the body and its physical limitations, the residue and the pain of the body all become physically quantifiable. Found organic objects and industrial materials are collected, arranged, combined, bent, and altered to form certain tensions and juxtapositions between each other and the installation space. Coleman speaks this material sensibility as if it were a language.

The titles of his works are often essential in reading a piece, establishing or contradicting the emotional capacity of the materials while the physical form and the way the objects relate to thier space, retains a formalist quality. In Half Hearted 1 (2016), an installation of oxidised fishing hooks, the signifier is a gendered object, relating to a larger field traditionally associated with defining masculinity. The hook becomes an extension of the body, performing an act on behalf of the body. The delicate needlepoints connotate thread and needlework, traditionally understood as a more feminine notion, subtly confronting the stereotypical metaphors of anecdotal exaggeration of size and comparison. Phrases such as “weighing up”, “big fish”, and   “the one that got away” come to mind. The title (besides being a subtle and witty wordplay on the curved shape of the interlocking hooks) further contradicts the conceptual content of the work, branding itself as half-attempted, or not considered – when in reality, the implications of both the title and the material have been carefully arranged. This dichotomy between perceived strength and vulnerability is a repeated theme carried throughout his practice.

While his sculptures and installations are often playful and light-hearted, Coleman’s work is mostly deeply personal and inherently autobiographical.  Questions about his identity, masculinity and sexuality subtly and playfully pop up in works.  He often chooses materials and objects with ‘hard’ or implied masculine quality that are arranged in ways to contradict. In Kiss 2 (2016), two steel plates are slotted in together, two masculine entities that lean into each other.

Lastly, his work can be placed within the bigger framework of conceptual art. From its start, conceptual art sought to subvert the traditions of representation and art. It plays with our perception and our expectations of art, of materials and what we think we see.  In a work such as Handled (2016) our perceptions are deceived – what appears to be a selection of small found twigs are in reality all hand sculpted, unnatural objects made out of a natural materials. Here, Magritte’s Treachery of Imagery or Joseph Kosuth’s One and Three Chairs comes to mind.  His work also recalls Arte Povera artist Giovanni Anselmo. In Ulterior, Coleman has constructed a similar tension between organic and inorganic, and the physical forces used within the installation. He invites us to examine all these aspects: the visible and the invisible, the feel, the strength, and the appearance of the materials and how it relates to language and to each other, to reveal his narrative and examine his and our relationships to the objects, each other and the world that surround us.

Ruann Coleman was born in 1988 in Johannesburg, South Africa. He obtained a Masters of Fine Art in 2014 from the University of Stellenbosch, South Africa, prior to which he completed a Bachelor of Fine Art, from the same institution in 2012. Coleman presented his first solo exhibition, titled; Balancing Act, at SMAC Gallery in Stellenbosch in 2014. In 2015, he was the artist in residence at the Centro Luigi Di Sarro in Rome, Italy, which culminated in his debut international solo exhibition titled Found:Rome. Coleman’s work was included in OUT OF CONTEXT at the UJ Art Gallery, Johannesburg in 2015 as well as The Space Between Maps at the Absa Gallery in Johannesburg in 2016.

Coleman was selected to take part in the Corso Superiore di Arti Visive (CSAV) – Artists Research Laboratory at the Fondazione Antonio Ratti in Como, Italy in July 2016. Between residencies he continues to live and work in both Johannesburg and Cape Town, South Africa.