FOVNTAIN | Morné Visagie

Wed, October 3, 2018 to Sat, October 27, 2018

SMITH is excited to present FOVNTAIN, a solo exhibition by Morné Visagie in association with WHATIFTHEWORLD.

Visagie graduated from the Michaelis School of Fine Art (UCT) in 2011. He has had several solo exhibitions, and his work has been included in two group shows at SMITH. Visagie trained as a professional printmaker at Warren Editions, a fine art print studio in Cape Town. This year, Visagie started his Masters in Fine Art at the Michaelis School of Fine Art.

Growing up on Robben Island, the Atlantic Ocean - that separated Visagie from the Mainland - became a recurring metaphor in his imagination. Furthermore, for the past eight years, the colour blue has been the primary motif in his work; a personal symbol of death, loss, nostalgia, memory, religion, sexuality, exile and distance. Visagie looks to historical accounts of Robben Island to make sense of his personal histories with the space.

“On 19 August 1735 the two men had weights tied to their bodies and, somewhere between the Cape and Robben Island, were dropped into the sea to drown, a sentence no doubt designed to cleanse the earth of their polluting presence”
An excerpt from Robben Island: The Politics of Rock and Sand (Penn, 1992:25)

These two men were Claas Blank, a Khoikhoi, imprisoned on the Island in 1715, and Rijkhaart Jacobsz, a Dutch sailor from Rotterdam, imprisoned on the Island in 1713*. In Robben Island: The Politics of Rock and Sand, Nigel Penn translates and deciphers eighteenth century documents from the Cape Archives that contain records made by the prison authorities. These prove that the two prisoners had a same-sex relationship for more than a decade, before being sentenced to death*. It is the idea of lust, longing, love, being violently drowned by a society that does not accept the ‘other’.

Visagie spent his early childhood (1990 to 1995) on Robben Island, growing up in the period in which the Island changed its political shape. These years on the Island became a constant negotiation between land and sea: leaving the Island, getting onto a boat to cross the ocean, to get to land (Cape Town). In his work he investigates this relationship between land and sea, looking at the Island as a meeting place for Rijkhaart and Claas. Thus, the Island becomes a tryst, an encounter between the two.

With his current work, he is researching Robben Island’s history as a place of dislocation and loss for those who have been discriminated against (banished and incarcerated there), and the sea, in this case the Atlantic Ocean, as a transitional space between life and death.

The underlying violence in his work subtly deals with this notion of death in evocative and sensual ways. Through breaking ideas down to abstract forms and colour, Visagie visually strips the work of the historical, psychological and conceptual weight it carries; creating something that can be experienced through immersion of oneself into a place of wonder and resonance that alludes to the subtext of violence, but is understood through beauty.

FOVNTAIN explores installation and sculpture, though keeps true to the methodology of printmaking in its execution and presentation. Meticulousness, extreme attention to detail, process-driven, repetition and cleanliness are some of the key characteristics of printmaking. The materials used in the exhibition are the same materials a printmaker would use in their everyday routine making matrixes and prints: brass, paper, tissue, ferric-chloride, ink and pigment.

The work has become devoid of all marks of self-expression and any pictorial diversity. Through the process of breaking information down into an abstract form, the artist’s aim is for the work to become less personal, and through the process, more public.

Visagie says, “My work, derived from a personal experience and based on memory, cannot be conveyed to the viewer through mere pictorial imagery. Similar to Yves Klein’s blue monochromatic paintings, I am magnifying the idea of ambience in connection with notions of perception and reception.”

FOVNTAIN opens on 3 October, and will run until 27 October 2018. For press enquiries or to request a short piece for the show by Damon Galgut please contact Jana Terblanche at

* (Penn, 1992:24)