How I forgot the colours of the rainbow | Brett Charles Seiler

Wed, October 16, 2019 to Thu, November 7, 2019

Slipping on the Grass

The artist and person Brett Seiler, like his work, exudes compassion and empathy in every interaction. In some ways it is hard to separate the person from his art-making, for he is an obsessive maker and communicator and his canvasses, installations and drawings always seem to be as one for me.

It is sometimes hard to be a gay man in Cape Town, though it has become infinitely easier since I was Brett’s age and yet, somehow, no matter how melancholic the underpinnings of Seiler’s messages, there is elation and a dream foretold of a happier time and place that forth from his hard-edged yet diaphanous creations. Whether imbued with complex and rich text, beguilingly simple lines outlining a figure or even a throwaway show, seemingly carelessly left in the detritus of his studio, Seiler’s attention to detail and the sheer force of his mark-making. These are strong words and images, deftly and commandingly laid down on surfaces with the power of a real master, despite his youth. I think Seiler is a young man with a very old soul; one who has experienced much and yet who carries this experience with a deftness and desire to make one smile as much as to cry. That has always been my experience in the presence of his work: a fine balance between laughing out loud and weeping uncontrollably.

The work that gives the title to this exhibition was posted by Brett on social media in the wake of the revelations that came after the horrific rape and murder of Uyinene Mrwetyana. The simplicity and power of his plaintive response to the unspeakable moved me greatly and in some ways showed a gay man’s response to the unspeakability of all men - gay, bisexual or straight - in a culture of extreme violence to women.

Always theoretically grounded and always informed from the best theory text any artist can have at their disposal – their own lives – Seiler is able in a few gestures to speak volumes. Brett is not one for the pithy one-liner; rather he is a novelist like Proust or a painter like the late David Koloane: behind seeming simplicity resides the ballast of great ocean liners, the balustrades of mansions and the barbed wire of prison camps. His is work for summer and winter, spring and summer and all the fluidity of days between when it drizzles as the sun shines. They used to call such days “monkey’s weddings” when I was a child: a day in which the weather that can’t quite make up its mind and that is sad and joyful all at the same time. I loved to go out and play in that slightly wet and slightly warm strange in-betweenland of rain and shine and that is how I feel in the presence of Brett’s work: something uncommon, delightful and somewhat sad.

Since I first saw his work a couple of years ago I have often spoken to friends and colleagues about Brett’s artistry; without exception the artists I most admire, admire Brett Seiler and his art-making. I believe he is a unique voice and a titan amongst us already. God alone knows what he will do next but I for one cannot wait to go out and play in the garden of his creation; a garden beautiful and forlorn and rich and sylvan all at the same time. A unique place and one worth taking one’s shoes off in and skipping gleefully, always remembering that the grass is slippery and one must be prepared to slip and fall in places.