Contemporary Art Gallery
Art helps us to accomplish a task that is of central importance in our lives: to hold on to things we love when they are gone.
Art is a way of preserving experiences, of which there are many transient and beautiful examples, and that we need help containing.
Alain de Botton & John Armstrong – Art as Therapy
Alain de Botton and John Armstrong’s views are all too often neglected, or deemed simplistic, when we speak about art, and yet it is these very tender thoughts which bind us most truly to art. Its power over us is not so easily understood – and yet that power remains defining. In his memoirs the German theologian Paul Tillich recalls how as a young man art barely moved him, then came the First World War. Three quarters of his battalion were killed. On leave, in a rain storm, he wandered into the Kaiser Friedrich Museum in Berlin where he found himself caught off guard before Sandro Botticelli’s painting, Madonna and Child with Eight Singing Angels. Tillich recalls that he has never wept that much before or since.
It is the power of art to bind us to our losses and preserve, in its beauty, the pain we cannot shirk. It is a tool and a medium ‘to assist mankind in its search for self-understanding, empathy, consolation, hope, self-acceptance and fulfilment’.
These all too human needs are the cornerstones of the Christopher Moller Gallery. More studio than factory floor, atelier than franchise, CMG is situated in a double storey townhouse in the Cape Town CBD. It is the gallery’s inviting nature and its sacramental dialogue with its artists, which makes it a tenderly human place, for here, in this quiet corner of the world, it is as though we have entered a secular church. Because of course contemporary art, these days, as Sarah Thornton has reminded us, is ‘a religion for atheists’, a world in which the fallen can find peace, where pain can be rewarded with kindness, where human fragility, despair and anxiety can be cossetted.
The Christopher Moller stable reveals not only the taste of their dealer but the value system which underpins that taste. Largely devoted to painting, it is parenthetically framed by sculpture (Andre Stead) and photography (Tony Gum). But it is no doubt the emphasis on painting which is the gallery’s signature and calling card.
‘There is an inner yearning that painting answers’, notes Matthew Collings. ‘I think painting is serious and it calls for a high seriousness on the part of its audience’. This high-minded ‘seriousness’, however, must at no point exclude the more important values such as self-understanding, empathy, consolation, self-acceptance and fulfilment. In Moller’s stable all of these emotions are variously expressed and answered.
The genius of Andrew Salgado lies in his ability to engender self-acceptance, while Sibusiso Duma’s gloaming worlds embrace consolation and tranquillity. Ablade Glover’s fractal canvases allow us to grasp the greater connectedness of the world and our minor yet majesterial place within it. Jaco Roux’s picturesque yet modern interpretation of the bushveld connects us to the greater body of Africa, while Neo Matloga’s urban dance holds fast to the mythic power of Sofiatown. Lou Ros and Aldo Balding’s acutely skilled grasp of the human body, its frailty and strength, allow for empathic connection. While Hugh Mbayiwa’s glittering Karoo and Kofi Agorsor’s more abstracted worlds pull us inward and outward respectively.
As they say, there is ‘no accounting for taste’. The key thing, however, is to discover that taste within oneself. Since 2007 when Christopher Moller Gallery opened its doors, it has been the nurturing of a singularity of taste which has defined its evolution. It is a place where the loveless will find love, a place where beauty and truth still matter.
Christopher Moller: Director / Jaco Claassen: Director, Accounts / Andrea Kemsley: PR, Senior gallery administrator / Craig Cameron-Mackintosh: Assistant gallery administrator.