Sam Nhlengethwa (1955), Johannesburg Building Society (detail), 2003, collage on paper, 23 x 77cm


Scape: A selection of works from the SABC Art Collection showed in the foyer of the Radio Park building in Auckland Park, Johannesburg in 2011 and was the main exhibition at the COP17 Climate Change Conference in Durban in November–December the same year.

In contrast to the Making Waves exhibition – in which the focus of the work shown was urban rather than rural in setting, and often socially, politically, oriented – Scape explored the neglected theme of landscape in South African art. Landscape is particularly well represented in the SABC collection, much of it having been acquired before 1994, but with some exceptional acquisitions since.

David Goldblatt (1930), Intersections: Monuments, 2004, Digital print on 100% rag cotton paper in pigment inks

The exhibition focused on the contrast between two South African landscape traditions. In the earlier tradition – one working in a naturalist style, and with a sensibility derived from European Romanticism – much of the work, however skilled technically and however closely observed, is often stereotyped and sentimental, settling for the picturesque. However there are significant exceptions, which were displayed as part of the exhibition.

The other focus in the exhibition was the emergent local tradition, where the work is more personalised both in style and in content, and the force of the work, especially in the use of metaphor, is more emotive and challenging.

The works were displayed so as to show not only the evident stylistic contrasts, but also, through juxtaposition, to suggest similarities between particular works in the two traditions. Here the resonance is not only in the image, whether of mountain or field, bush or sea, but in the energy, whether of mood (as in Domsaitis and Searle), or of sensibility (as in Emmanuel and Jentsch), or of vision (as in Mofokeng and Spilhaus).