The Solo x 3 art “Illusion/Allusion – exploring the alchemy of space” exhibition, where Julia Cavalieri, Sue Martin and Sharon Sampson each showed individual collections, closed on 16 September 2018 after a successful five-day run. CN&CO was proud to have played a role in organising the event on behalf of the artists.

“It really was an amazing success,” says Sue. “We were delighted with the wonderful exposure and positive feedback we got.I would like to thank the CN&CO team for doing the most outstanding job. We could never have managed this without you.”

Apart from the art itself, one of the highlights of the exhibition was an address by Professor Nicola Kleyn, dean of GIBS. Nicola spoke around the themes of the exhibition and how they relate to us as individuals as well as the societies that we make up. Here is a copy of her speech:

Professor Nicola Kleyn, dean of GIBS

Introduction to Illusion/Allusion – exploring the alchemy of space

Presented by Nicola Kleyn

GIBS: 13 September 2018

Good evening ladies and gentlemen and a warm welcome to GIBS. You join us on a typical busy evening. In addition to the standard evening functions that take place on our very busy campus, I’ll be heading out to welcome 250 visitors who’ve expressed interest in studying for our MBA. A famous, now deceased management academic, Sumantra Ghoshal, commented on many occasions that he whilst he loved his bustling home country of India, he look forward to retreating to his business school INSEAD, located in the quiet tranquil forests of Fontainebleau.

This school is not a monastery. It’s more akin to a market where countless formal and informal engagements seeking to reveal, explore, experience, provoke, discuss, debate, argue take place every day, most days of the year. Our learning ethos focuses on the importance of relating, peer learning and collective sense-making. Whilst we deeply value the importance of both sensing and sense-making, we truly celebrate application over cogitations, impact over academic performance. The greatest accolade one of our alumni can pay us is that when they spent time at GIBS, they discovered not only more about their world and themselves, but that a sense of personal agency was revealed.

I believe that both globally and locally we are living in an era where revelation and deception compete daily. The entreaty from our then ousted Minister of Finance and now Minister of Public Enterprises, Pravin Gordhan, to “join the dots” in his allusion to state capture was a call to discover the rot that tragically continues to be revealed in both business and government. amaBhungane’s magnificent work has taken us behind the curtains of deception and illusion to reveal the trickery and sleights of hand that have led to billions of Rands being siphoned out of state coffers. A number of our key government officials and their corrupt business partners engaged in significant abuse of their fiduciary duties whilst pretending that all was well.

Of course, the themes of illusion and allusion don’t play out in South Africa alone. One could argue that wherever there are politicians – no that’s unfair, let’s make it human beings – distortions occur as layers of meaning are constantly being applied and revealed. It’s the nature of our post-truth era.

Guests enjoying the art

And let us not forget that the world is not just about us as the human species, the formation of our individual identities, and the development and destruction of our relationships with others. These take place against a backdrop of natural and artificial environments. Here, a growing number of signs reveal that the long-held view that our planet and its species are an ever-renewing resource available for ongoing plunder is an illusion. So whilst we might think that mountains and valleys are immutable – we need to look again! Where nature was once seen as the abuser and we as a species the abused – the tables are being turned. Unlike Ovid’s entreaty to remember “that we belong to our native land” emblazoned on the far wall – our human species continues to contest its rights to not just to use, but to abuse, a fragile planet.

I’d like to turn the spotlight from these general reflections to this impressive exhibition that we at GIBS are delighted to have had the privilege of hosting. Let me being by congratulating Julia Cavalieri, Sue Martin and Sharon Sampson on the fruits of their creative endeavours. Whilst I am no art critic the works on show today are a testimony to creativity, connectedness to context and a mystery ingredient that we at GIBS sometimes refer to as HBW (which stands for Hard Bloody Work).

The importance and value of art as a form of self-expression are indisputable. The role it can play in delighting the senses and giving pleasure to its audiences is part of its enduring legacy. The exhibits on show today fulfil both of those roles admirably. But for me there’s an important third. The thoughtfulness and connection with context that the art on display manifests enables the pieces to serve as keys that provoke thoughts and feelings about our journeys as human beings that are set in landscapes that may appear timeless but in reality are fluid.

The joy of art is that it will speak to all of us in different ways. For me the provocations that emanated from these pieces led to some of the reflections I shared with you just now. The title alone is a provocation about the power of the human brain – to infer, to obscure, to reveal and to put our journeys into motion. Julia’s big picture canvases that on reflection reveal concealed details ignited questions about perspectives and what we miss when we only assess our environments from a single vantage point. We can only make judgements after we have stepped back and moving closer. And as we move from Julia’s suggestions to reflect, create, grow and remember we enter door that lures us to explore the images and shadows that nest in our subconscious. Julia’s work reminds me of how important it is for us to continuously explore our inner and outer worlds.

Sue’s varied portrayals of individuals and groups, often journeying across time and space, sometimes joyously and sometimes sombrely evoked profound images for me of both the forced and voluntary journeys that have characterised South Africa’s history. And whilst the “Lie of the Land” has its own special meaning in contemporary South Africa, Sue’s veils and layers of colours remind me that what we think is fixed, stable and sometimes harsh, is not always so. What defines land is also an absence of land and in the big skies that characterise many of her pieces I found a sense of space to breathe.

Although the fluidity and motion that I found in Sue’s work were echoed in many of Sharon’s pieces, others depicted contrasting poses. Not of repose, but of being, thinking and envisioning. They grounded me and reminded me that cognition, affect and action – those key aspects of learning processes that play out at GIBS all the time, are integral manifestations of what it means to be human.

Over and above the birthing of creative efforts by our artists – significant energy has been invested today into transforming our GIBS “entrance hall” into a different space. Whilst I’m loathe to infer in any way that prior to the installation of this exhibit our space was leaden (alchemy is, after all, associated with the transformation of lead into gold), I would like to recognise all that have participated in the alchemy of creating a golden space rich in expression, provocation and context. My sincere congratulations and thanks to all of you who have enabled the magic. Whether it’s a few minutes or hours that lie at your disposal, I invite you to enjoy and appreciate this liminal space.

Thank you!

Sharon, Sue, Nicola and Julia