Art & Design

Durban rises to the fore for “40 under 40“

October 12, 2021

“40 under 40“ is a hotbed of discourse and delight, featuring 40 progressive artists under the age of 40. The exhibition runs at Tulbagh’s historic Twee Jonge Gezellen Estate, the home of Krone Cap Classique, until 28 February 2022. It is presented to you by KRONE X WHATIFTHEWORLD gallery.

The diverse works speak of new forms of expression. Participating artists hail from across the African continent, some of whom have already exhibited at museum level, while others show work for the first time in a gallery setting. Placed together, they represent a generation determined to flip the script and manifest new ways of making and being in the world. 

Of the 40 names selected, five hail from South Africa’s sub-tropical province and the strong KwaZulu-Natal contingent is of particular interest. The vibrant work on the show denotes the bright multiculturalism of the region with its melange of surfer culture, Hindu and Zulu influences. This makes its presence felt in bold palates and assured brushstrokes as evident in the work of: 

  • Kylie Wentzel
  • Sthenjwa Luthuli
  • Dada Khanyisa
  • Mia Chaplin  
  • Callan Grecia 

The latter three currently reside in Cape Town and George, respectively.

40 under 40
Kylie Wentzel (left)

“Rickshaw Cowboy“, a large acrylic painting on canvas by 28-year-old Wentzel, is inspired by Durban’s unique iconography and inhabitants. Like the rest of Wentzel’s work – where you might expect to see fish sold out of booze bottles, taxis blasting gqom, public showers filled with all manner of beaching bodies. This piece typifies the idiosyncrasy and verve of eThekwini. 

Based in Bothas Hill, 30-year-old Luthuli is a respected international artist whose work is held in major public and private collections. He primarily produces wooden reliefs and woodcut prints that are notable for their meticulously hand-carved patterns, resulting in imagery which reverberates with almost supernatural energy. 

At nearly 3m wide x 2m high, his substantial piece for “40 under 40“ is entitled “Inkaba Yami“ and combines intricately hand-carved supawood and oil-based ink to create a patterned substrate upon which headless bodies float. These faceless figures in bright costumes are suspended, creating a dreamlike experience.

Khanyisa is also a 30-year-old artist, this time from Umzimkhulu, whose work has been exhibited anywhere from the USA’s Smithsonian National Museum of African Art in Washington, DC to the Sfeir-Semler in Hamburg, Germany. Through painting, drawing and sculpture, Khanyisa pictures people engaged in various conversations, flirtations, tensions and pretensions as played out in clubs, bars, cafes and homes. 

40 under 40
Sthenjwa Luthuli (left)

That each figure seems to exude its personality is a testament to Khanyisa’s distinct style and keen observation. Their illustrative piece for “40 under 40“ employs coloured pencil on paper to depict a male figurehead with the associated title “Feeling everything is feeling nothing“.

Chaplin, now aged 31, has held solo exhibitions in South Africa and The Netherlands and has completed residencies at the Cite Internationale Des Artes in Paris and Nirox Foundation in Johannesburg. “Lost Woman“, her oil on mixed-media sculpture, is part of a continuum; Chaplin’s practice is both guided and plagued by constructed femininity. She creates a narrative of womanhood and femininity that is complex – it is all at once ugly, violent, comforting and containing. 

Working in oil paint, plaster and bronze, Chaplin’s luscious colours are combined with thick impasto strokes to evoke tactile and sensory pleasures. Flowers and nudes are rendered with sensual impressionism. Although her globular vessels – of which “Lost Woman“ is one – are doused with rich impasto and flowers, they reveal a socio-political commentary and a more sinister underbelly.

Last in this powerhouse quintet is Durban-born Callan Grecia, another 30-year-old. Notably, he has exhibited as part of Paris Fashion Week and his work is held in the public collection of the Durban Art Gallery.

Grecia’s experimental, almost playful approach to painting combines figures, still lives and geometric abstractions. By pairing these modernist techniques with pop culture and classical canonical references, Grecia fashions scenes that seem mythological yet familiar, creating a hybrid world where the history of art collides with futuristic fantasy.

40 under 40
Mia Chaplin (right)

His daring and exciting acrylic painting on paper “Blue Lagoon Box Shape Romance“ speaks of symbolism, sex and suped-up cars at the legendary Durban riverside park-picnic-and-party spot on the Umgeni, known as the Blue Lagoon. Two naked figures form a titillating welcoming committee of sorts, as they grace the reception area of “40 under 40“ and set a stimulating tone for the wealth of work to come.

It is well worth the 85-minute car ride from Cape Town to experience Durban’s vanguard alongside promising early- and mid-career artists. With almost 60 works in total to view, the show – a joint project with BMW Young Collectors Co., an initiative of

FNB Art Joburg – should not be missed this Summer.

40 under 40 was envisioned to provide a broad survey of young artists whilst using curatorial intervention to foster meaning through contextualising the selected works in relation to one another. To allow visitors a more personal engagement with the pieces on show, there will be guided public walkabouts on the dates below: 

  • 6 November 2021 
  • 4 December 2021
  • 15 January 2022
  • 5 February 2022

The entrance to the exhibition is free. Pre-booking for the walkabouts is advised. Book here via email: igsaan@whatiftheworld.com.

40 under 40

Date25 September 2021 – 28 February 2022
VenueTwee Jonge Gezellen wine estate, Twee Jonge Gezellen Estate Road, Tulbagh
Viewing hoursMonday to Saturday from 10h00-16h00
InfoWhatiftheworld.com and Kronecapclassique.co.za

Featured image: Callan Grecia (right)

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