(Hungarian proverb - The branches reveals what the roots are like)
Gawie Joubert’s third solo exhibition, Növényember (Hungarian, meaning plant human), is a continuation of the artist’s exploration of themes around memory, identity and mankind’s connection and dependence on nature.
Joubert created this body of work in Budapest, Hungary, during his residency at The Budapest Art Factory. The influence of this residency program is prevalent in Joubert’s new body of work: these shows a breakaway from his constrained, clean drawing technique, as he moves towards a more organic and expressive drawing technique. For this exhibition, Joubert experimented with ink and charcoal and the indelible serendipity of his mediums. Ink and charcoal allow the artist to create graceful, fluid imagery. Through an ongoing experimental process, Joubert attempts to surrender control over the artwork in order to allow his mediums to take the lead. In doing, so he plays with the potential mark making that ink and charcoal offers. This process forms the underlying layer from where Joubert creates his artworks. Furthermore, Joubert makes inks and charcoal from natural resources – a process he learned whilst in Budapest.
Joubert takes the complex connection between humans and nature as his conceptual starting point for his art-making. The artist believes that humans are dependent on nature for psychological and physical well-being. Therefore, he attempts to visually morph figures with greenery to symbolise the interdependence between humans and nature. The outcome of this conceptual starting point is a range of tranquilly floating figures that appear to be constructed from various types of plants. The artist's interest in the interdependence between man and nature, especially greenery, stems from his own childhood memories of growing up in a small town on the North Coast of Kwa-Zulu Natal, South Africa. Here, he was surrounded by the lush foliage that this region is known for. In forest close-by his childhood home, Joubert found solitude whilst coming to term with his confusion around his own sexuality. This is also where he learned to appreciate the meditative potential nature has and the impact that has on a person’s well-being. During his artistic process, he reminisces on childhood memories and feelings that are evoked when being in nature; the peaceful, happy and content moments of not being confined by preconceived social structures.
Joubert’s work is a combination between his own nostalgia and an exploration of the way identity is constructed. He believes that one’s identity is formed by memories, influences, and experiences and is therefore ever-changing. Joubert’s art-making draws parallels between the fluidity of identity and that manner in which plants creep, grow and change. The artist interprets the fluid manner in which one’s identity is formed as vines – climbing and creeping over Joubert’s tranquil figures. Much like one’s identity, the growth and transformation of plants are ever-changing.
Created in isolated in foreign surroundings, Növényember, offers the viewer an intimate glimpse into Joubert nostalgia. Joubert interweaves his own memories into this body of work, often working from memory of greenery from his childhood to create his small intimate drawings. In larger works, the artist bluntly manifests himself in his work by using his own figure as a reference for his larger drawings. Through constantly challenging himself to work from memories rather than directly from reference material – these artworks become a metaphorical visual diary of Joubert’s thoughts and memories, as they only exist in his mind. However, the image in mind is not always clear, but rather an intuitive process that is enhanced by Joubert’s experimental approach to mark-making.