Living Expressions

October 29, 2022 - November 20, 2022

Lebohang Sithole and Maria Ziessler

Gallery Statement 

In an unlikely pairing of ceramics and drawings, The White River Gallery presents an exhibition by Johannesburg-based Lebohang Sithole and renowned White River ceramicist Maria Ziessler. The two bodies of work are uniquely defined through each artist’s use of medium, yet there is an intersection of narratives that provide for a lively conversation between their work.

Drawing their inspiration from the individual communities in which they live and work, the two artists combine in their deep love for children. Lebohang takes delight in capturing their everyday movement and play against the backdrop of communal living. Inspired through the observation of his own young son, Lebohang depicts the smiles and laughter brought about by a seemingly uncomplicated existence. Maria’s love for children and the youth is expressed through her quest to elevate the plight of vulnerable children, orphaned and half-orphaned, in her active engagement of the Youth Centre which she was instrumental in establishing, in the informal settlement of Msholozi, twelve years ago.

Regarding their bodies of work on exhibition, an essence of the elemental is evident, as the earthliness of clay in Maria’s work grounds the dusty township scenes rendered by Lebohang. Fire plays a significant and lengthy role to forge clay to the finished ceramic piece, with ash being used in some of Maria’s glazes, yet fire too forges the burnt wood in charcoal that is the signature of Lebohang’s work.

Living Expressions speaks to the life that is infused into the clay through Maria’s skillful hands, and her complete consummation by the extensive process of producing her works. Maria’s sharp sense of observation of people creates a further inspiration in her work, each unique ceramic piece telling its own living story. Central to the current works on show is Maria’s experience of brokenness upon opening her kiln to find the interior structure collapsed and many of her precious pieces for our exhibition were damaged. At a time of personal change in Maria’s world, the creation of this particular body of pots have served to redefine her life, as a new world awaits.

The title of Living Expressions aptly encapsulates Lebohang’s drawings and scenes of children, as amidst the spontaneous and happy figures and faces shown on paper, the challenging realities of growing up under difficult conditions are ever-present and seem to linger. Journeying to the Lowveld recently, Lebohang and gallery director Dana were privileged to spend a day with Maria in the informal settlement of Msholozi, interacting with members of the community, and with Maria’s dedicated team at the Youth Centre. This transformative day allowed a deeper insight into the resilience of those in need, and into the significant work done through the Youth Centre. Time spent walking, crunching the earth through dusty streets to reach a few destinations of Msholozi was a grounding experience indeed.

Some of these touching scenes are rendered by Lebohang and will be displayed at this exhibition, alongside other works that reflect Lebohang’s love of music and musicians, an integral part of community life. 

Dana MacFarlane

Director - White River Gallery

October 2022 


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