Starting conversations through print

Jacob van Schalkwyk said that Sea Point influenced a piece of his work which he called real estate nightmare.

Sea Point artist Jacob van Schalkwyk’s new exhibition is all about sparking conversation.

He feels it is vital for people to speak out about current issues and he wants to facilitate this through his work.

Titled DOLCEFARNIENTE, which translates as “the enjoyment of idleness”, the exhibition showcases a new series of prints and his wider experimental practice, spanning a number of disciplines including performance, video, installation and sculpture.

Mr Van Schalkwyk has been collaborating with the David Krut Workshop since 2016 and previously produced a series of abstract prints exploring colour and gestural mark-making.

Sea Point is at the heart of the exhibition, says Mr Van Schalkwyk, but the exhibition is something that he has been preparing for all his life.

He moved to Sea Point from Pretoria a number of years ago. “I really wanted to live by the beach. I was 33 and I thought if I don’t move now I’m never going to move.”

Mr Van Schalkwyk originally moved to the Atlantic Seaboard to write and complete his novel there. “It’s the most wonderful place I’ve lived and it has really allowed me to calm down quite a lot. To sit, think and just relax.”

He said colour had entered his work a lot more after moving. He also did a show last year that was centred on sunsets on the seaboard.

“It’s very central, where I live, to my way of working,” he added. “I’ve kept things since my 20s.”

Part of the exhibition includes a film he shot in 2006 which he has never shown before.

He said that some of the new work in the exhibition includes screen prints titled “real estate nightmare”. That work, he says, is the most pertinent to the neighbourhood. “I’ve been taking medium format pictures of all the houses that have been going up for sale and demolished so that developers can build fish bowl apartment blocks. The blocks are mostly empty, people from overseas by a flat and there is nobody living there.”

Mr Van Schalkwyk said he had spoken to some of the homeowners, some of whom had been living there for more than 40 years.

“These are the most wonderful houses and they give character to our city. They give a certain kind of living that’s not about the rat race and chasing money. There are things that are more important than that,” he said.

“It doesn’t matter where you live. We live in a country where forced relocation has been a reality based on race. Now, you are talking about a neighbourhood that has the most expensive real estate on the continent and people are being displaced.”

He said it was not only poor people being affected by this issue. “It’s seriously insane what’s happening. People have owned their homes for generations and can’t afford it anymore. These are wealthy people being kicked out.”

He lives close to the old Tafelberg school where activists have been asking for affordable housing but which was sold by the Provincial Government. This had also inspired his work.

Mr Van Schalkwyk said a lot of the show revolves around how he feels and how everything is changing. “Part of that has to do with real estate. How that relates to art is terrifying.”

He said it was all aimed at making one think about the bigger issue. However, he said, the “real estate nightmare” would have a negative impact on arts and culture. “Once neighbourhoods get homogenised, the probability of creativity is drastically minimised. It’s not an environment for culture to survive and we know this from history. Art is not a given. Culture is something that requires everybody to work together in spaces where culture can survive. If we don’t protect the variations in our neighbourhoods we won’t have cultural output coming from those places.”

He said he understood there were more pressing cultures but said that “without art we don’t experience life. Without that we are just surviving and that is no way to live.”

He said he felt lucky that he could still shop at the Chinese or Thai supermarket or go to a Syrian restaurant to eat something. “It’s still like that but it won’t be for long. You will start forgetting that those influences.”

He said the foundations of cultural traditions, were all about variation.

Part of the exhibition also includes ladders, made to look like construction sites. He said the amount of construction around Cape Town was very noticeable. “Construction on that scale is like theatre. You will see that in the paintings. The show has a lot to do with construction and change.’”

He said there is a direct link between the “homes for sale” piece and the work that was inspired by construction sites. “I’m not saying that it’s good or bad but it is scary and I don’t like it,” added Mr Van Schalkwyk

It is the second time that they’ve had the exhibition and he said it would be moving again to a different location. “It’s about getting the message out.”

“It’s a show about where does the individual responsibility lie and what can we do to change our surroundings. We have to find a way to live through this. I think it is really important that we don’t lose our willingness to speak out because we have the power.”

He also thanked the gallery, saying that the space was incredible. “It is such a special place.”

The exhibition is on at the David Krut Projects at 31 Newlands Avenue until Sunday December 3. For more information contact or 021 685 0676.