Gideon Mendel: Drowning World

May 31, 2013 | Zoltan Arva-Toth | Events, Photographers | 0 Comments |
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Tiwani Contemporary will host an exhibition by South African photographer Gideon Mendel entitled, Drowning World. The selection includes 15 images taken in Nigeria that have never been exhibited before, and  5  photographs  documenting  flooding  in  various  parts  of  the  globe  including  England,  India,  Haiti  and Australia. The exhibition also presents a two-part video of people living amidst floodwaters in Bangkok, as well as video portraits of Nigerian inhabitants returning to their flooded homes. Drowning World will run from 7 June – 27 July 2013.

Tiwani Press Release

Gideon Mendel: Drowning World

Preview: Thursday, 6 June 2013 | 6:30 – 8:30pm
On View: Friday, 7 June  – Saturday, 27 July 2013


Tiwani Contemporary presents Drowning World an exhibition by South African photographer Gideon Mendel, curated by Christine Eyene.  The selection includes 15 images taken in Nigeria that have never been exhibited, and  5  photographs  documenting  flooding  in  various  parts  of  the  globe  including  England,  India,  Haiti  and Australia. The exhibition also presents a two-part video of people living amidst floodwaters in Bangkok, as well as video portraits of Nigerian inhabitants returning to their flooded homes.

Drowning  World is a poignant depiction of climate change through portraits of flood survivors taken in deep floodwaters,  within the  remains  of  their  homes,  or  in  submerged  landscapes,  in  the  stillness  of  once  lively environments. Keeping their composure, the subjects pause in front of Mendel’s camera, casting an unsettling, yet engaging gaze. These images, taken across the globe demonstrate a shared experience that erases geographical and cultural divides. They invite the viewer to reflect on the impact on nature by humankind, and attachment to our homes and personal belongings.

Beyond the documentary aspect of this project, Gideon Mendel subtly treads on the aesthetics of portraiture, yet pushes the boundaries by staging the photographs in unlikely environments. Each portrait isolates individuals, couples or small groups that would otherwise be represented by statistics. The portraits also reveal personality and status through clothes, style and even elegance.

As well as representing destruction, water also contributes to the creative process. Washed out pigments create new painterly patterns, damaged films produce soft tones and mysterious haze, while architecture and landscape are reflected in the sparkling natural mirror.

The selection compiled for this exhibition highlights the confusion of senses between the sight of landscapes of desolation and the attractiveness of colours and compositions. It seeks to examine the tension between drama and picturesque, and the fine line between documentary and artistic imagery.

About the artist
Gideon Mendel was born in Johannesburg in 1959 and studied psychology and African history at the University of Cape Town. Following his studies he became a freelance photographer, documenting change and conflict in South Africa  in  the  lead-up  to  Nelson  Mandela’s  release  from  prison.  In  1990  he  moved  to  London.  He  first  began documenting the topic of AIDS in Africa in 1993, and in the past twenty years, his work on this issue has been widely recognized. He has won six World Press Photo Awards, first prize in the American Pictures of the Year competition, a POY Canon Photo Essayist Award, the Eugene Smith Award for Humanistic Photography and the Amnesty International Media Award for Photojournalism. Exhibitions include: Rise and Fall of Apartheid, curated by  Okwui  Enwezor  at  the  International  Center  of  Photography,  New  York  (Sept.  2012 - Jan.  2013);  Haus  der Kunst, Munich (Feb-May 2013), and touring.  Part of his Drowning World series was shown at Somerset House, London (May - June 2012), and will also be included in A Different Kind of Order, The ICP Triennial, New York (17 May – 8 September 2013).

About the curator
Christine Eyene is an art historian, critic and curator. Born in Paris in 1970, she studied History of Contemporary Art at Université Paris 1, Panthéon-Sorbonne. She has been researching modern and contemporary South African art since the late 1990s, specialising in the story of artists in exile during Apartheid and their cultural interactions with the Black Diaspora in France and England.  She is currently Guild Research Fellow – Contemporary Art, at the University  of  Central  Lancashire  (UCLan).  Exhibitions  and  collaborations  include:  10th Dak’Art –  Biennale  of Contemporary African Art, Dakar (2012); Roma-Sinti-Kale-Manush with Autograph ABP, Rivington Place, London (2012);  3rd Photoquai – Biennial  of  World  Images,  Paris  (2011); Reflections on the Self – Five African Women Photographers, Hayward  Touring  exhibition  (2011-2013);  FOCUS – Contemporary  Art  Africa,  Basel  (2010  and 2011); Uprooting  the  Gaze,  Brighton  Photo  Fringe,  Brighton  (2010).  Eyene  sits  in  a  number  of  panels  and committees including Prix Pictet and Visible Award 2013. She was member of the jury of Dak'Art 2012 and the Fondation Blachère Prize awarded at the Dak’Art Biennale in 2008 and 2010, and at the Bamako Encounters: African Photography Biennial in 2007 and 2009. She has just been awarded a Curators Grant from the Foundation for Arts Initiatives.

Drowning World will run from 7 June – 27 July 2013 at Tiwani Contemporary.
Forthcoming is a Tiwani Contemporary Art Connect event: In conversation with Gideon Mendel, on 27 June 2013, from 6:30 – 8:30pm.

Photo: The outskirts of Yenagoa, Bayelsa State, Nigeria, November 2012 by Gideon Mendel



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