Bevan de Wet
THE OTHER LANDSCAPE
The history of South Africa’s landscape is layered and complex. From the craggy coastlines of the Cape peninsula to the dry deserts of the Karoo and grand escarpments of the Lowveld, the land and its inhabitants are defined by diversity. This rich mix of people and places has brought joy but also turmoil, made manifest in a fractured society constantly in flux.
Throughout history these material conditions have endlessly inspired artists. Bevan de Wet engages in this tradition with The Other Landscape, a large-scale interactive installation comprising 108 handmade paper panels suspended in space.
The Other Landscape tells its story, in part, through the process of its production. De Wet begins by revisiting old works, collecting test prints and other detritus from his studio. Elements from this material are then hand cut or torn, sometimes painted with inks and dyes, folded and embedded into hand cast paper panels made from Sisal fibres. The material use of Sisal, an invasive plant in South Africa, links to notions of population and occupancy, and explores our complicated relationship with the natural environment.
Embracing the tensions between the organic and the constructed nature of production, the paper is cast as thin as possible leaving it almost transparent. Within these newly formed panels, fragments from de Wet’s previous works are revealed, in some cases mirrored in ghostlike traces of colours and shapes. The panels are suspended, allowing visitors to move freely through a disjointed and dreamlike space, dwelling on the intimate associations it invites.
For de Wet, the space speaks to the process of “finding a balance between lightness and weight, suffocation and letting go, vulnerability and illumination, while engaging with notions of displacement and belonging.”
Anthropologist and academic Dr. Julie Taylor comments that de Wet’s work explores displacement and belonging as “two sides of the South African experience of the body landscape”. By working with these ideas in relation to the inherent “contradictions and truths that have emerged from the historical relationship between this land, and its people,” The Other Landscape offers a temporary form of catharsis.
“Navigating this piece requires an immersion in the bodily marks and scars of the past,” adds Taylor. “The shadows and darkness created in the inverse spaces of the work speak to history’s secret and hidden parts. Yet they simultaneously elucidate the flux of history, and its silent influence on the present.”