By Johann van der Schijff

Johann van der Schijff is an artist living and working in Cape Town, South Africa. As an Associate Professor at the Michaelis School of Fine Art, University of Cape Town, he teaches in the sculpture section of the school. He holds a Master of Fine Art (new media) degree from the Frank Mohr Instituut, Groningen, The Netherlands; a Master of Fine Art (sculpture) from the University of Cape Town; and a Bachelor of Fine Art from the University of Pretoria. His sculptural/new media works have been exhibited nationally and internationally.


“This exhibition deals with memories as metaphors for the State of Emergency.”

It deals with flashback memories of my youth and the existential crisis of my adult life, it addresses middle age and melancholy and questions my role and place in society as a white man.

Born in 1969 and while growing up in Pretoria, demonstrations of the power of the state as enshrined in Apartheid were relentless. Mirage aeroplanes, stationed at Waterkloof Air Force Base, flew overhead while I played sport at school; Ratel combat vehicles passed in convoy on the highway; on television I saw, police Casspir personnel carriers drive through black townships.

 The university demonstrations at UCT as a result of the #Rhodesmustfall movement brought into sharp focus issues of colonialism, white privilege and identity politics. As a white Afrikaans-speaking man it plunged me into a crisis. The title of Paul Gauguin’s 1898 painting Where do we come from? What are we? Where are we going? resonated with me as I wrestled to make sense of who I am, as I turn 50.

 An important intellectual breakthrough of the show is that I have managed to identify “trigger moments” in myself and within South African society, as a very potent conceptual tool to use within the making of art. At a time of unprecedented consumption, where the art world locally and abroad has become captured by out of control capitalist indigestion, the rebel and anarchist in me, reacting to years of stifling Christian Nationalist schooling, has made a concerted effort to work small, to concentrate on obsessive workmanship and detail and to deliberately, slow down.

“By triggering an emotion in the viewer, the smallest work can eat into the viewer’s private thoughts, like demons in the night.”

State of Emergency – Preview Show, Michaelis Gallery, 25 July 2019

Please join Johann for a ‘one night only, preview show’ on Thursday 25 July 2019, 17h30 for 18h00, at the Michaelis Gallery on UCT’s Hiddingh Campus (Orange Street, Cape Town). The show will be open, by appointment only, on the Friday 26th and Saturday 27th as well.

 This preview show will give a hint of what to expect from Johann van der Schijff’s new solo exhibition, State of Emergency, that will open at Lizamore & Associates Gallery in Parkwood, Johannesburg in September 2019.

 This is a test exhibition, a work in progress. It does not consist of all the work that will be on display in Johannesburg as there are still several works under construction. It is an opportunity to show family, friends, colleagues, students and collectors based in Cape Town, a selective preview of what I have been working on for the past two years.