Sunday, November 1, 2009

Invitation to "mine" exhibition

In his new series of oil paintings, "mine", Niebuhr documents Joburg's mine dumps and finds three major themes:  a landscape that refuses to remember itself; a city built on fate and the forces of a gold rush; and the paradox of poisonous beauty -- the mine dumps may look like mountains of gold dust but their bleached appearance is actually the result of the toxic process of gold extraction.

The mine dumps are disappearing, cleared to recycle their minerals and to open new spaces for development.  Landmarks that people have known for years will be gone --but since mine dumps have no names, they will not be commemorated. 

Niebuhr finds a certain pathos in their disappearance.

Johannesburg would not exist but for the gold mines, and the dumps are their remnants.  Niebuhr says, "That's why the mine dumps are so specifically Joburg:  they are man-made, iconic, and represent the reasons we are here." 

Last, Niebuhr says he has been drawn to the mine dumps despite their toxicity.  "I've climbed them at dawn and at sunset," and he keeps coming back for more.  Using the Top Star drive-in cinema as a central point, he has been documenting the mine dumps from Randfontein on the West Rand to Boksburg on the East.

Born here, Niebuhr has been painting Johannesburg for nearly a decade.  Working from his studio in Fordsburg, he makes cityscapes and urban portraits to capture the flux of decay and growth which so characterise Joburg, and "mine" is his latest statement on a city he considers truly his.

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