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What shapes us? Makes us? Guides us?

 Presented by Chelsea Selvan

“Seeing comes before words” says John Berger in his book Ways of Seeing.

“It is seeing which establishes our place in the surrounding world… The way we see things is affected by what we know or what we believe. We never look at just one thing; we are always looking at the relation between things and ourselves.”

This exhibition prods us, gently encouraging us to interrogate and reflect on what shapes us, makes us, guides us, by offering a glimpse into the stories and experiences of the seven artists who form part of this exhibition.

Although thematically different, the artworks showcased are bound together by a common thread of abstraction, shape, mark making, symbolic colour and medium. The process through which multiple ways of making intersect and overlap elicits multiple and layered conversations between the works of each artist and, further, between each viewer and their relationship to the artworks. What shapes us? Makes us? Guides us? invites you to share in the artists’ way of seeing, inner turmoil, memories, identities and landscapes.

What shapes us? Makes us? Guides us? explores how humans perceive themselves in relation to others; through gesture, language and intergenerationally inherited knowledge. It traverses the material relationship between permanence and disintegration embodied in memorial sites and the landscapes of cemeteries – posing questions on loss and return, absence and presence. The exhibition deconstructs and abstracts masculinity and touches on the fluid qualities of the layered, hidden and visible identity politics in South Africa. It seeks to awaken the viewer through the very mode of art-making; condemning oppressive acts in our world while, at the same time, travels through personal expression and the channelling of innate creative forces, with an artist’s deepened sensibility about being and becoming. Personal and poetic journeys, turmoil, often a reflection of both the inner and outside world, as well as the relationship to the spiritual, are common threads.

What shapes you? Makes you? Guides you?

Artwork above: Collage of all artists works, created by Chelsea Selvan

Nú Barreto presented by Chelsea Selvan Pasmo, 2016, Indian Ink, Acrylic, Mounted Paper, Canvas, 110 x 110 cm


Chelsea Selvan (b. 1997) is a mixed-media artist who graduated in 2019 with a BA Fine Arts (Honours) with distinction, at the University of the Witwatersrand. Having previously worked at the Centre for the Less Good Idea, the Johannesburg Art Gallery, the Wits Art Museum, the Israel Museum, Jerusalem, Selvan has a strong grounding in the art industry. These experiences have inculcated a keen interest in the way that various genres and mediums of art and performance can intersect in gallery and museum spaces. Selvan currently works as a curator and marketing liaison for Latitudes Online.

Her own artistic practice embodies the sentiment of Alfred Lord Tennyson’s words, “I am a part of all that I have met”, and echoes throughout her explorative creative process.

Working with mixed media, collage, printmaking, immersive installations, poetry and photography, Selvan playfully creates an intricate and abstract collage of spaces, objects and moments that one engages with on a daily basis. Her process of creation is often triggered through the recollection of memories, home and the way she is touched by the world.

As a curator, Selvan is interested in cracking open a deeper understanding of the stories and meanings behind art that prompt us to challenge or reflect on our beliefs and view of the world.

Gilbert & George
Bag-Men 2020

302 x 571 cm | 118 7/8 x 224 13/16 in.
© Gilbert & George. Courtesy White Cube

To enquire about any of the artworks in this exhibition

Further Reading In Articles

African Artist Directory

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