Absa Art Hot Spot
Empowering African fine arts
Meet the artists
Clive van den Berg
Born in 1956 in Zambia, Clive van den Berg is an artist and designer now based in Johannesburg, South Africa.
His works range in size and format, including paintings, prints, sculpture and drawings. Variously addressed to body, eros, memory and land his art is showcased and collected around the world.
In tandem with his studio practice, Clive works to develop public projects as a designer and curator. These include the permanent exhibitions around South Africa including the Holocaust and Genocide Centre in Johannesburg, Freedom Park in Pretoria and The Nelson Mandela Foundation in Johannesburg.
He is the recipient of several international awards, including a Smithsonian Artist Research Fellowship, Rockerfeller Fellowship, and the prestigious Absa L’Atelier competition in 1987.
This is one of a series of paintings by Clive van den Berg made for his solo exhibition in Goodman Gallery, Cape Town, South Africa eighteen months ago. In the series, Clive confronts the tradition of South African landscape painting. Historical depictions of land were primarily filtered through Western perception and sought to possess the territory by recording its surface image.
In such works as Meeting in Limbo, Clive peels away the surface of the land. In this work, the fleshly pink landscape seems porous. To blur the passage of time and the physical surface of the land, Clive presents both surface and underneath, past and present, simultaneously on the canvas. That complex relationship of what is on the surface and what lies beneath or inside, is one of the complexities of vision … and that is a political vision: What is on the surface and what does it conceal?
The painting contains various figurative elements – ghosts or witnesses? A single figure and shadowy suggestion of a group behind, below, and perhaps hidden from that figure. Clive’s interest is in the state of flux between past and present and the conscious and unconscious minds.
The land surface has always been important in South Africa; contested, commercialized, seeing settlement and migrations, but the heart of unresolved history lies below that ground surface while many South African try to create a modernist state and a landscape which denies that trauma and past.