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Meet the artists

Virginia MacKenny

Virginia MacKenny
Artist Bio

Virginia MacKenny completed her Bachelor of Fine Arts at the University of Natal, South Africa, in 1980, and her master’s degree in Gender Studies in 2001, at the University of Kwazulu-Natal in Durban, South Africa. MacKenny has received numerous awards, including the Volkskas L’Atelier Award (1991), the Ampersand Fellowship in New York (2004), and a Donald Gordon Creative Fellow Award (2010). She is an independent curator and critic. She co-curated, in 2006, with Gabi Ncgobo, ‘Second to None’ – an exhibition celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the 1956 Women’s March on Pretoria to protest the pass laws – at Iziko South African National Gallery. A former Kwazulu-Natal editor for, the first internet site on contemporary South African art, she was also an invited writer for Sophie Perryer’s 10 Years 100 Artists – Art in a Democratic South Africa (2004). She is an avid supporter of the contemporary visual arts discourse in SA by writing catalogue essays and for the quarterly Art South Africa. She has presented papers on aspects of South African contemporary art production at the Tate Modern, London, and in conferences in Mumbai, Paris and Madrid. Often a judge on national competitions she was a selector for Spier Contemporary 2007.


MacKenny is interested in contemporary South African art with a special emphasis on painting, video art and performance art with specific reference to gender and environmental issues. In 2010 she was a co-founding member of COPART, an artists’ initiative concerned with raising awareness for climate change at COP17 (the UN Conference of the Parties for discussion on climate change held in Durban that year). Recent solo exhibitions include ‘Foam Along the Waterline’ (2008), at UCT’s Irma Stern Museum, ‘Crossing’ (2009) at David Krut Projects, Johannesburg and ‘Waymarker’ (2012) David Krut Projects, Cape Town, South Africa. ‘Waymarker’ was the culmination of a 700km walk across France along the Chemin de St Jacques and embodied a literal act of grounding in an act dedicated “to the Earth and all living beings on her”. MacKenny has created an artist’s book based on her walk, as well as researching for a book on artists in Southern Africa engaged with environmental issues.

Virginia Mackeyy Video
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Artist Statement

Virginia Mackenny makes art to better understand her relationship to the world in which she finds herself, of which she is a part and to which she contributes. Inextricably entangled and implicated she is an itinerant carrying the baggage of European culture on a continent, and in a world, profoundly damaged by it. Virginia makes art to examine from whence she comes, what she values and how she might usefully engage. Living in what often feels like ‘End Times’ socio-politically and environmentally Virginia attempts to engage contemporary landscape painting in a manner that acknowledges a shift in the way land is viewed or may need to be re-viewed. Undoing our self-imposed binary of nature / human necessitates a practice that is responsive to, not imposed upon, the world within which one exists. For Virginia art making is a way of noticing the extraordinary within the mundane – it is a way of paying attention.

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