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Art Brussels 2024

Brussels, Belgium

26 April 2024


28 April 2024

Installation shots

Installation views: Art Brussels, 2024. RESERVOIR. Photographer: Nicola Morittu

Exhibiton text

RESERVOIR is pleased to participate in the INVITED section of the 40th edition of Art Brussels, with a solo presentation by South African artist Anna van der Ploeg (b. 1992, Cape Town). The presentation consists of a new body of work created by the artist during a six month residency at M Leuven museum in Leuven, Belgium, in 2023.


Anna van der Ploeg’s large, sculptural works are created by carving and painting woodblocks. This way of working emerged for the artist after years of thorough engagement across the mediums of printmaking, painting and sculpture. Conceptually, she has continually focused her research ever further into linguistic determinism and the human impulse to fnd embodiment for speech, as well as ideas around collective authorship, dialogue and materiality. She considers these felds of interest through the abundant resource of homemade fyers and posters found on public walls, street poles and convenience store bulletin boards. Despite the current predilection for online communication, these humble objects are still amply found in many places, with different cities having their own stylistic infuences. This particularity interests Van der Ploeg, who grew up in South Africa in the nineties, a period when the country was rapidly reinventing itself, while renegotiating the many different identities within its borders. She is interested in the idea of a public speaking for itself, imagining itself as a community, situated in the here and now, not conceived of by an external structure. Van der Ploeg’s practice is an artistic and material response to a growing collection of many such objets trouvés. The posters and fyers in the artist’s personal archive are not exhibited or represented literally, but function as urtexts of sorts - a unique material interpretation which gives sculptural form to language and memory. One poster in particular, found at the beginning of 2023 outside of a Pick n Pay supermarket in Philippi (a neighbourhood that forms part of the Cape Flats in the Western Cape of South Africa), has held Van der Ploeg’s attention. ‘I cast a stone into a pool and watched the ripples fade’, writes the anonymous poet on a sheet of feint-ruled paper. The poet, writing in memory of his deceased father, wrote the eulogy using an alphabet stencil - a surprising choice that confrms Van der Ploeg’s interest in how public authorship reveals something of the personality behind the anonymous contribution, and questions the hierarchy and democratic order of these objects in relation to art. Not all posters speak like the one quoted above. In fact, most of them are more direct, economical, communicating only the necessary information. There is a productive gap between the matter-of-factness of their language, the way they seem not to be aware of themselves, and the rich, complex lives of real people they are representing. Some are more legible than others - ‘Dust and ashes though I am, I sleep the sleep of angels’, one curly ribbon reads, a Saint Augustine line carved and sawn out of plywood. Then there are larger than life wooden panels, resembling posters with curled tear-off tabs. Their illegibility is important, because meaning is not the words’ primary essence; instead, the mark-making crawls and ripples over the plywood as if fueled by an autonomous drive. We don’t need to be able to read to truly encounter them; the drive itself - the ancient human urge to write - is what is laid bare.

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