I am interested in worlds, places and spaces. Underpinning this is an investigation of how a world or a place becomes constituted through perception, ideology, sentiment or emotion. My theoretical and practical research is mostly engaged with the family construct of utopia, dystopia and heterotopia, to include nuances such as good place; bad place; non-place; cocooning; displacement; and virtual space. Most people nurture personal ideas about a ‘good’ place or a personal paradise. Places filled with bad memories or experiences become dystopian, and perceptions of place are often liquid and dynamic, changing continually.
My work from 2017 to 2019 entails a series of event-based works relating to the traumatic experience of the loss of my entire home and personal belongings during the Great Fire of 7 June 2017. Except for works taken up in public and private collections, several of my artworks were destroyed.
In many of my works the imagery of boat or vessel recurs. To me a boat represents human life as a kind of ‘moving container’ between birth and death, and it is tied to place and space. The boat holds a liminal position on the threshold in-between places. A journey on a boat implies a destination or movement between place and it is here that the nuances on the theme of utopia enters. As a transportation mechanism the boat is interwoven with the teleology (‘good ending’), human carriage and autoethnography, writing one’s own life history.
In the current works I am also focusing much on liquidity, change, time passing, and changing perceptions about place.
The concept of a Ship of Fools is another strong undercurrent in my work. Persistently occurring throughout history and different culture, the concept entails the practice of removing mad citizens − considered as Others and as unwanted and abject – from society by consigning them to ships and sending them into the ocean without a helmsman or supervision. This practice is still found in some African countries although Plato already described this practice 400BCE.
Another related theme is that of transshipment. When cargo or a container is moved from one vessel to another while in transit to its final destination it is called transshipment. It speaks to the readjustment and rerouting taking place throughout one's life while pursuing our individual teleological 'good endings' that one is hoping for. Witnessing and experiencing crisis and collapse in many domains of life, covid-19 has made many people restructure their finances, work and home environments. The concept of transshipment communicates the idea that nothing is fixed, also not place or perceptions about place. Human life is transient and fundamentally ‘reroutable’.
In many of my works the colour green is used in representation of a ‘good place’ or the search for a good place. Interrelated concepts are a green patch and untamed greenery. Green articulates with Arcadia, a utopian form closely related to ideas of paradise and aimed at the reconciliation with nature. Humans’ relationship with nature is a fundamental one that has taken on many guises in literature and the arts. In Romantic art nature is presented as the ideal place for humans to be and it is suggested that humans should be reconciled with nature. Nature’s goodness and abundance has often been associated with greenness, also human conditions of happiness and contentment.
My work is in the public collections of the University of Pretoria, Telkom, First National Battery and The University of Pretoria.
Forthcoming at Association for Visual Arts, Pretoria, opening 18 March 2022
Transshipped, 2021. edg2020 Gallery, Kyalami, 6 – 29 May 2021
Commission, Gates opening, University of Pretoria, Theology Building, Commissioned for the University of Pretoria Centenary celebrations, 2017
02h05-02h27. Klein Karoo Nasionale Kunstefees, Oudtshoorn, Western Cape, 31 March – 8 April 2007
MA(FA) Exhibition, University of South Africa Art Gallery, 1992
[click on the works to read more]
Paradise flooded, 2021
Ash series, 2018
Gates opening, 2017. Commission for the Centenary of the Faculty of Theology, University of Pretoria Collection. Mixed media (acrylic, oil and other painting media) on canvas, 1900 x 2850 mm. More details
Dystopian playground. Group exhibition, Playground, Moór Gallery Franschhoek. Curators: Corlie de Kock and Aidon Westcott. 23 July - 23 August 2016. Review Cape Times
Ship of fools 2, 3 , 4 and 5 at Metromusings, group exhibition for Andrew W Mellon research project of Visual Technologies. Printed Catalogue, Rautenbach Hall, University Of Pretoria, 15 – 29 July 2013. Also at The City: A Form Of Life, Open Window Institute, Centurion, Cool Capital Biennial, Pretoria, 29 Aug – 15 Nov 2014.
Hanging gardens, 2009. On An exploration of the Southern African Geography. Invited by SANAVA in collaboration with the Association of Arts Pretoria, various venues nationally and Berlin. July 2009 to February 2010
From above and beyond. Elfriede Dreyer with Marlise Keith and Eric Duplan. 2 video productions and manipulated video stills. Fried Contemporary Art Gallery & Studio, Pretoria. 3 October – 114 November 2009. Private Collection.
Verneem (2008). Group exhibition, UP Centenary: A century in the service of knowledge: Visuality/Commentary exhibition at the University of Pretoria. 11 to 23 May 2008. Collection of the Development Bank of Southern Africa.
Willem Boshoff (2008). Group exhibition, Media 24 exhibition, KKNK 2008, Oudtshoorn, Western Cape. Also on Muses 08 Investment Art, Cape Town
02h05-02h27. Zoo city. 3 video productions and manipulated video stills. Solo exhibition at KKNK Festival, Oudtshoorn, Western Cape. Invited artist. 31 March – 8 April 2007. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4cwcHt2Mbks
Little deaths. Traveling exhibition. Elfriede Dreyer with Wilma Cruise and Guy du Toit. Fried Contemporary Art Gallery, Pretoria, 13 February – 10 March and Bell-Roberts Gallery, Lourensford Wine Estate, Western Cape, 21 April – 31 July 2007
South African artists, Museé des arts derniers, Paris. February 2006
Delta. 2 video installations and 24 manipulated video stills. Solo ehibition at Gallery 2, Cité International des Arts in Paris.14 – 24 December 2005. View video
5 Video stills from Real crime. Group exhibition, Visual Culture/Explorations conference on 9 & 10 July at the UP, group exhibition. Old Arts Gallery, University of Pretoria. 2004
exit enter. On Digital art exhibition (13 local and international artists), group exhibition at The Spacing, UNISA. 2002
(Absence 1997 - 2002 due to Management appointment at Unisa)
EARLY WORK: 1987 - 1996
Spider-Man visits God’s Window, on opening exhibition of The Open Window Art Academy, 1996
Elfriede Dreyer with Keith Dietrich, Revisiting roads/recycling histories. 3 mixed media paintings. Centurion Gallery, 1995
Pretoria at the Johannesburg Biennale. 3 paintings. Title: North of the Jukskei, invited to participate. Museum Africa, Johannesburg, 1995
Group exhibition, opening of the new ABSA Gallery in Johannesburg. 1994
Bonne Année, Group exhibition, SAAA, Pretoria, 1994
Victims of war. Group exhibition at Jan Celliers school, Johannesburg. 1993
Finalist at Momentum art competition, catalogue produced, group exhibition. ABSA. 1993
Greater Pretoria at UNISA. UNISA Gallery. Selected. National art competition, 1993
MA(FA) Exhibition. 12 large mixed media paintings. Solo exhibition, UNISA Art Gallery, 1992
Exhibition and public discussion of work. Annual Conference of the SAAAH. UNISA. 1992
Group exhibition, Total Gallery, Johannesburg. 1990
Group exhibition, Development Bank, Halfway House. 1987
Exhibition of student work at lecturer's exhibition, UNISA Gallery, 1987
Finalist at Volkskas Atelier Art Award exhibition, ABSA Gallery, Pretoria. National art competition,
Finalist at Rolfes Foundation, Cape Town. National art competition, 1987
Finalist at New Signatures Competition exhibition, ABSA Gallery, Pretoria. National art competition,
Group exhibition, The Carriage House, Johannesburg, 1984
Video for TV for Afrikaans folk-rock band Klopjag for song Skree. Broadcast on national TV. 2006
7 Video productions on DVD of art exhibitions: Art From Two Metropoles; The Maswanganyi Family; The Missing Year, Philip Badenhorst; More (than) histories, Guy du Toit; LiveWire, Celia de Villiers; untitledongetitled, Andre Naude; Eye of the beholder, Adele Oldfield
10 multimedia productions for Afrikaans folk-rock band Klopjag: 24 uur; Stof; Ek wens jy wil; Boerseun, Die besemtannie; Karloos; Relatiwiteit; Koeëldoppies; Randburg tannie blues; Die kind. For 5 performances at the National Arts Festival, KKNK, Oudtshoorn, SA. 200
Fire. CD-ROM: Interactive Multimedia. Demonstration production for International Diploma in Interactive Multimedia, SCAN (now Frank Mohr Institute), Groningen. 1996