by Richard Breytenbach*

South African Opera don RICHARD BREYTENBACH finds himself tangled in the web of Pierre Fouche's arresting exhibition at the Bell-Roberts Contemporary Art Gallery, 176 Sir Lowry Road, Cape Town.

The gallery appears cavernous at first, enabling the work to breathe and float, existing without confinement, a proud testimony to the artist's portrayal of the lasting solitude and fleetingness of life. In contrast, a dichotomy perhaps, a low space is encountered before ascending the stairs to the gallery itself. This instills in the observer a sense of the artist having worked from the confines of a mansarde, through deep and dark and inconsolable nights, toiling to express his feelings, fueled by despair and hope.

The collection expresses a need to explain itself, whilst a sense of enquiry germinates and grows in the mind of the viewer, and quite frankly, the combination is explosive!

In acknowledging that life is a sometimes arduous and dark journey, a cauldron filled with memories, joy, hopes and dreams, the artist captures the fragments and shards of existence in a web of intriguing pieces.

"25 Letters" and "It's Down to You" stand out as the fragileness of our being, the faint and sometimes indecipherable and discombobulated scribblings of a passing and trembling soul in a place where time is of no consequence, reaching out, then fading, crumbling to dust - secret letters to doubtful recipients, perhaps from an exiled soul, encoded from the heart, expressing the need to escape. On the other hand, one can read into the letters and the pieces "Track" and "Loose Ends II", the carefully structured purpose of a life, but ending with so much unfinished business. This is beautifully captured by "Loose Ends I" and "Loose Ends III".

"Template and Progress" leads us on a dream-like journey to nowhere, a tentative and daunting search for identity through the haze of life unchartered and unconquered.

One of my favourite pieces is called "Running Out" (leftover crochet cotton on cardboard spools) reminiscent of exciting prospects, lost opportunities and energy spent and then forgotten. This is also captured by "Rejected", a sequence of Fuji instax photographs coupled together.

"Aimes-moi moins, mais aimes-mois longtemps" (Love me less, but love me a long time) mirrors the complexity of the human spirit. Only on a very close inspection of the thick knitting yarn is the hidden image captured thereby revealed, but only to the most insistent and quizzical voyeur. You actually have to squint and move around the piece to see the image hidden beneath the rows of yarn. It symbolizes the unlocking of the doors of man's inner chambers, but only if extreme patience and love is exercised in the process.

The memories of a life fully lived, intricately detailed in "The Dark Night" and "Portrait of Marie Fouché (born Greyling)", 2007, are documented, stitch by careful stitch in crochet yarn and press by press in a forgotten medium of black embossing tape, of a significant other, so precisely preserved that the heart of the bystander beats faster at the realization of the creator's vision and passion in the creation thereof.

One's emotions are mixed as you walk about the gallery – one moment, you feel as if there is no portrayal of hope in this exhibition, perhaps a forlorn yearning, a fool's errand - a peek into Pandora's box. But then you encounter "The Leap", a symbol of such hope and joy which the artist must have experienced with those emotions of isolation and despair.

The same concept is reflected in "The Kiss", tremulous and daunting, beautifully structured and crocheted and composed, so fragile and delicately crafted. It depends on its existence of the putting together, knot by knot, of crocheted florets, in dark yarn suspended by a few strands of string, like a puppet or marionette, stabilized by steel ball bearings baubles, moving in the draught. It can be viewed from both sides, which strengthens the understanding of two beings coming together, the culmination of a desire, yet filled with an uncertainty of the outcome of the deed. When others slip behind it and merge with its composition, the complexities of romantic relationships are further exposed...


*     Reference for this article: Breytenbach, R. 2008. ‘The black widow: Convoluted Involvement: Pierre Fouché’. Pythagoras TV, (posted 27 November 2008 at 12:48pm). [online] available: