Melvyn Minnaar*


Exhibition: PIERRE FOUCHé at Bell-Roberts Contemporary until December 2. MELVYN MINNAAR reviews.

There is a highly charged, even overwhelming, aura of emotional frailty to this strong and immensely satisfying show.

Yes, there is a finely constructed and reasoned angle of gender political incidence to the spread, but, moving from one piece to another, it’s your heart that runs away. Fouché has created a beautiful visual essay about the slenderness of human relationships. His exhibition title, and offered as illustration in a variety of individual pieces, The Distance Between Us, with its gentle air of contradiction of far and near at the same time, sets the scene and challenge of how partnerships (in same-sex situations) bond – or not.

The show comprises a number of works, ranging from the finest, minute pen strokes on graph paper and colour swatches meticulously marked (each turning, in a way, into metaphors of artist’s plans and work drawings) to a set of variations, in a range of unusual media, on the pixel breakdown of static photo images (affectionate homo iconography) to impressive pictorial constructions with stranded embroidery, puzzle pieces and commercial resin dice.

One admires the tenacity of the amount of work, detail, concentration, not to mention the originality, and cannot ignore the underlying urgency, tension, even obsession of making the images. Only by hard work – the artist seems to say – will we understand and negotiate the distances, far or near, between us.

The embroidered pieces – a haunting image of Hello! Soldier (the classic “pin-up” of endangered innocence) finely executed in six-stranded cotton thread on tapestry canvas, or an “incomplete” image (like a snapshot of holiday beach bliss, best remembered) in The Distance Between Us III – throw up a number of references to mythology and masculinity. But it also offers as medium a physical reminder of how things could unravel or endure, become undone or last for a long time.

Fouche has maximized the meaning and impact of the atypical media he uses: allusions to love and luck in the use of real red gambling dice, to fix and fit with a portrait of puzzle pieces, and the significance of souvenirs and intimacy in the cleverly conceived The Outline of my Lover, a paper cutout construct.

The artist is a postgraduate student and, as expected, there is a touch of arty self-awareness to the carefully plotted and most professionally presented endeavour. It does not distract from the impact of this moving encounter. Fouché has made one of this year’s finest art exhibitions. Go and experience it.

*   Reference for this article: Minnaar, M. 2006. ‘Fine essay on relationships’. Cape Times. 22 November.