Save the Artist with Joyce Carreria

Published 12 March 2023 in Exhibition Blogs

Cellphone conversations

February was brought to a close with the Viewing Room’s first exhibition for the year, Save the Artist - an Endangered Breed. This show brought together various local artists, creating various forms of rhinos and imbedding them with their own personality and stories. The intention of this show was for viewers to show their appreciation of artists and support them in also acknowledging all that artists help with, contribute to, and support.

The show was an eventful start to the year. Featuring works by Eve de Jong, Joyce Carreira, Gordon Froud, Debbie Cloete, some novices and even gallery staff. And so for this post, I have spoken to Joyce Carreria about her reaction to the event, and her experience and the conversations she happened upon.

Chatting with Joyce about her involvement in the conceptualising of this exhibition, her build-up and experience of the show was very positive and enthusiastic. As I have mentioned in a previous post, Joyce was part of the conceptualising of this idea, alongside artist Sanna Swart, and gallery owner and staff member Lucy Anastasiadis and Sammy Muller. The conversation over a good coffee at the gallery last year was a light-hearted one, talking of making the artists the cause; as Joyce said, it was a bit of a “tongue-and-cheek” remark about artists supporting causes, but now “we [artists] are the next cause”. The intention and whole idea, really, was to inspire artists to go out and have a presence without any secondary cause - “this one was for us”, says Joyce.

So this conversation set in motion the exhibition, where Joyce also submitted a work, as seen below. Her artwork is that of a rhino, a metaphor for artists, on a scale, being weighed-in. Joyce looks at Kohlberg’s theory of moral development, specifically the last two of the six stages of morality - having the power to judge and debate right and wrong on a universal level. To look at nature and see its inherent right to exist, without weighing in it’s purpose, function, or value. Joyce extends this to art, and outside of the commercial realm or its purpose, art has an integrity and right to to exist as ‘art for art’ - without a cause to ‘justify’ it. In much the same way as nature, art has the right to be protected, it is what “makes us human…spiritual”. There is a need to find a currency with humanity to make art viable for protection, because it has an inherent value. “It must exist, it has to exist.”

Joyce Carreria, Die Inweging, 2023

And so Joyce comments on the reality that if art does not have a commercial value, a function, it does not get protection. Her work Die Inweging, has the rhino in place of the artist, being weighed in to establish its commercial value, to produce it, to market it, and to sell it. Nevertheless, this is not a forced weigh-in, the rhino is not bound, but rather, it willingly steps up - just as artists step onto the commercial scale because they have to. “We have to exist, and prove or show our value - and hope that we are not found wanting.” 

This is a commentary on how artists market themselves so that their art is found meaningful and valuable in some respect; so that they, and their art, can be seen as an investment. However, few understand the necessity for art as Joyce has seen simply with the difficulty in justifying placing an art piece in a public space. But there is no need for function to be used as justification, simply the emotional impact of art in providing another aspect to one’s daily experience is enough of a reason. And so Joyce is working to introduce friendly sculptures that are not intimidating, are more light-hearted and lively. As a South African she put it quite well, that “we have to make light of the situation…it is how we cope.”

And it was these thoughts that brought about Save the Artist - An Endangered Breed, which opened at the end of February. Joyce remarked on her effortless, happy and encouraging journey with the gallery during the build-up to the opening event. She has mentioned how artists are given the utmost respect, never feeling intimidated or vulnerable when producing their art. Walking out with a smile and self-confidence in knowing her art is appreciated, supported and celebrated. The gallery staff are supportive of the process and emotional attribution to the works. And it is these things that also result in a very happy and enthusiastic opening event.

There is a small art community in Pretoria, and one gets to know the artists, dealers, gallerists, and buyers. These opening events are a kind of reunion and celebration. Joyce praised the gallery space for its beauty, its light and its professionalism - providing a beautiful environment, “giving the art dignity”. Lucy, with Viola and Sammy, has created a “world-class” gallery; providing a professional space for art to be appreciated, while simultaneously hosting in a space of comfort and camaraderie.

- Cassandra Comins

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