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A series of slick canvases & installations bubbling with black forms under fluorescent lights, ‘Hello Darkness, My Old Friend’ is Pretoria artist Louis Minnaar’s second solo exhibition in Cape Town. The title is of course taken from the classic Simon & Garfunkel track, ‘The Sound of Silence’. In this exhibition, Minnaar stages a visual interpretation of sound, silence and the deterioration of our experiences over time.

Reconsidering the tenets of past Formalist artists, Minnaar strips his latest body of work to a few essential elements – in his case, the colour black and a range of highly textured surfaces. Using miscellaneous polygonal canvas shapes, a variety of media as well as enticing objects as the starting point, the works begin with a perfectly smooth surface which is gradually disturbed to create the final form. From eruptions of organic-seeming growths to swirled and sticky-looking squares, it is this haptic quality, highlighted by the juxtaposition of fluorescent tubes, that makes the works captivating.Minnaar’s handling of his media allows the light to reflect off the artworks in different ways, casting shadows on the picture plane.

The activated surface means that, as the viewer moves through the space, the appearance of the work also alters, picking up highlights from various sources. The result is that it rarely appears merely black. This optical interruption is akin to what happens to our experience of a work of art, such as a song, over time, particularly in our information-saturated era. Lyrics are forgotten or conflated, songs are covered and sampled, artworks turned into memes or mugs, and memories are accumulated over and through them; the original experience is lost. As Minnaar explains: “Information is killing information. It’s diminishing the significance of moments in time and confuses reality and context.”

In their enigmatic play of light on a dark surface, these works prompt us to reconsider our experiences of art. They serve, as “the flash of a neon light / That split the night” mentioned in the ‘The Sound of Silence’ does, as an appeal to us to reconsider our relationship to the world around us and, hopefully, engage with it on a more meaningful level.

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