Goodman Gallery Cape Town
18 April – 16 May 2015
Opening Saturday 18 April at 11am
Much to his own irritation and amusement, Brett Murray continues to feel the urge to expose the absurdities of the powerful with biting satire. In his recognised iconic language, and using a variety of materials, this new body of work extends his jaundiced love/hate relationship with South Africa’s unfolding democracy. Inevitably, it seems, this exhibition is darker in tone and often registers closer to tragedy than comedy. And if, like Murray, you prefer to be entertained with Arcadian landscapes and portraits of your favourite pets… he urges you to look elsewhere for your kicks.
Murray studied at the University of Cape Town where he was awarded his Master’s of Fine Arts degree in 1988 with distinction. The title of his dissertation is ‘A Group of Satirical Sculptures Examining Social and Political Paradoxes in the South African Context’. As an undergraduate he won Irma Stern Scholarships in both 1981 and 1982.
He won the Simon Garson Prize for the Most Promising Student in 1982, and was awarded the Michaelis Prize in 1983. As a postgraduate student he received a Human Sciences Research Council bursary, a University of Cape Town Research Scholarship, the Jules Kramer Grant and an Irma Stern Scholarship.
He has exhibited extensively in South Africa and abroad. From 1991 to 1994 he established the sculpture department at the University of Stellenbosch, where he curated the show Thirty Sculptors from the Western Cape in 1992. In 1995 he curated, with Kevin Brand, Scurvy at the Castle of Good Hope in Cape Town. That same year he co-curated Junge Kunst Aus Zud Afrika for the Hänel Gallery in Frankfurt, Germany.
In 1999 Murray co-founded – with artists and cultural practitioners Lisa Brice, Kevin Brand, Bruce Gordon, Andrew Putter, Sue Williamson, Robert Weinek and Lizza Littlewort – Public Eye, a Section 27 company that initiates and manages art projects in the public arena, with the aim of developing a greater profile for public art in Cape Town.
Public Eye has developed projects on Robben Island, worked with the city’s health officials on AIDS awareness campaigns, and initiated several outdoor sculpture projects, including The Spier Sculpture Biennale. He curated Homeport in 2001, which saw 15 artists create site-specific text-based works in Cape Town’s waterfront precinct. Public Eye has also interfaced with cultural funding bodies as consultants, and hosted multi-media events across Cape Town.
Murray was included on the Havana Biennale of 1994, and his works were subsequently exhibited at the Ludwig Museum of Contemporary Art in Germany. He was included on the group show Springtime in Chile at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Santiago, Chile. His work was also part of the traveling show Liberated Voices: Contemporary Art From South Africa, which opened at the Museum for African Art in New York in 1998. His work formed part of the shows Min(d)fields at the Kunsthaus Baselland in Switzerland in 2004, and The Geopolitics of Animation at the Centro Andaluz de Arte Contemporaneo in Seville in 2007.
He won the Cape Town Urban Art competition in 1998, which resulted in the public work Africa, a 3.5-metre bronze sculpture erected in Cape Town’s city centre. He won, with Stefaans Samcuia, the commission to produce an 8 × 30-meter wall sculpture for the foyer of the Cape Town International Convention Centre in 2003. In 2007 he completed Specimens, a large wall sculpture for the University Of Cape Town’s medical school campus. In 2011 he produced the public artwork Seeds for The University of Bloemfontein, and in 2013 he was commissioned to produce the 7-meter bronze Citizen for the Auto & General Park in Johannesburg.
His solo shows include White Boy Sings the Blues at the Rembrandt Gallery in Johannesburg in 1996, I love Africa at the Bell-Roberts Gallery in Cape Town in 2000, Us and Them at the Axis Gallery in New York in 2003 and Sleep Sleep at the Goodman Gallery in Johannesburg in 2006. His solo show Crocodile Tears was held at both the Cape Town and Johannesburg branches of The Goodman Gallery in 2007 and 2009. and his most recent exhibition Hail To The Thief was first held at Goodman Gallery Cape Town in 2010, and then in an updated form at the Goodman Gallery in Johannesburg in 2012.