SUPER BORING - Wayne Barker

celebrating 25 years of Wayne Barker’s work (catalogue), 2010, Marelize van Zyl (ed). Published by SMAC Gallery, Stellenbosch (RSA); ISBN: 978-0-620-46718-6

celebrating 25 years of Wayne Barker’s work (catalogue), 2010,
Marelize van Zyl (ed). Published by SMAC Gallery, Stellenbosch (RSA);
ISBN: 978-0-620-46718-6


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<strong>Wayne</strong> enthusiastic reprobate friendly persistent good looking happy sad sensitive<br />

rough tough father rich poor good bad drunk sober hard working lazy loving old young fun<br />

sex art politics passionate shoes colourful money powder vomit friend fl amboyant painting<br />

drawing jacket hat computers objects galleries music drink paintings women clean dirty<br />

sleep awake gallerist book.<br />




<strong>SUPER</strong> <strong>BORING</strong>

<strong>Wayne</strong> <strong>Barker</strong>: Super Boring<br />

Published to coincide with a retrospective exhibition; <strong>Wayne</strong> <strong>Barker</strong>: Super Boring<br />

SMAC Art Gallery, Stellenbosch | 20 March 2010 – 23 May 2010<br />

Polokwane Art Museum | 22 September 2010 – 31 October 2010<br />

Standard Bank Gallery, Johannesburg | 1 February 2011 – 12 March 2011<br />

Exhibition curated by Andrew Lamprecht, SMAC Art Gallery, <strong>Wayne</strong> <strong>Barker</strong><br />

Author: Andrew mprecht La<br />

Editor: Marelize van Zyl<br />

Text: Simon jami N<br />

Carol own Br<br />

Thembinkosi oniwe G<br />

Ashraf mal Ja<br />

Design and Layout: Natascha Mostert<br />

Editorial Assistants: Jean Butler<br />

Kerry delinghuys Re<br />

Nastasha niels Da<br />

Photography: Garyth Bevan<br />

Robert amblin H<br />

Monique aritz M<br />

Artist Assistant: Neil Nieuwoudt<br />

Published by SMAC Art Publishing 2010<br />

De Wet Centre, Church Street, Stellenbosch<br />

Tel: (021) 887 3607<br />

Fax: (021) 887 7624<br />

info@smacgallery.com<br />

www.smacgallery.com<br />

ISBN: 978-0-620-46718-6<br />

© 2010 SMAC Art Gallery (Publishing)<br />

© 2010 Writers (Essays)<br />

© 2010 Artist (Images of artworks)<br />

Fine art printing by Creda Communications (PTY) LTD, Cape Town<br />

No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored on or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted<br />

in any form or by any means, without the prior written permission of the above mentioned publisher.



By Baylon Sandri<br />


Dearth In Venice<br />

By <strong>Wayne</strong> <strong>Barker</strong><br />

FOREWORD 2 1<br />

<strong>Wayne</strong> <strong>Barker</strong>: The Artist as Naked Subject<br />

By Simon Njami<br />


By Andrew Lamprecht<br />


By Carol Brown<br />

TAKE IT OR LEAVE IT... 87<br />

By Ashraf Jamal<br />

IDEAS AND REFLECTIONS ON “<strong>SUPER</strong> <strong>BORING</strong>” 9 3<br />

By Thembinkosi Goniwe<br />

WORKS 1 05<br />


COLLECTIONS 1 80<br />


10<br />



The concept Super Boring was born during the<br />

vernissage of last year’s Venice Biennale. The 2009<br />

Biennale was characterised by the recognition given to an<br />

older generation of outstanding conceptualists, including<br />

Yoko Ono, John Baldessari and Bruce Nauman. A huge<br />

banner on the Grand Canal boldly declared Baldassari’s<br />

words from his 1971 artwork: ‘I WILL NOT MAKE ANY<br />

MORE <strong>BORING</strong> ART.’<br />

On the night in question, <strong>Wayne</strong> <strong>Barker</strong> had met and<br />

befriended the director of the Philadelphia Museum of Art<br />

and his wife at the Bauer Hotel. This couple had facilitated<br />

Bruce Nauman’s exhibition at United State’s pavilion.<br />

<strong>Barker</strong> was in a queue for prosecco at the bar, behind<br />

the aforementioned gallery director. A young arrogant,<br />

unknown artist pushed in front of <strong>Wayne</strong> and the elderly<br />

gentleman. <strong>Wayne</strong> immediately protested against this<br />

obnoxious behaviour and demanded that the artist get to<br />

the back of the queue. Everyone’s attention was focussed<br />

on the confrontation between the two artists, the tension<br />

was palpable and there was anticipation of a physical<br />

retaliation to <strong>Wayne</strong>’s insistence. Instead of throwing a<br />

punch, however, the red-faced artist raised his index fi nger,<br />

pointed it at <strong>Wayne</strong> and in a high-pitched German accent<br />

spoke the words; Super Boring (Supa Boring!). There<br />

was a stunned silence and <strong>Wayne</strong> looked both amused<br />

and puzzled, he turned to the crowd, raised his fi nger<br />

and repeated; “Supa Boring!” People burst into laughter<br />

and a chain reaction of “Supa Borings” ensued, whilst the<br />

trumped initiator of the whole debacle, sheepishly exited<br />

the scene.<br />

On subsequent refl ection it was a moment of revelation<br />

for <strong>Wayne</strong>. He rejects the idea of work being inaccessible<br />

or the elitist notion of; art for art’s sake. This is what <strong>Wayne</strong><br />


is taking from John Baldassari’s words; namely, the need<br />

for art to be more than just idle navel-gazing but rather<br />

that it needs to engage and arrest and more importantly, it<br />

must come from the heart. Referring to the 90s cult classic,<br />

<strong>Wayne</strong>’s World: <strong>Wayne</strong> <strong>Barker</strong> is Supa Boring… NOT!<br />

<strong>Wayne</strong>’s infectious personality and larger than life persona<br />

attracts attention and he never fails to entertain. <strong>Barker</strong><br />

constantly seems to reinvent himself to remain relevant.<br />

The same applies to his artwork.<br />

As <strong>Wayne</strong> put it himself, when I commented on his work<br />

being boring – He replied; “yes I know, don’t worry, I always<br />

cheer them up at the end”.<br />

In the current exhibition <strong>Wayne</strong> has extended this<br />

notion of ‘boring art’ to the enduring reluctance of the<br />

South African art market to venture forth from the safe<br />

haven of Pre-War Modernism and its failure to embrace<br />

contemporary art.<br />

<strong>Wayne</strong> <strong>Barker</strong> hails from the late eighties and is<br />

an important fi gure in the Protest Art movement. He is<br />

representative of a generation of young artists who broke<br />

with convention and paved the way for a new contemporary<br />

era in South Africa. From the outset, he was rebellious,<br />

belligerent, agitative and confrontational. He took on the<br />

art establishment, the media and the state in repeated<br />

“interventions” and acts of defi ance which attracted<br />

attention and earned him the notoriety which would<br />

characterize his colourful and unconventional career. As a<br />

multi-media artist, deconstruction and subversion underpin<br />

his unique brand of expressionist, conceptual Afro-Pop.<br />

Despite a seemingly chaotic and self-destructive lifestyle,<br />

<strong>Barker</strong>’s art remains current, intriguing, challenging and<br />

ultimately; beautiful.<br />

<strong>SUPER</strong> <strong>BORING</strong><br />

By Baylon Sandri<br />


12<br />


<strong>Wayne</strong> <strong>Barker</strong> in Venice | 2009<br />

Arriving again in Venice unoffi cially, offi cially invited, I<br />

realised that living in Africa has a certain charm and a sense<br />

of necessity. The night before I left I watched the history of<br />

the Congo which was an insightful piece of info to arrive<br />

in Europe with, at an art show of international acclaim. I<br />

realized how tired most of the international art can be and<br />

how up its own revisionist arsehole it can be.<br />

We started by looking for the space where our exhibition<br />

was housed. This took an entire day but during the day we<br />

saw all the exhibitions being installed and all the artists<br />

could be spotted a mile away, they had been invited by their<br />

country and were feeling on top of the world. I, coming from<br />

the so-called bottom of the world, started feeling more and<br />

more frustrated, as usual we were doing it for ourselves;<br />

carrying boxes of invites and paintings to our venue, while<br />

our ministers were probably sipping champagne in faulty<br />

palaces around the world unaware of the importance of<br />

Arts and Culture in South Africa and the strength thereof,<br />

let alone the fi nancial spin-offs and oblivious to the cultural<br />

importance to represent the diverse visual art works that<br />

are being produced here in SA today.<br />

The stereotypical views about Africa are rife and many<br />

an artist in South Africa is dealing with this ‘poor cousin’<br />

concept, that we are naïve and the art produced here is<br />

less important on a global level. This by the way is bollocks<br />

because the work produced here is challenging for sure<br />

and often deals with relevant issues globally and locally<br />

with a degree of freshness and brutal honesty.<br />

While dealing with my frustrations and the unbelievable<br />

charm of Venice in usual African style, we realised that<br />

since we had travelled half way across the globe we might<br />

as well make the best of the moment. It was now time to<br />


DEARTH IN VENICE By <strong>Wayne</strong> <strong>Barker</strong><br />

clandestinely give the biggest art collectors our invites and<br />

press release. The sky was full of jets and planes, landing<br />

to bring people to this art extravaganza. The who’s who in<br />

the international art fraternity were descending in private<br />

planes and boats like the sardine run in KwaZulu-Natal.<br />

Our fi rst target was a little hidden bar called Harry’s<br />

Bar where the famous Bellini drink was invented. Walking<br />

in sober was maybe a little ambitious, as sitting with his<br />

entourage was the biggest art collector, Henri Pinault. After<br />

downing two Bellini’s, I muscled my way to his table and<br />

introduced myself and invited the table to our exhibition<br />

called ‘Languages of the World’, he almost didn’t know<br />

where SA is, again I felt the frustration of being an artist in<br />

SA. I left the little bar and consoled myself with my cognac<br />

from my faithful hip-fl ask, looking at the grand canal<br />

glowing in the Venetian light, I was so embarrassed that I<br />

felt like jumping in and swimming home and only making<br />

wooden sculptures from now on! Our second target was<br />

the notorious Bauer Hotel where the artists and patrons<br />

hang out and drink champagne, fl aunting their egos and<br />

arrogance; I suppose that comes with the territory? So we<br />

started meeting people and inviting them to our exhibition.<br />

Two out of ten people would give it more than 5 seconds<br />

attention and the others would throw it back in our faces.<br />

This made me consult my hip fl ask with a vengeance and<br />

I thought to myself; who are these people anyway? We all<br />

on this sinking island together exhibiting our work, with this<br />

newfound freedom and realization I was able to meet some<br />

fun people in the greater Art world, What a pretentious lot.<br />

The next morning I woke up in the Bauer Hotel next to a tall<br />

blonde stranger, a curator and a buyer of contemporary art,<br />

on the fl oor were dresses that looked like they had been<br />

fl own in from Pep stores in Africa.<br />

<strong>SUPER</strong> <strong>BORING</strong><br />


14<br />


Erratum | 2009 | digital print on card | 15 x 11 cm<br />

I sheepishly left and looking into the shop windows I<br />

spotted my friends frocks… just one of them would have<br />

paid for the entire SA exhibition (not quite) to be in Venice.<br />

Fuck, the Ministry of Arts and Culture should up their game,<br />

I thought, and sat on a bridge with a post-coital cigarette<br />

and laughed and cried, until the realisation kicked in, to<br />

go to the exhibition space and see if the work was up and<br />

lighting had been sorted out. At our exhibition I found a<br />

grumpy Baylon putting up the works of Kay Hassan. We<br />

worked for two days and were happy with the way our<br />

work was hanging in Venice... with this behind us we could<br />

continue our work to pull guests to our show, of course<br />

Harry’s Bar and the Bauer Hotel became our frequent<br />

haunts. Also we were invited to different countries’ parties,<br />

which were a representation of their food and drink and<br />

wine, fun was had by all. But again sunny South Africa<br />

was not present.<br />

As we settled into the rhythm of the situation we<br />

realised our exhibit was a minute away from Yoko Ono’s<br />

exhibit, this was unexpected and we knew that we were in<br />

a good spot, of course we met her and gave her the press<br />

release. Now that we had worked on the publicity I was<br />

ready to view the artworks from the different countries and<br />

the main show called; Making Worlds.<br />

There was some powerful work from the different<br />

pavilions and some that was very disappointing. On the<br />

other hand, the main show on Making Worlds got me<br />

thinking about what in the world was the curator on about<br />

and why did he not take a trip to sunny South Africa and<br />

do some research. This gave me the idea to exhibit on<br />

his show in the room dealing with the fl uxus movement. I<br />

photographed the labels of the offi cial artists and replicated<br />

the label with my text (see opposite page).<br />

I decided to buy a Prada suit and go to the show<br />

again and place my work in the main exhibit. I was a little<br />

nervous, but needed to make this statement. The work is<br />

still up, so I am starting to feel a bit like a selected artist.<br />

Eventually I had to leave and on my way out of town I<br />

noticed people reading small leafl ets, handed out as they<br />

bought their Vaporetto tickets. I saw them looking at the<br />

illustrations of our South African work and later discovered<br />

that our curator had managed to distribute 500 000 of<br />

these brochures via the public transport network. Mission<br />

accomplished.<br />

I was itching to get back and start producing – whilst<br />

listening to Charles Aznavour crooning about how sad<br />

Venice is….<br />

(This piece, in a slightly different format, was published in S.A. Art Times shortly after<br />

<strong>Wayne</strong> <strong>Barker</strong> returned from Venice.)<br />

<strong>SUPER</strong> <strong>BORING</strong><br />


16<br />

There’s an anecdote about <strong>Wayne</strong> <strong>Barker</strong> as a student responding to an assignment<br />

to sculpt extensions of the body. He dressed up as his lecturer, Neville Dubow, and got<br />

students to throw tennis balls at him. <strong>Barker</strong> explained that he was ‘making a tennis court<br />

of his body’. Amongst all the myths, true or false, about <strong>Barker</strong>’s work and life, I think this<br />

one captures something of the place <strong>Wayne</strong>’s body occupies in his work, or the way his<br />

work is embodied in his life. The rebelliousness to structure and authority in his work is also<br />

played out on his own body. (Dubow was devastated.)<br />



<strong>Wayne</strong> has been recalling how I, as his art history lecturer at Michaelis, once covered<br />

an essay of his with detailed comments in red, with the tetchy remark that ‘this is not a<br />

nursery school’. I recall that essay very clearly; one of hundreds that I marked over some<br />

eight years. <strong>Wayne</strong> wrote his essay with a very blunt pencil with many crossings-outs on<br />

a single sheet of lined A4 paper that looked as if the cat had slept on it. It was incoherent<br />

and barely legible; enough to make any teacher’s heart sink with despair. ‘Was this an<br />

intended insult to me?’, I thought. I bristled and picked up my red pen and thought, ‘well,<br />

stuff him, if he’s not taking his art history seriously, I will show him that I at least do, and<br />

that I will evaluate and correct every single jot in his effort in<br />

huge detail’.<br />

It took me ages, and I ended up with this now-legendary sea of correction and<br />

commentary in teacher’s red. I suppose that any other half-sane lecturer wouldn’t have<br />

spent half a second on it, but I thought my own mad gesture back at him might make him<br />

think a bit. I thought he didn’t really give a tinker’s curse about art history, but then years<br />

later he started to toy with it in his Pierneef series, with his own quirky and ahistorical<br />

assertion that Pierneef was to him the ‘fi rst Pop artist’.<br />

He left Michaelis, his energy and seeming madness refusing to be guided, channeled,<br />

corrected or shaped by means of formal education. But now I hear of him warmly recalling<br />

this incident, and that I in fact earned a measure of his respect. He failed of course and I<br />

thought that I had also failed him somehow, but there was little I could do to prevent this.<br />

His irrepressible artistic energy fl ourished without the formalities of a Michaelis education<br />

in art. I no longer think that I failed him, or that he in fact ultimately failed. I made an<br />

impression on him, and he continues to make an artistic impression on the world, and<br />

that’s what counts. It’s gratifying to feel that I played a small part in that.<br />


<strong>SUPER</strong> <strong>BORING</strong><br />


18<br />

My work is commenting on society, it is about identity – where do I come from<br />

because I am white? But I am an African. So it deals with universal issues. The inspiration<br />

comes from a country that is very fucked up, because the morality of the country is weird.<br />

So my work deals with that, but I also like to have fun, so some of the work has a<br />

sense of humor sometimes, sometimes not.<br />


WAYNE BARKER, 2004<br />

Heart of Darkness | 2002 | oil and neon tubing on canvas | 180 x 180 cm<br />

<strong>SUPER</strong> <strong>BORING</strong><br />


Performance | 1997<br />



AS NAKED SUBJECT By Simon Njami<br />

I was wondering about what to write when asked to contribute to this volume. Personally,<br />

I didn’t want to fall into the classical, intellectual analysis of pieces, deconstructing the<br />

why and how of an artistic process. Others, I am sure, will take that to task. After having<br />

given it some thought, I realized that there was only one way for me to fulfil my task:<br />

to focus on <strong>Wayne</strong> <strong>Barker</strong>. Twenty-five years of artistic practice is not accidental. A<br />

quarter of a century. It was worth a celebration.<br />

The fi rst time I met <strong>Wayne</strong> <strong>Barker</strong>, almost twenty years ago, he was one of the angry kids on the South African art<br />

scene. I was working on an issue of the magazine I was then editing, Revue Noire. Editing that issue dedicated to South<br />

Africa was not an easy task. The 1994 democratic elections had yet to come, and the country was struggling with a<br />

recent history that would take more than a Truth and Reconciliation Act to overcome. It was the fi rst time our editorial<br />

team was forced to pay attention to race – where our freedom was limited by the will to give an equal treatment to each<br />

and everyone. Historically, many white South African artists attended art schools. Some were even able to attend some<br />

schools out of the country. As for black artists, the story was different, and we had to take that into consideration. All of<br />

a sudden, we were confronted with – what W.E.B. DuBois called in the beginning of the 20 th century – the question of<br />

colour. Up until then, nothing was important but the artist’s work. Now everything else became important.<br />

When I heard of an artist who deliberately confronted those boundaries to call their bluff, I could not help but ask who<br />

that person was. In the political correctness of a healing nation, who could dare to address the absolute taboo? It was in<br />



1992. His name was <strong>Wayne</strong> <strong>Barker</strong>. He became the black<br />

sheep in the system, because he entered an art contest<br />

as a black artist. Would he have lost; the question would<br />

have been forgotten. But he won. And by his gesture,<br />

he unveiled the unsaid within South African politics. He<br />

revealed the absurdity of a country that would pretend that<br />

its peoples had equal opportunities, and at the same time,<br />

would favour those who suffered from the iniquities of the<br />

apartheid regime. Many of the hatred and the different<br />

refl ections that this act provoked was not based only<br />

on cold blooded reactions, but on the fear that all of a<br />

sudden, all the strategies that were being built were taking<br />

the wrong direction. <strong>Wayne</strong> <strong>Barker</strong> became scandalous.<br />

And what I am interested in here is to analyse the very<br />

nature of this status.<br />

Later on in 1997, the exhibition Fin de Siècle took<br />

place in Nantes, France. It was the time when South Africa<br />

was fashionable and when countries that closed their eyes<br />

during the racist era and continued to do business with the<br />

previous political dispensation were seeking redemption.<br />

South Africa was indeed in fashion and <strong>Wayne</strong> <strong>Barker</strong><br />

did it again. Bored by the exoticism and clichés of the<br />

show selected from Africa, he spontaneously took off his<br />

clothes and covered his body with chocolate mousse, he<br />

then went and sat in front of a piano and started playing<br />

one of his own compositions. During the performance,<br />

his French girlfriend licked the mousse from his body.<br />

<strong>Wayne</strong> was almost expelled from the theatre. He would<br />

later compare and dedicate his chocolate performance<br />

act to John Lee Hooker, Joseph Beuys, Pierre Manzonnie,<br />

Gilbert and George. This list doesn’t need any comment.<br />

<strong>Barker</strong> referenced his role models very carefully since all<br />

these guys were “scandalous” in their times. Not to pose<br />

their act as an attitude, on the contrary. The simple fact<br />

for them was that to be who they were, was enough to<br />

create that uneasiness around them. They didn’t see their<br />

art as a mere commodity, but as daily engagement. They<br />

were art as well. Were they always right is not here the<br />

problem. The problem is in the way they were regarded by<br />

conservative societies.<br />

22<br />


This is where the scandal lies. Forged at the heart<br />

of the Judeo-Christian religion, scandal is a chaste and<br />

hypocritical veil which we cast over anything we do<br />

not want to see or hear. Christ himself made no bones<br />

about it, telling his disciples not to fl ee scandal but even<br />

sometimes to seek it out. In those troubled times, the<br />

mere mention of His name incurred the direst penalties.<br />

Assimilating scandal to shamelessness, as bourgeois<br />

society did was another form of avoidance. So <strong>Wayne</strong><br />

could have dedicated his ‘chocolate’ performance work to<br />

Jesus too… Those who have chosen the intangible path<br />

of creation could not mirror the society against which they<br />

were forced to rebel.<br />

It takes time to become an artist, to master the skill of<br />

a business where nothing is planned, where success and<br />

fame cannot be predicted. Hence the very question: for<br />

whom are we making art? <strong>Wayne</strong> <strong>Barker</strong> is certainly a true<br />

artist, in the classic sense, because he decided to work for<br />

himself, regardless of current tendencies and fashions.<br />

He has chosen to walk naked in the middle of the blind<br />

alleys of art, establishing no barriers between his work and<br />

himself, and therefore, fulfi lling the wish of the French critic<br />

Pierre Restany who, in 1969, was complaining about what<br />

art had become in Europe. I am tempted here to use the<br />

term avant-garde, in the same sense that Restany put it:<br />

“The idea of the work we have assumed, of attaining a<br />

self-defi nition of the avant-garde, implies a basic postulate:<br />

art is solely a phenomenon of language. Language, man’s<br />

expression of thought, is living matter. There are moments<br />

when the oscillatory movement of art becomes blocked.<br />

Art seems to have lost the internal elements of its own<br />

contradiction. It seems to have separated itself from life.”<br />

For better or worse, <strong>Wayne</strong> <strong>Barker</strong> has decided never<br />

to surrender to the force of morality, good taste, gentry,<br />

social codes. And that’s what makes him who he his.<br />

War | oil on canvas | 118.5 x 118.5 cm<br />

<strong>SUPER</strong> <strong>BORING</strong><br />


24<br />


MOVING PICTURES By Andrew Lamprecht<br />

<strong>Wayne</strong> <strong>Barker</strong>’s life is a conglomeration of stories, events, anecdotes and interventions.<br />

It is also a life of art.<br />

<strong>Barker</strong> the artist does not stop as he steps away from the easel but rather seeps into the way that he lives his life, as<br />

he approaches his surroundings and interacts with those around him. Echoing the great art patron the Marchesa Casati,<br />

he could declare that his life, like much of his work, is his art.<br />

Even a casual perusal of the published archive of his career spanning almost three decades will show up numerous<br />

inconsistencies, contradictions, chronological impossibilities and other thorns in the lush biography of his life. <strong>Barker</strong><br />

himself contributes to this with his own yarns and self-refl ections that are frequently at odds with what others who were<br />

integral in his life at the time recall. This is part of <strong>Wayne</strong>’s own mythos and is a vital element in his own self-making and<br />

identity as an artist. These layers of fables, half-remembered vignettes and embellished narratives create a canvas as<br />

rich and multi-layered as any of his paintings. He is no liar but rather a consummate fashioner of a truth that is more real<br />

than any dry recitation of ‘facts’ could be. Just as his artworks show a deeper reality through their selective portrayal of<br />

what the artist sees.<br />

Nonetheless there is something profoundly authentic in all that <strong>Barker</strong> does and I doubt if even his fi ercest critics<br />

could accuse him of being insincere. He has lived (and continues to live) a rich, almost fantastical, life: one that to a large<br />

extent he has created himself, fashioned according to his whims and conscience and one that he is deeply committed<br />

to. He is an artist, and this fact colours all that follows.<br />

<strong>SUPER</strong> <strong>BORING</strong><br />



A paper structure is turning as if by its own volition in the centre of a darkened room.<br />

It has been torn and ripped and through the gashes another cube of paper can be<br />

seen, its surface also gashed and pierced. Upon this revolving screen two moving<br />

images are projected, their subject hard to discern due to their projection on a damaged<br />

surface. In the background, Bob Dylan’s song ‘Knocking on Heaven’s Door’ can be<br />

heard, sometimes louder and then sometimes softer than the overlay of other voices,<br />

taken from an archive of historical media recordings. Around this three-dimensional<br />

kaleidoscope is a circular barrier of salt, preventing direct access other than watching<br />

and listening.<br />

Memory / Erasure, produced in collaboration with<br />

Joelle Chesselet, begins with a picture of <strong>Wayne</strong> as a<br />

young boy, dressed up as a cowboy in his family home<br />

in Valhalla. This soon fades and is replaced by a series of<br />

horrifi c documentary pictures refl ecting the violence and<br />

horror of apartheid’s State of Emergency, especially insofar<br />

as its military aspects went. The other projection opens<br />

with the signboard on Robben Island that ironically faces<br />

Table Mountain (though this is not visible from the angle<br />

<strong>Barker</strong> chooses). Soon this image is replaced by a video<br />

of the sea, as a ferry approaches – though never reaches<br />

– Robben Island. Robben Island has a special signifi cance<br />

for <strong>Barker</strong>. His formative years and early adulthood almost<br />

exactly coincide with the period that Nelson Mandela and<br />

26<br />


other political prisoners spent there. His birth year, 1963,<br />

was also that of the Rivonia trial and one in which Hendrik<br />

Verwoerd was cementing his apartheid policy. 1<br />

Thus we may see this work as being a personal<br />

refl ection on <strong>Barker</strong>’s early years – and what might have<br />

been had he not been discharged from the army – as much<br />

as a statement on general history itself. Signifi cantly his<br />

original discharge document is surreptitiously included in<br />

the space the installation occupies.<br />

1 Referenced explicitly in Yesterday, Today and<br />

Tomorrow in the ‘Rock ‘n’ Roll’ series.<br />

Memory / Erasure | 2009 | video installation<br />

<strong>SUPER</strong> <strong>BORING</strong><br />


28<br />


<strong>Wayne</strong> Cahill <strong>Barker</strong> was born in 1963 in<br />

Valhalla, south of Pretoria, a suburb populated<br />

by military families and employees<br />

of parastatals. The men in his family had<br />

strong ties to the South African Airforce<br />

and his father only made a sideways step<br />

when he later joined the governmentowned<br />

South African Airways. <strong>Barker</strong><br />

grew up in an environment in which the<br />

apartheid Defence Force was admired<br />

and even idolised. As he innocently spent<br />

his formative years there, Valhalla was a<br />

base for military actions against Angola,<br />

Mozambique and its own black population<br />

in the townships. 1<br />

In 1976, when he was in Standard six, <strong>Barker</strong> was<br />

arrested for buying dagga. That was also the year that<br />

other school children would be arrested – and killed – for<br />

defying apartheid education. Forced to leave his school,<br />

he absconded to Nature’s Valley, in search of freedom,<br />

becoming a woodcarver’s apprentice. Eight months later<br />

he came home to Pretoria and made contact with his<br />

parents once more. 2 <strong>Wayne</strong> <strong>Barker</strong> the rebel, the reprobate<br />

and the anti-authoritarian was fully formed and a sense of<br />

alienation (from society and his family) had begun to form<br />

that would infl uence his work forever afterwards.<br />

More than this however was a growing realisation that<br />

things were somehow not right around him. Even before<br />

his teens, he had witnessed brutality and oppression<br />

against those who had a different skin colour to him<br />

and had realised that the fact that white and black were<br />

treated differently and kept apart was not only abnormal:<br />

it was unjust. This, and his articulation of his opinions, far<br />

more than any ‘rebellious’ bad boy misdemeanours would<br />

1 Blignaut, Charl, in Atkinson, Brenda (ed.), <strong>Wayne</strong><br />

<strong>Barker</strong>: Artist’s Monograph. [S.l.]: Chalkham Hill Press &<br />

the French Institute of South Africa, 2000, p. 9.<br />

2 Blignaut, op. cit., p. 13.<br />

gradually cause an insurmountable rift between him and<br />

his father.<br />

After fi nishing his schooling at Capital College he<br />

spent a year at Pretoria Tech as an art student, gulping<br />

up information from art history books as eagerly as he<br />

tooled himself with practical skills. 3 After one year under<br />

the watchful eye of his parents he fl ed to the Michaelis<br />

School of Fine Art at UCT, where his cousin, Brett Murray,<br />

was already enrolled. He spent two tumultuous years there<br />

simultaneously impressing and outraging his lecturers<br />

with his commitment to painting and his ever-growing<br />

resistance to authority. It was to be his diffi culties with<br />

his beloved art history that was to prove his undoing at<br />

that institution. After bad marks in that subject, his father<br />

decided to withdraw him from his studies. It was time to<br />

go to war. He had different ideas, however, and spent<br />

two weeks feigning insanity once called up to do basic<br />

training in the army. Declared mentally unfi t he was soon<br />

discharged from National Service, a relief for <strong>Barker</strong> but the<br />

fi nal straw as far as his family was concerned. Disgraced<br />

in their eyes and not welcome to stay in their home, he<br />

turned to the big city, leaving for Johannesburg. It was the<br />

birth of <strong>Wayne</strong> <strong>Barker</strong> the independent artist.<br />

3 Ibid.<br />

<strong>SUPER</strong> <strong>BORING</strong><br />


30<br />


In 1985 I was conscripted to do my National Service – in a way to be initiated as white<br />

male into manhood. But I decided – no way am I going to partake in this rubbish.<br />

I saw the army as a treadmill, and in a way I think it was almost like a shongololo –<br />

this small shongololo with a thousand feet and a thousand boots and I did not want to be<br />

another one of the thousand boots that was going to go into a township and randomly<br />

shoot at victims and shacks.<br />

I convinced this machine that I was a mad individual. So for fourteen days I marched<br />

like Charlie Chaplin. I was the “fokken engelsman”. I was quite diffi cult, but in fact it was<br />

quite hilarious.<br />

I had been given the certifi cate to say that I was mentally and physically unable to<br />

partake in this Military Service.<br />

WAYNE BARKER, 1992<br />

<strong>SUPER</strong> <strong>BORING</strong><br />



The ‘Legends’ series deals with individuals. Personally<br />

signifi cant to the artist, they also resonate in the history of<br />

South Africa. As ‘household names’ they have lost some of<br />

their individuality and have become ciphers for a passage<br />

in South Africa’s story that they infl uenced, precipitated or<br />

described. Nevertheless, behind the familiar face and the<br />

name attached to it lies an individual life, far richer, more<br />

complex and nuanced than the invariable one liner that it<br />

evokes. While <strong>Wayne</strong> <strong>Barker</strong> is undoubtedly referencing<br />

their contributions to our history, he also appears<br />

to be demanding that we look beyond their obvious<br />

achievements to the personality that produced them. In<br />

titling this series ‘Legends’ it seems that he is reminding<br />

us that a legend loses its grip on the reality that produced<br />

it by being told too many times and by having too much<br />

erased (or conveniently forgotten) that confl icts with the<br />

‘offi cial’ story being told.<br />

32<br />


For <strong>Barker</strong> the reason why they are remembered is the<br />

fact that they challenged the system in one way or another,<br />

This defi ance, be it of the system or of the conditions they<br />

found themselves in, is what draws him to his subjects and<br />

underpinning each painting as a process of research into<br />

their lives. Each work is his personal take on their actions<br />

for change or reform. These are his legends and he has<br />

created a tableau in which their need to act, their refusal<br />

to accept injustice and their desire to better that which<br />

is around them are what engages him. When he speaks<br />

of his ‘legends’ he does so with genuine affection and<br />

admiration. I suspect he sees them as fellow-strugglers<br />

against injustice and this comradery evokes a playful<br />

familiarity which sees C.J. Langenhoven, author of Die<br />

Stem, facing-off against Enoch Sontonga, author of Nkosi<br />

Sikelel i’Africa, in Duel. The punning title has as much to<br />

do with them fi ghting it out, High Noon style, as it does to<br />

their dual role as authors of our current national anthem.<br />

CBS News - 1990: Walter Sisulu | 2010 | mixed media and neon tubing on canvas | 138 x 138 cm<br />

<strong>SUPER</strong> <strong>BORING</strong><br />


Accompanying each portrait is a small sculpture<br />

(commissioned from friend Richard Chauke and made to<br />

<strong>Barker</strong>’s design) which dialogues with the legend of the<br />

subject. In some cases this is playful, as when a robin<br />

is placed with Nelson Mandela, a pun on Robben Island<br />

(rather than a literally correct, seal, the Dutch word for<br />

which the island is named) but also, according to <strong>Barker</strong><br />

as a way of respectfully humbling Madiba: the bird can<br />

always take fl ight. (The wooden base upon which the bird<br />

sits is in fact the Island). In other cases the sculpture is<br />

dramatic and powerful, such as a burning passbook for<br />

Walter Sisulu. A neon sign burns bright over all, a word<br />

that ties the two together, harmonising the composition<br />

and advertising what they stand for as much as resolving<br />

dualities in their nature.<br />

34<br />


Much of <strong>Barker</strong>’s work has dealt, in one way or another,<br />

with the subject of history, especially that of South Africa’s<br />

colonial and apartheid past. In ‘Legends’ this history is<br />

personalised through specifi c individuals who symbolise<br />

and embody something greater than their own role in that<br />

history. They are the accessible and well-known fi gureheads<br />

who represent many others, and the less familiar,<br />

who shared the same struggles, achievements or qualities.<br />

<strong>Barker</strong>’s legends are legendary for a reason – they<br />

are exceptional – but they also crystallise and concentrate<br />

tendencies latent in everyone and present and activated in<br />

many others. In this sense he democratises history even<br />

as he places one or another individual on a pedestal.<br />

Siel: Nelson Mandela | 2010 | mixed media and neon tubing on canvas | 138 x 138 cm<br />

<strong>SUPER</strong> <strong>BORING</strong><br />


36<br />

Woman’s Country: J. Hlungwane | 2010 | mixed media and neon tubing on canvas | 138 x 138 cm<br />


High Noon: Enoch and Langenhoven | 2010 | mixed media and neon tubing on canvas | 138 x 138 cm<br />

<strong>SUPER</strong> <strong>BORING</strong><br />



It is worth noting that there are three sculptures in<br />

the Legends series that refer to books: Walter Sisulu,<br />

Antjie Krog and Sontonga/Langenhoven. In 2002 <strong>Barker</strong><br />

exhibited a body of work entitled Erratum which utilised<br />

discarded books covered with white wax stapled to board.<br />

For the artist this wax was symbolic of healing as well<br />

38<br />


as embalming. On each book little fi gures were placed<br />

which had been sourced from Minitown, an amusement<br />

park for kids that showed the various different cultures in<br />

South Africa. Thus <strong>Barker</strong> saw his intermingling of groups<br />

separated by apartheid even in the fantasy world of<br />

Minitown as an act of healing and reconciliation.<br />

Poles Apart | 2004 | mixed media on found object | 24 x 36 cm<br />

Book Wax Work | 2002 | mixed media on canvas | 119 x 93.5 cm<br />

<strong>SUPER</strong> <strong>BORING</strong><br />


40<br />

I take the books and I take out the knowledge. Covering them in bee’s wax. It is<br />

almost like healing – I am healing this thing in a spiritual way.<br />

There has to be a new knowledge coming. There are just colours, and a little bit of<br />

text, but it doesn’t add a meaning to the work.<br />

The meaning is in fact the recycled books.<br />


WAYNE BARKER, 2004<br />

@africa.com | 2001 | found object and oil on canvas with recycled books | 200 x 400 cm<br />

World’s Apart | 2004 | mixed media | 27 x 17 cm<br />

Fade to Grey | 2004 | mixed media | 25 x 17 cm<br />

<strong>SUPER</strong> <strong>BORING</strong><br />



Healing has been a central theme for <strong>Barker</strong> for<br />

many years. Along with his under-recognised social<br />

responsiveness this can be seen very clearly in The<br />

Bees, the Beekeeper, the Children and the Artist (2007-<br />

2008). Submitted as his work as a fi nalist in the Sasol<br />

Wax Awards (won in that year by Walter Oltman) the fi nal<br />

work presented was underpinned by a complex process<br />

of collaboration and community engagement that would<br />

have ramifi cations lasting long beyond the duration of the<br />

exhibition of the works. Beginning with a workshop with<br />

underprivileged kids that <strong>Barker</strong> encountered in Troyeville<br />

he had the children trace their hands (and other symbolic<br />

42<br />


drawings produced) on pieces of paper. These drawings<br />

were then taken into the fi eld with a beekeeper and the<br />

children cut the traced images out of active combs and<br />

then replaced them in the hives. Over the weeks the bees<br />

worked to rebuild the missing areas of their hives but the<br />

scar made by the incision led to the new area formed on<br />

the comb being constructed from wax cells of a different<br />

colour and texture to the original. Clearly referencing the<br />

legacy of damage and the process of healing, the reformed<br />

hives became an integral part of multi-media panels that<br />

<strong>Barker</strong> created as a series.<br />

Start Dreaming | 2007 | mixed media | diptych | 244 x 245 cm<br />

<strong>SUPER</strong> <strong>BORING</strong><br />


44<br />

Heal (Hebrew) | 2007 | beeswax, paraffin wax, oil paint, neon tubing, paper | 140 x 80 cm<br />


Heal (English) | 2007 | beeswax, paraffin wax, oil paint, neon tubing, paper | 140 x 80 cm<br />

<strong>SUPER</strong> <strong>BORING</strong><br />


<strong>SUPER</strong> <strong>BORING</strong><br />

<strong>Wayne</strong> <strong>Barker</strong> has always situated himself in an ambivalent position to the established<br />

art world. On one hand the ultimate art insider, knowing ‘everyone who’s anyone’ and<br />

comfortably chatting to the superstars in Harry’s Bar during the vernissage of the Venice<br />

Biennale, on the other frequently resisting gallery representation and quarrelling<br />

with established art institutions.<br />

‘Super Boring’ can be interpreted as a critique on a<br />

South African art culture that sees collector-investors prepared<br />

to spend millions on an Irma Stern or Maggie Laubser<br />

(or even a Tretchikoff) artwork but which shies away<br />

from buying young or even ‘mid-career’ artists’ work at a<br />

fraction of the price. ‘Why the difference?’ he seems to ask,<br />

‘What makes their decades-old work so desirable while<br />

contemporary production is not?’ Could it be in the eye of<br />

the beholder? Or in their wallet and balanced portfolios? If<br />

it’s in the eye then the fact that he has painted upon copies<br />

of the recent auction record breakers, rendered in oils<br />

as they would be seen by someone with colour-blindness<br />

would see them, may give us a clue to his intentions.<br />

46<br />


Each of these ‘masterpieces’ has been augmented<br />

by his own painterly marks and branded in his signature<br />

neon with the phrase ‘super boring’. Given <strong>Barker</strong>’s love<br />

for South African art history and his profound respect for<br />

artists of the past 1 it seems unlikely that he is applying this<br />

epithet to the works themselves so much as to the people<br />

and institutions that keep their prices and resultant ‘value’<br />

at so far a remove from what is being produced today.<br />

1 For example he co-curated (with Dr. Fred Scott)<br />

Modern and Contemporary Art: Then Now and Beyond in<br />

2008 at Polokwane Art Museum. The exhibition featured 41<br />

‘old masters’ (including Maggie Laubser and J.H. Pierneef)<br />

alongside 26 contemporary artists.<br />

Colour Country | 2010 | mixed media and neon tubing on canvas | 122.5 x 107 cm<br />

<strong>SUPER</strong> <strong>BORING</strong><br />


In previous projects one can also detect a criticism of<br />

‘the arts establishment’. For example FIG (Famous International<br />

Gallery), founded by <strong>Barker</strong> along with Gunther<br />

Herbst and Morris La Mantia in 1989, attempted to challenge<br />

the commercial gallery monopoly by creating a space<br />

which, though decidedly not-for-profi t, allowed artists to<br />

show and sell their works in a ‘neutral’ space outside of<br />

the established gallery system. This endeavour came from<br />

a sense that things were changing more generally in South<br />

48<br />


Africa, for by the late 1980s it was clear to anyone in South<br />

Africa with eyes in their head that political change was in<br />

the air. The exact form that this change would take, and<br />

when, were however still open questions. Alongside established<br />

artists who chose to show there rather than in a<br />

well-known gallery (for whatever reasons) FIG also showed<br />

artists who could not get a ‘break’ otherwise. Many of the<br />

‘household names’ of contemporary South African art today<br />

exhibited in this groundbreaking space.<br />

Installation View of Laager | 1995<br />

The decision to hold a biennale in Johannesburg in<br />

1995 was, for many, the most exciting thing that had ever<br />

happened in the living memory of fi ne arts in South Africa.<br />

The potential international exposure for local artists, coupled<br />

with the general euphoria of having a major art event<br />

just a year after Democracy, was a heady mix and <strong>Barker</strong><br />

stepped up to the plate with a bold and cheeky curatorial<br />

concept. With virtually no budget and lots of favours he<br />

managed to pull off what many considered the coup of<br />

the First Johannesburg Biennale; Laager. Utilizing 14 shipping<br />

containers in a circular structure echoing the laagers<br />

of the Voortrekkers was put in place at the very centre<br />

of Biennale activity. Fourteen artists were each given one<br />

container and the resultant installation was visually and<br />

conceptually challenging. By inviting only white artists to<br />

make up the encampment <strong>Barker</strong> was echoing the laagers<br />

of the past, and the associated mentality that is inward<br />

looking and defensive. The critics and public alike were<br />

entranced and Laager was invited to Santiago Museum of<br />

Contemporary Art in Chile with the costs paid for by the<br />

United Nations. This was a particularly important invitation<br />

as <strong>Barker</strong>, amongst many others, had been outspoken in<br />

his criticism of the South African Association of Artists’<br />

support for South African participation in exhibitions in<br />

Pinochet’s Chile.<br />

<strong>SUPER</strong> <strong>BORING</strong><br />


50<br />

<strong>Wayne</strong> <strong>Barker</strong>’s drive to make an art project happen has never been more evident<br />

than in his curatorial exercise, ‘Laager’. Not invited as a participant onto the 1 st<br />

Johannesburg Biennale in 1995, <strong>Barker</strong> contrived to place himself and thirteen other<br />

young artists at the dead centre of the offi cial Biennale events, somehow commandeering<br />

fourteen empty shipping containers and having them placed in an embattled circle midway<br />

between the MuseumAfrica and the Electric Workshop. Artists included himself, Brett<br />

Murray, Lisa Brice, Hentie van der Merwe and Kate Gottgens, one to each container.<br />

Acknowledged as a major attraction at the Biennale, ‘Laager’ drew an invitation for all the<br />

artists to exhibit in Chile the following year.<br />



When I fi rst met <strong>Wayne</strong> we were on our way to an exhibition and he was telling<br />

someone how he had been struggling all day on a painting which wasn’t working properly.<br />

I felt strangely comforted because I had only been painting for a while, and here was<br />

<strong>Wayne</strong> who was already famously famous for the FIG Gallery, et al., conferring to doubts<br />

and diffi culties not dissimilar to my own.<br />

After that initial meeting he invited us to one of his legendary dinners in Troyeville<br />

where he had a studio next to Bob’s Infamous Bar. We arrived to a long table laden with<br />

plates of prawns and overfl owing with bottles of wine. Jollility reigned and raucous it was,<br />

and that was the beginning of a long friendship….<br />

And now a decade later, after being so familiar with <strong>Wayne</strong>’s world, I look at the four<br />

paintings we have of his hanging on our wall at home and realize how amazingly talented<br />

he really is. His deep compassion and concern for humanity, a poetic vulnerability if you<br />

will, underpins I think the underlying quality in all of his work. He’s not afraid to express his<br />

pleasure or his pain, and that takes courage especially in today’s world where art can be<br />

so conceptual and where the idea behind the work has become more important than the<br />

feeling in the work itself.<br />


<strong>SUPER</strong> <strong>BORING</strong><br />


52<br />

It involved twins, I think, or sisters. It was long ago, 1989, or thereabouts. “That’s the<br />

guy,” someone said, pointing to <strong>Wayne</strong> in the foyer of the Wits Theatre. He was dating<br />

one of the twins, or sisters, possibly even both. The person narrating this story wasn’t<br />

sure – already then, fact and myth were blurred in the telling of <strong>Wayne</strong> <strong>Barker</strong>’s biography. I<br />

looked at <strong>Wayne</strong>, a rakish fi gure strutting about in loose-fi tting print shirt and fedora, with a<br />

mixture of terror and envy; rumour had it he also stripped naked at exhibitions.<br />

A year or two later, I can’t remember exactly when, I got to see him, <strong>Wayne</strong>, naked.<br />

It was at the Newlands Forest Reservoir. Hmm, I thought, looking not staring. The tattoo<br />

on his upper arm reminded me of the stock motifs on the walls of Alain’s tattoo shop in<br />

the underground fl ea market off Pretoria Street in Hillbrow – sailor chic, defi nitely pre-rave,<br />

not tribal. <strong>Wayne</strong> was with Karen then, an actress; he had left the twins. “Hello,” I said to<br />

the naked artist. “Hello,” replied <strong>Wayne</strong>. That’s all. By this time <strong>Wayne</strong> was an emerging<br />

somebody, almost a groot meneer, his name about to repurposed from a noun into a verb.<br />

In a dubious article about new South African vernaculars, a 1990s magazine journalist<br />

explained that saying “Let’s do a <strong>Wayne</strong> <strong>Barker</strong> tonight” meant something like “Let’s get<br />

roekeloos and fucked-up”. There was a lot of that going on in the 1990s, not all of it<br />

singularly attributable to <strong>Wayne</strong>.<br />


It is late night, very late night, quite possibly closer to morning in a Troyeville lounge<br />

decorated with one of <strong>Wayne</strong>’s neon colour-fi eld paintings. Two grown men, one a doctor,<br />

the other nominally an artist, are arguing in hisses and spits over the affections of the<br />

homeowner, a lawyer, a woman romantically linked to <strong>Wayne</strong>. Neither she nor <strong>Wayne</strong> is<br />

present; it is, in other words, a purely philosophical dispute over an absent subject. The<br />

traumatic reds of <strong>Wayne</strong>’s large-scale painting, erotic but violent, consummately dwarf<br />

the sad and petty argument. A couple months later, now an installation artist, <strong>Wayne</strong><br />

cobbled together a show for the FIG 2. One media predominated this work: <strong>Wayne</strong>’s shoe<br />

collection, which he lined-up in front of a pink elephant borrowed from a booze store on<br />

Commissioner Street. (Yes, it is the same pink elephant that fi red the imagination of Ivan<br />

Vladislavic: “A salesman buggering a pink elephant - excuse my Bulgarian - ,” reads the<br />

opening line of The Restless Supermarket). Thing is, this installation piece, I forgot its<br />

name, was a last-minute thing, dopey and stupid really; it lacked the conceptual clarity and<br />

fi nesse of <strong>Wayne</strong>’s contribution to the 1997 Johannesburg Biennale, that piece he titled<br />

The World is Flat. Working with old army browns, green bottles and neon, <strong>Wayne</strong> created a<br />

map of Africa. The work effortlessly reconciled the artist’s biography with his birth country’s<br />

history. I suppose this is the germane point in this rambling non sequitur: <strong>Wayne</strong>’s work,<br />

I’d argue, manifests as a frustrated argument with history and biography; sometimes it<br />

even achieves reconciliation. In this his work evidences a pointed ethical imperative, a fact<br />

routinely overlooked in biographical accounts about his louche morality and ribald habits.<br />

Congratulations, <strong>Wayne</strong>, on your twenty-fi fth birthday exhibition.<br />


The World is Flat | 1995/1997 | army uniforms, beer bottles and neon tube. Exhibition: Scurvy | 1995 | The Castle,<br />

Cape Town. Trade Routes – curated by Okwui Enwezor |1997 | 2 nd Johannesburg Biennale<br />

<strong>SUPER</strong> <strong>BORING</strong><br />


ROCK ‘n’ ROLL<br />

After decades of being central to (at least one part of)<br />

Johannesburg’s cultural mix, <strong>Barker</strong> shocked his friends<br />

(and probably Capetonians who knew him) by relocating<br />

to Cape Town in 2009. From this ‘emigration’ emerged a<br />

new body of work, closely related to what he had been<br />

producing in recent years from his Troyeville studio, but<br />

with a new and different energy and focus. Entitled the<br />

54<br />


‘Rock ‘n’ Roll’ paintings by the artist, they tend to be gestural,<br />

even angry compositions suffused with colour and<br />

visual noise. Like the musical genre that gives them their<br />

name, they are loud and brash and full of complex harmonies.<br />

Their scale is large, often being made up of multiple<br />

panels, but they also have an intimacy and quiet parts, as<br />

if they are a ballad.<br />

Nat en Koud | 2009 | oil and neon tubing on canvas | 200 x 200 cm<br />

<strong>SUPER</strong> <strong>BORING</strong><br />


In this series <strong>Barker</strong> has returned to using text, sometimes<br />

completely or partially erased, and sometimes so<br />

direct it seems to hit the viewer square between the eyes.<br />

Text has been a feature of <strong>Barker</strong>’s work since his fi rst<br />

solo show ‘Images on Metal’. His words take many forms:<br />

sometimes they are almost illegible scrawls painted directly<br />

on the canvas; sometimes they are stencilled or traced;<br />

at other times they are reproductions in bold typography<br />

culled from newspaper headlines. At their most glaring<br />

they are written in neon and broadcast themselves like a<br />

billboard advertisement. In whatever form they are always<br />

carefully chosen and reward careful study and consideration.<br />

While he frequently utilises puns and double enten-<br />

56<br />


dres it would be foolhardy to assume that his choice of<br />

words is glib. If there is a joke in the text, it is as likely<br />

as not a double-edged one. In Service Delivery ‘vaak en<br />

moeg’ is not only the Afrikaans for the expression for ‘sick<br />

and tired’ but also conceals a pun which in colloquial Afrikaans<br />

means ‘fucking tired’. While <strong>Barker</strong> asserts that this<br />

word directly references the physical condition of people<br />

in low-paid service jobs, it may not be stretching things<br />

too far to see something of a refl ection on his own condition<br />

when he arrived in Cape Town. It is as if he is saying<br />

that after his years of prolifi c and unceasing art making he<br />

needs a break but this sentiment is contradicted by the<br />

sheer energy of the painting taken as a whole.<br />

Vaak en Moeg | 2009 | oil and neon tubing on canvas | 200 x 200 cm<br />

<strong>SUPER</strong> <strong>BORING</strong><br />


58<br />


Untitled | 2009 | mixed media on canvas | 216 x 190 cm<br />

Untitled | 2009 | mixed media on canvas | 216 x 190 cm<br />

<strong>SUPER</strong> <strong>BORING</strong><br />



[T]hough they bring in Cubism and Futurism in highly original ways to suggest lines of<br />

force and tension in nature, J. H. Pierneef’s scenes of empty plains, blank mountains,<br />

and towering skies, painted in the 1920s, have had few imitators outside the realm of<br />

Kitsch, probably because of their tendency to heroicile the landscape. J.M. Coetzee 1<br />

J.H. Pierneef’s landscape paintings, especially those<br />

produced for the new Johannesburg Station inaugurated<br />

in 1932 and known as ‘The Station Panels’, have been a<br />

source of abiding interest for <strong>Wayne</strong> <strong>Barker</strong> since almost<br />

the beginning of his career. First appearing in the series<br />

‘Breaking Down the Wall’ in 1989 at FIG in Johannesburg<br />

and the Michaelis Gallery in Cape Town, these Pierneef<br />

paintings have recurred as a background that <strong>Barker</strong><br />

overlays with new elements whether in paint or with threedimensional<br />

objects. He has bound them in rope, affi xed<br />

found objects to them and reworked them in Photoshop.<br />

This continuing, almost constant, fascination demonstrates<br />

his concern with the South African landscape and perhaps<br />

even more importantly the people who populate it.<br />

The fact that Pierneef usually chose to present his<br />

landscapes as being devoid of evidence of human<br />

habitation (especially of the original Black inhabitants of<br />

the country) has led to considerable criticism from recent<br />

critics. Indeed it would appear that he is presenting a<br />

‘virgin’ landscape, ready for the taking by white settlers.<br />

60<br />


Pierneef’s landscapes are seen as prone and full of<br />

opportunities and he seems to have cultivated a blindness<br />

to the fact that settlement had taken place long before<br />

whites came on the scene. This has been interpreted as<br />

implicating his works in a white nationalist and colonialist<br />

programme, one made starkly real legislatively in the 1913<br />

Land Act. As N.J. Coetzee puts it: ‘The landscapes are<br />

an invitation, a reassurance and a promise: an invitation<br />

to take ownership because landscape is empty and<br />

therefore does not belong to anyone; reassuring because<br />

its aestheticizing distance means that it is frozen in time –<br />

eternally present as an Utopian ideal; a promise because,<br />

in its unexplored condition, it is the expectation of riches<br />

and potential – the sign of divine election.’ 21<br />

1 White Writing: On the Culture of Letters in<br />

South Africa. Braamfontein: Pentz publishers, 2007,<br />

p. 56. (fi rst published by Yale University Press in 1988).<br />

2 Pierneef, Land and Landscape: The Johannesburg<br />

Station Panels in Context. Fourways: CBM Publishing,<br />

1992, p. 25.<br />

The Epilogue is the Prologue<br />

and the Prologue is the Epilogue<br />

Series | 1992 | mixed media on<br />

canvas | 120 x 70 cm<br />

A Thing of Beauty is a Joy Forever (Pierneef Series) | 1986 - 2004 |<br />

oil on canvas with gold leaf spades<br />

<strong>SUPER</strong> <strong>BORING</strong><br />


Culturally charged objects, ranging from touristy African<br />

masks to artworks by other South African artists, are<br />

carefully arranged on the canvas to make symbolic connections<br />

between the various elements that lie on the surface<br />

of the canvas. This is another <strong>Wayne</strong> <strong>Barker</strong> trade-<br />

62<br />


mark. He has frequently broken the conventions of easel<br />

painting by either placing objects directly on the picture<br />

surface or even having created a small installation around<br />

the painting as in Alter Piece for Hope (1992) which won a<br />

merit prize in that year’s Volkskas l’Atelier Awards.<br />

Alter Piece for Hope | oil, bronze, metal, wood, glass and water | 100 x 200 cm<br />

A Spade is a Spade is a Spade | 1987 | found object and oil on canvas | 180 x 540 cm<br />

A noteworthy example of his technique of inclusion<br />

of objects on the surface of the work can be seen in A<br />

Spade is a Spade is a Spade (1989). Here he has vertically<br />

hung an actual spade (a recurring found object in his work<br />

at this time) in the centre of a reproduction of Pierneef’s<br />

Okahandja, S.W.A., one of two Namibian subjects in the<br />

Station Panels. Given South Africa’s subsequent refusal to<br />

relinquish power over this land this is a particularly charged<br />

Pierneef canvas. The spade seems about to violently gash<br />

into the land and <strong>Barker</strong>’s inclusion draws attention to a<br />

sexual reading of Pierneef’s original. It is as if the landscape<br />

has become a prone female form, her legs in the air and<br />

apart and the spade about to rape or defl ower her. Nothing<br />

could make the argument that Pierneef was presenting this<br />

landscape as a ‘virginal offering’ to white South Africa any<br />

clearer. But there is another inclusion on the canvas, almost<br />

invisible in reproduction: a bomb canister, camoufl aged<br />

by being painted to match the Pierneef image. Lurking<br />

behind this landscape, seemingly so helpless and prone,<br />

lies something explosive, hidden from ordinary view. It is<br />

worth noting that ‘spade’ is a derogatory word for a black<br />

person that could be heard at the time of the making of<br />

this work. In the three-fold repetition of ‘spade’ one is also<br />

reminded of Joseph Kosuth’s One and Three Chairs (1965),<br />

one of the defi nitive works of Conceptualism, and a work<br />

which, like so much of <strong>Barker</strong>’s oeuvre, asks questions of<br />

semiotic meaning.<br />

<strong>SUPER</strong> <strong>BORING</strong><br />


64<br />



Life is too short for regrets, but they are there and some of them will not let go. An<br />

invitation to contribute to this publication brought one such regret<br />

to the surface.<br />

It was early in my tenure as director of the South African National Gallery – some<br />

twenty years ago – that the curators and I visited an exhibition by <strong>Wayne</strong> <strong>Barker</strong> at the<br />

Michaelis Gallery. It was my fi rst exposure to a body of his work and I was bowled over,<br />

particularly by A spade is a spade is a spade (see p. 63), a work in which there was so<br />

much about the empty Pierneef landscapes and the labour that still brings riches to some<br />

and deprivation to most in this country.<br />

When acquiring works of art for a national collection one always has in the back<br />

of one’s mind the existing holdings, and there was an Untitled work by Lucas Seage,<br />

ca.1981, also containing a spade as found object. I thought that two would one day fi nd<br />

synergy in an exhibition.<br />

But it was not to be. We worked democratically, which is the only way in which<br />

acquisition for a national art collection should be made, and my colleagues were neither<br />

suitably impressed nor convinced that this was a desirable purchase. And it was not the<br />

only time, so I still have a few acquisition regrets lurking…<br />


Black Label | 1995 | found object and oil on canvas | 118 x 104 cm<br />

<strong>SUPER</strong> <strong>BORING</strong><br />


There can be no doubt that Pierneef held problematic<br />

and racist views. Despite an earlier sympathy for the value<br />

of Bushman painting, 1 he would write in the late 1930s ‘…<br />

if we had to adopt the idea of E[rich] M[ayer] to develop a<br />

style for Afrikaner art which is based on kaffi r art then we are<br />

lost. This is because kaffi r art must build up its own culture<br />

just as the white races.’ 2 This sentiment demonstrates<br />

that Pierneef held strong apartheid ideas long before their<br />

formal adoption as law under the Nationalist government.<br />

It is this reading of a sinister motive in Pierneef’s<br />

landscapes that <strong>Barker</strong> is addressing in his appropriation<br />

of that artist’s paintings for his own work. By deliberately<br />

reinserting that which Pierneef excluded and by contextualising<br />

the Station Panels with examples of the product of<br />

1 Coetzee, op. cit., p. 2.<br />

2 From a document quoted and dated by Coetzee,<br />

op. cit., p. 42 (Translation from Afrikaans by the present<br />

writer).<br />

66<br />


colonial and apartheid attitudes to land he goes beyond<br />

mere critique to an act that attempts to heal that which<br />

has been perpetrated in the past.<br />

Nevertheless there appears to be an affection for<br />

Pierneef that has crept upon <strong>Barker</strong> in recent years after<br />

decades of appropriation. His ligne clair 3 technique no<br />

doubt played its part in Pierneef’s commission for the<br />

Station Panels and this popular accessibility and his<br />

cartoon-like style echo <strong>Barker</strong>’s own unstuffy approach<br />

to art. He always took great pleasure in ordinary workers<br />

visiting his studio in Troyeville and fi nding an access point<br />

to his work in the OMO boxes, Boxer snuff tines and other<br />

elements of popular culture that <strong>Barker</strong> pioneered in South<br />

Africa in the late 1980s. As in his sometimes tempestuous<br />

personal relationships, even with Pierneef it seems that<br />

<strong>Barker</strong> cannot harbour a grudge for too long.<br />

3 Usually associated with Tintin artist Herge.<br />

The Karoo | 1989 | oil on canvas | 180 x 140 cm<br />

<strong>SUPER</strong> <strong>BORING</strong><br />


68<br />

I destroyed Apies River in a performance in a black working-class bar…<br />


WAYNE BARKER, 2002<br />

In <strong>Barker</strong>’s “Apies River” the landscape was fi rst roughly smudged out, then various organs and disembodied<br />

heads drawn over its surface. The cartoons look stressed out, they sweat and cry under halos of exclamation<br />

marks. A large saw with two heads sewn together at the mouth threatens the whole scene from above, and<br />

a large diamond pops out of a chute and rises into the middle of the picture. As in Basquiat’s art, these<br />

are very goofy looking images, claims <strong>Barker</strong>, but they are also quite heavy. They are images of pain and<br />

torture, murder, emasculation and a hard labour that bloodies the hand, pisses red, lobotomizes. In <strong>Barker</strong>’s<br />

grim view this beautiful South African landscape shits out diamonds and gold, and buries its shattered men<br />

in their place (Peffer 2009: 223-224).<br />

Apies River | 1989 | oil on canvas | 118 x 104 cm<br />

<strong>SUPER</strong> <strong>BORING</strong><br />



In this series, discussed more fully in Carol Brown’s<br />

essay in this volume, <strong>Barker</strong> has drawn upon local craft<br />

and materials to invent his own language of critique and<br />

celebration. These new artworks are constructed from<br />

strung glass beadwork (an African technique for presenting<br />

symbolic meaning in visual terms that has been utilized for<br />

centuries) to make a seemingly fl at, painterly plane that<br />

also has a three-dimensionality embedded in it. Within<br />

the history of South African visual art language, networks<br />

of strung beads have been employed for everything from<br />

simple ‘love letters’ presented by a maiden to her beloved<br />

to the adornment of princely palaces and everyday<br />

ceremonial costume. These have usually been ascribed to<br />

‘traditional’ or ‘native’ production.<br />

In the work <strong>Barker</strong> presents here, this rich tradition has<br />

been appropriated to present a visual plane that viscerally<br />

echoes the very medium of oil paint: the suspension of<br />

solid particles in the carrier of oil or another medium.<br />

While echoing mosaics and other similar art forms, <strong>Barker</strong><br />

has reinvigorated painting by addressing one of its own<br />

fundamental desires: the illumination of the fl at surface<br />

not just through strategies of perspective or drawing but<br />

70<br />


also through the illusion of radiating light by means of<br />

suspended particles of light that refract and project their<br />

own inner power of illumination.<br />

In terms of subject, this series presents the promise<br />

of reconciliation by overlaying images of those who could<br />

be claimed to have been most marginalised by apartheid<br />

and Pierneef’s vision – black women – upon and into his<br />

re-problematised landscapes. This, coupled with a new<br />

interpretation of the free abstract painterly gesture so<br />

typical of <strong>Wayne</strong> <strong>Barker</strong> invigorates his latest work as<br />

much as it resolves both the picture plane and the subject<br />

it addresses. In this he has adopted a new language of<br />

tolerance and in this new native tongue demonstrated<br />

the lie of the speech of hate which he has so consistently<br />

raged against.<br />

<strong>Barker</strong> has always raged, but the product of that rage<br />

is gentleness. Overarching all that he has done is a desire<br />

to see healing take place. He has always been outraged<br />

by injustice but is always prepared to see inherent good<br />

in people.<br />

Church Lady | 2009 | strung glass beads | 170 x 170 cm<br />

<strong>SUPER</strong> <strong>BORING</strong><br />


72<br />


Mining for Gold | 2009 | strung glass beads | 170 x 170 cm Golden Girl | 2009 | strung glass beads | 170 x 170 cm<br />

<strong>SUPER</strong> <strong>BORING</strong><br />


<strong>Barker</strong> tells the story of how, when he was just starting<br />

out, he became involved in a community project, helping<br />

with a mural at Moffat’s Mission Station. Caught speeding<br />

on the way there he was bundled into a military vehicle and<br />

driven around, without charge, for the rest of the day. ‘This<br />

was AWB country back then,’ he sardonically notes. What<br />

he saw on that day and what followed would affect him for<br />

the rest of his life. On this forced excursion he witnessed<br />

these police offi cers ruthlessly beating a street child for no<br />

apparent reason. His howls of protest from the back of the<br />

vehicle saw him being taken to a police station where he<br />

was quizzed – bizarrely being played the music of Johnny<br />

Clegg and Paul Simon and asked for his interpretation,<br />

amongst other things – and then thrown into a common cell.<br />

There he met a white man who nonchalantly confessed to<br />

him that he had just killed ‘a Black’. After the horror of the<br />

74<br />


child’s beating earlier that day, this confession was not the<br />

end to this Kafkaesque experience…. After a few hours<br />

together in the cell a policeman came in and called the<br />

other man out. When he returned he was visibly shaken<br />

and disturbed. He had just been informed that his brother<br />

had died. <strong>Barker</strong> recounts that for the rest of the night he<br />

comforted this weeping murderer, the memories of death<br />

and violence surrounding him.<br />

This experience led to his very fi rst series ‘Victim’<br />

shown on Images on Metal in 1987. The same image of<br />

the face of that beaten street child which he obsessively<br />

repeated then is the same one that can be seen torn into<br />

the paper turnstile of Memory / Erasure, turning endlessly,<br />

as if by its own force.<br />

Victim | 1987 | mixed media on paper | 75 x 55.5 cm<br />

Victim | 1987 | mixed media<br />

on paper | 71.5 x 58.5 cm<br />

Victim | 1987 | mixed media<br />

on paper | 75 x 55.5 cm<br />

<strong>SUPER</strong> <strong>BORING</strong><br />



One of <strong>Wayne</strong> <strong>Barker</strong>’s most typical artistic techniques<br />

is to take an existing painting or photograph, to reproduce<br />

it and further manipulate it, be it through paint itself or<br />

digitally and then printed onto canvas. To this a further<br />

layer of manipulation occurs when found or specially<br />

manufactured objects, rich in symbolic value, are placed<br />

upon the canvas. This agglomeration is then worked and<br />

reworked until fi nal compositional resolution has been<br />

achieved and the work bears the unmistakable stamp of<br />

being from his hand. In all this photography plays a vital<br />

role. <strong>Barker</strong> works chiefl y from photographs, whether<br />

he takes them himself, has them commissioned, utilizes<br />

digital scans or uses found material. However, the idea of<br />

<strong>Wayne</strong> <strong>Barker</strong> as being a photographer in the dominant<br />

contemporary milieu would patently seem to not hold,<br />

and yet for Super Boring he has produced a series of<br />

photographic prints, all featuring the female models he<br />

paints.<br />

76<br />


These do more than just document the source of what,<br />

through his artistic process become the subjects of his<br />

work; rather they are a natural extension of what he does<br />

on canvas. In taking one of his paintings as a backdrop,<br />

creating set-like environment with the physical objects<br />

that he places directly on his canvasses and then, even<br />

applying paint to their bodies, he is replicating in the studio<br />

and in the constraints of a photographic shoot exactly<br />

what he does when he paints.<br />

Central to this is the issue of erotics, and I would argue,<br />

a particular attitude to women and race. The beauty of<br />

his subjects is undeniable but this beauty is drawn out<br />

by <strong>Barker</strong> in special and sensitive ways. He does not<br />

enslave himself to hackneyed conventions of beauty and<br />

glamour but rather fi nds beauty where he fi rst sees it, in<br />

the lives and personalities of the women himself. Whether<br />

in a high-paced entrepreneurial career, a home-maker or<br />

Title | 2000 | Media | 00 x 00 cm<br />

<strong>SUPER</strong> <strong>BORING</strong><br />

Studio Portrait of Ndumi | 2009<br />


a sex worker, each woman is shown nude and free from<br />

the trappings of ‘what she does’ and presented in a new,<br />

highly eroticised, light that conveys something of who she<br />

is.<br />

For all his adult life <strong>Barker</strong> has lived and worked in highly<br />

cosmopolitan urban areas. The women he encounters in<br />

these locations are the raw subject matter for his images.<br />

It is signifi cant to note that taken as an aggregated whole<br />

they do not show the usual bias toward personal sexual<br />

preference but in many ways encompass the gamut of<br />

women who populate his environment. Highly signifi cantly<br />

they, more or less, statistically represent the racial makeup<br />

of South Africa in true proportion, I do not want to set<br />

up a cold, ethnographical objectifi cation of his models,<br />

with all the problems that that raises, but rather make the<br />

point that <strong>Barker</strong> fi nds beauty in all his subjects and seems<br />

to be entirely free of the racial and racist conventions that<br />

underpin most South Africans’ ideas of ‘who is hot’.<br />

78<br />


In photographing Black women as he does he tackles<br />

head on what most white artists (certainly heterosexual<br />

ones) in South Africa and abroad are wary of addressing:<br />

the dignity of Black female sexuality. His female subjects<br />

are undoubtedly sexualised but in sexualising Black women<br />

he treads on dangerous ground: as a white artist he risks<br />

the ‘disapproval’ of white men who have frequently seen<br />

and been conditioned to see black women as ‘dangerous’<br />

and Black men who have frequently been known to<br />

express horror at <strong>Barker</strong>’s obvious attraction to ‘their’<br />

women. The women in his photographs belong to no one<br />

but themselves and in being themselves, fi ltered through<br />

<strong>Barker</strong>’s vision and with the accompaniment of his symbolic<br />

and painterly language captured photographically, he has<br />

– astonishingly – proved the lie of racism and sexism and,<br />

on the canvas at least, given them a voice in an arena that<br />

many would argue is structurally and intrinsically designed<br />

to silence them.<br />

<strong>SUPER</strong> <strong>BORING</strong><br />

Studio Portrait of Cheznay | 2009 79<br />


80<br />


WHERE IS IT?<br />

We have spent many hours and days in the company of <strong>Wayne</strong>. On one such<br />

occasion we saw a class of mentally handicapped children with a quotation on their T-shirt:<br />

where is it? We could not help but notice the comic, tragic element in the quote on the<br />

T-shirts. Where are the children going to fi nd ‘it’ in their lives?<br />

This is one of many fond memories, but I recall it because it is just this element of<br />

tragic comedy that <strong>Barker</strong> often uses in his work. I am thinking of the cartoon fi gure<br />

picanini freeze in Heart of Darkness. In the latter <strong>Wayne</strong> portrayed his own loneliness<br />

during a stay in London. To quote Manet: ‘What is pure art according to the modern<br />

ideal? It is to create a suggestive magic, containing at the same time the object and the<br />

subject, the world external to the artist and the artist himself.’<br />

Visits to his studio in Troyeville and Cape Town are always inspiring. He has perfected<br />

the element of chance in his work just as in life we never know what to expect. He lives his<br />

life with the same energy that he pours into his art: never boring.<br />

What do we cherish the most, his art or the times we spent with him? Memories are of<br />

the past, but ‘where is it?’ implies a search into the future.<br />

We are still trying to defi ne it…<br />


Since his early days as an artist, ideas and feelings have emanated naturally from<br />

<strong>Wayne</strong> <strong>Barker</strong>. There is almost a Hillbrow seediness in the work that is manifested.<br />

<strong>Wayne</strong> has risen to become a leading avant-garde artist in South Africa today. He has<br />

a magic ability to use oil on canvas with brutal honesty.<br />

His work is reminiscent of both the embattled emotional past and the present in South<br />

Africa. However, his work is never gloomy or negative. His strong emotional lifestyle is<br />

infused on canvas.<br />

He has an uncanny ability to use the paragons and icons of society with a mixture<br />

of respect and contempt. For the collector, he immediately stirs one’s eye and soul to<br />

resound with passion.<br />

He creates powerful, emotional and haunting images, which incur both melancholy<br />

and nostalgia.<br />

His art has an amazing visual and lasting impact.<br />



<strong>SUPER</strong> <strong>BORING</strong><br />




By Carol Brown<br />

Sherlock Holmes, Sigmund Freud, and the Italian art-historian Giovanni Morelli may not<br />

at first appear to have anything in common with each other, let alone with <strong>Wayne</strong> <strong>Barker</strong>,<br />

but – as Carlo Ginzburg has argued in an influential essay 1 – these three characters<br />

each embody a version of a particular modern approach both to problem solving and<br />

to the re-creation and discovery of the past. Holmes, Freud and Morelli all find clues<br />

to events in the past – whether crimes, forgotten events, or the identity of an original<br />

artist – in scattered small details: a footprint, an inexplicable dream, or the shape of an<br />

angel’s ear. These apparently trivial details yield rich rewards when closely studied.<br />

<strong>Wayne</strong> <strong>Barker</strong> should be associated with this trio and this tradition as, like them, he is part detective, part psychologist<br />

and part art historian. These threads come together successfully and naturally in his latest series of bead “paintings”.<br />

At fi rst glance, the works are glittery, dazzling and seductive but it soon becomes clear that there is a rich vein of social<br />

comment buried beneath the bright surface. If we take <strong>Barker</strong>’s personal iconology into account we can recognise that<br />

these works represent a natural progression from his earliest work as a rebel bohemian attacking an establishment. His<br />

distinctive and unmistakable stylistic language has remained constant in the decades since his start.<br />

82<br />



South African was in turmoil in the 1980s, when <strong>Barker</strong><br />

fi rst emerged as an artist. <strong>Barker</strong> is of the generation of<br />

young men called up for national conscription to fi ght the<br />

so-called “border wars”. Resisting the regime and the<br />

call-up, he worked to convince army offi cials that he was<br />

mentally unfi t for service. He tells how he marched out<br />

of step in a Charlie Chaplin imitation; answered questions<br />

in ways which he believed would confuse and annoy his<br />

interrogators and fi nally securing his release from the army.<br />

This experience strengthened his resolve to pursue art<br />

and a period of reactionary art works and performances<br />

followed, as he critiqued the South African situation.<br />

<strong>Barker</strong>’s work has always been more than just about<br />

making tangible art works but rather about living his art<br />

through the embodiment of his ideas especially in his<br />

performance and installation pieces. His experiences as<br />

a practical psychologist – working out how best to evade<br />

offi cial classifi cation and armed service – echo with these<br />

performative aspects of his art making.<br />


In the late 1980s, the changes that would occur<br />

after 1990 were not foreseeable and – in this period –<br />

many young white South African men left South Africa<br />

for distant shores, retracing the steps of those who<br />

had left European countries to conquer and live in new<br />

territories. <strong>Barker</strong> remained in South Africa, however, and<br />

was able to embrace the changes brought about by the<br />

political transition. He was one of the fi rst local artists<br />

to be invited to international exhibitions – participation<br />

in which had been precluded in the eighties due to the<br />

Cultural boycott. His involvement with the wider sphere<br />

of art production also led to him opening a gallery space<br />

in central Johannesburg. The gallery was called FIG and<br />

aimed to develop an avant-garde that could respond to<br />

the changing local situation. The spectre of apartheid still<br />

loomed over the country, and its future was uncertain<br />

and unimaginable. The signifi cance of these smaller art<br />

initiatives and galleries in those years is a subject still to<br />

be examined and given its own history.<br />

<strong>Barker</strong> meanwhile delved into the country’s artistic<br />

heritage. His chosen subject was the painter, Jakob<br />

Hendrik Pierneef. Pierneef had been a favourite of the<br />

segregationist and apartheid era governments and had<br />

been commissioned in 1929 to paint large landscapes<br />

of South Africa for the Johannesburg station. These<br />

landscapes showed a majestic earth innocent of any<br />

traces of human habitation: virgin territory awaiting a<br />

subsequent exploitation. This very masculine view proved<br />

a strong impetus for <strong>Barker</strong>, leading to an exploration of<br />

gender issues which continues to the current works.<br />

In his work of this period, he scribbles over reproduction<br />

of these cool, ordered landscapes with expressive gestural<br />

marks which contradict the geometric rigidity of Pierneef’s<br />

style. Many of these “scribbles” also relate to signs used<br />

in mapping. He also inserted the images of skulls, blood,<br />

HIV/Aids ribbons, screaming mouths and seductive<br />

women onto these tranquil and decorative landscapes.<br />

Logos from popular commodities such as Coca Cola,<br />

Bakers Biscuits, etc further suggest the abiding historical<br />

effects of commercialisation, ownership and exploitation<br />

of the land.<br />


While working on his Pierneef series, <strong>Barker</strong> was<br />

identifying the seemingly transient and trivial objects that –<br />

to him – represented a specifi cally South African mindset.<br />

The result of this was his Zulu Lulu series. This series was<br />

made up of cheeky paintings of a long forgotten fi fties<br />

kitsch objects – which, in its time, had been immensely<br />

popular but which, by the time of <strong>Barker</strong>’s discovery,<br />

was only to be found lurking in a sex shop. This object,<br />

a bare breasted black woman with exaggerated features,<br />

presented <strong>Barker</strong> with the clues necessary to uncover a<br />

South African history of a popular-culture commodifi cation<br />

of ideas around race and gender.<br />

<strong>Barker</strong>’s exploration with objects to discover clues<br />

about people and their history has continued and similarly<br />

found objects have remained central to his work. In<br />

his 1996 installation, The World is Flat, held at Iziko<br />

<strong>SUPER</strong> <strong>BORING</strong><br />


Museum, The Castle during the Johannesburg Biennale<br />

he assembled 2000 green beer bottles and 3000 SANDF<br />

army uniforms to create a map of Africa. These objects<br />

provided a powerful set of statements about war and the<br />

possession of land: by presenting his audience with these<br />

objects he turns us into detectives of a sort, one is driven<br />

to decode the clues implicit in his work.<br />

BEADS<br />

Having set the parameters for a wide exploration of<br />

the South African psyche <strong>Barker</strong> has continued working<br />

in his individual language. Most recently he has turned to<br />

beaded paintings.<br />

These are two-dimensional canvasses rendered in<br />

beads. They seduce and dazzle transforming <strong>Barker</strong>’s<br />

familiar images into a new South African context. Although<br />

I am aware that to impose a linear development on <strong>Barker</strong>’s<br />

work may sometimes seem somewhat incongruous –<br />

neither his life nor his thinking is linear – but, looking at<br />

these works in the context of his career that progression<br />

is obvious. Nothing is as simple as black-and-white, lines<br />

can be curved and so both progression and digression<br />

can and do exist together in his work. The linearity comes<br />

from having an authentic vision to which he has remained<br />

true in the twenty fi ve years of his art production.<br />

It is necessary to pause and consider the history of<br />

beadmaking in Southern Africa. The region is famous for<br />

this tradition which is millenia old and has adapted to<br />

modern circumstances in a most inventive way. But where<br />

did beads come from and when? Like most things, as we<br />

are recently discovering, they were fi rst made in Africa,<br />

where the production of beads occurred alongside the<br />

discovery of glass, up to 30 centuries ago. Today most<br />

of the beads in South Africa are imported from European<br />

sources, following trade routes from the Czech Republic<br />

and Venice established in the 16 th Century. This rich and<br />

complex history of ancient production, African trade<br />

routes, European infl uences and commerce inform the<br />

way we now interpret beaded works.<br />

84<br />


Beadmaking was already widely practised at the time<br />

when Pierneef was being heralded as a hero of the South<br />

African art community, but the attitudes and taste of the<br />

time considered the practice no more than an ethnic<br />

curiosity. Patterns of South African art museum and<br />

corporate collecting have been well documented and it is<br />

a fact that it took more than fi fty years post-Pierneef for<br />

these art collections to acknowledge that beaded works<br />

formed part of our artistic lexicon. This was due in part to a<br />

western infl uenced hierarchy of artistic materials but also<br />

to the fact of racial and gender discrimination (as beadwork<br />

was conceived of largely as women’s work) as well as<br />

modernist ideals of what visual art could be. <strong>Barker</strong>’s<br />

beaded paintings now reclaim and restore this history,<br />

placing the beadwork in the forefront of the painting and<br />

relegating Pierneef’s images to the background.<br />

The process of making <strong>Barker</strong>’s beaded works is itself<br />

a complex one. <strong>Barker</strong> begins by photographing female<br />

models in his studio. Recently his models have largely been<br />

women from other African countries, many – if not all – of<br />

whom are refugees from their countries of origin. <strong>Barker</strong>,<br />

who is the epitome of the “fl aneur” who walks the city<br />

streets, fi nds the bright patterned fabrics of their clothes<br />

(the design of which originated in Holland and German)<br />

inspiring. The tension between their often glamorous selfpresentation<br />

and their strained circumstances – living, as<br />

they are, in a country which often does not recognise them<br />

as citizens or recognise their right to reside on its land<br />

– forms a key part of <strong>Barker</strong>’s inspiration. The ironies of<br />

their situation in post-apartheid South Africa are not lost<br />

on him.<br />

The second stage of the work involves constructing<br />

a painting from the original photograph; this painting is<br />

then deconstructed using computer generated marks<br />

and images. The mechanical art of taking a photograph is<br />

transformed through the artisanal craft of the painting, and<br />

then again transformed into a machine printed image. This<br />

image becomes the template for the beading.<br />

This template is then taken to the beaders’ studio –<br />

a triple volume building in downtown Cape Town close<br />

to <strong>Barker</strong>’s studio in Observatory, where there is a hive<br />

of creativity and energy. They painstakingly glue strung<br />

glass beads onto each work taking several months to<br />

fully complete the patterns. This is an undeniably labour<br />

intensive process but one which these women say has<br />

enriched their own creativity. They describe how following<br />

<strong>Barker</strong>’s lines and working out how to transfer the tones<br />

and textures of the print into bead colours has made them<br />

more enthusiastic about their own creativity and lent them<br />

the inspiration to begin working on their own designs.<br />

They say that previously they made beaded brooches for<br />

sale but felt dissatisfi ed with the repetitive process. They<br />

fi nd their current work more exciting and challenging.<br />

While <strong>Barker</strong> remains the ultimate author of each piece,<br />

both he and his workshop acknowledge their joint creative<br />

input and their shared pride in the fi nished pieces. This<br />

collaborative process between male and female artists<br />

working in paint, computer technology and beads has the<br />

potential to upset pre-conceived notions of hierarchies<br />

and separateness.<br />

The fi nal works present an image of our country that<br />

is a far cry from the monolithic view of South Africa<br />

envisioned by Pierneef. <strong>Barker</strong> is suggesting a new vision<br />

– one of collaboration and the use of various technologies,<br />

but where the past is always with us and unable to be<br />

erased for its traces – in trivialities and small details, in<br />

found objects and expropriated traditions – can always be<br />

found.<br />

1 Ginzburg, Carlo. 1989. Clues, Myths and the<br />

Historical Method. John Hopkins University Press.<br />

Baltimore<br />

Artworks produced in collaboration with The Qubeka Bead<br />

Studio. Beaders: Luleka Domba, Neliswa Fkiti, Mandisa<br />

Masina and Nolubabalo Kanku<br />

<strong>SUPER</strong> <strong>BORING</strong><br />


86<br />


View of Portraits of Matsobane at Clifton Studio | 2009/10<br />


Tolstoy said something to the effect that all families are happy in the same way, but<br />

each is unhappy in its own peculiar way. Hmm…. It’s the festive season and the last<br />

thing I should be thinking about is Anna Karenina or anything depressingly Russian. I<br />

order vodka.<br />

I’m waiting for <strong>Wayne</strong> at Ganesh, a bar-come-restaurant in Observatory, Cape Town. At the table are my parents and<br />

my daughters; <strong>Wayne</strong>’s dealing with his family at the same time. I’m fl ying out the next morning and this is the last chance<br />

I’ll get to see him and talk about his work. Right then I’ve no idea that I’ll miss my plane, freak out my daughters and my<br />

parents at the airport, fall crashing to the fl oor because of a hopelessly inexcusable incompetence. After all, it’s the last<br />

night of the worst month of my life; a month of dashed hopes and unrequited love; crazed messages and catatonic limbo.<br />

My parents are sane Swedish types who, thanks to Ingmar Bergman, are also well versed in emotional derangement. But<br />

right then, at Ganesh, I’m keeping a lid on it and playing the sorted family man. Of course it takes a whiff of <strong>Wayne</strong> and<br />

all that sortedness kind of withers.<br />

<strong>SUPER</strong> <strong>BORING</strong><br />

By Ashraf Jamal<br />


No offence; <strong>Wayne</strong>’s no misanthrope who lures the<br />

hapless to the edge. No, it’s more like we’re in the same<br />

drunken boat. Like <strong>Wayne</strong> I’m very much the product of<br />

the 80s and 90s, a time as mythic as it was grotesque,<br />

comprising the death throes of an apartheid system, a<br />

system which, while dismantled, nevertheless roams this<br />

country like an airborne plague infecting each and every<br />

bid to transform this nation. Of course I couldn’t see it<br />

at the time. For one, I returned in December ’89 and,<br />

unlike <strong>Wayne</strong>, had had precious little sense of exactly how<br />

psychically deforming systematic racism could be. <strong>Wayne</strong><br />

on the other hand soaked it up, supped from the blood-fi lled<br />

skull of this country, a skull with which we’d later become<br />

all too familiar with through Antjie Krog’s opus before it<br />

wound up in the sanitized clutches of Hollywood.<br />

But right now it’s not the movie that matters but Krog’s<br />

Golgotha, the RSA, and what <strong>Wayne</strong>’s doing with it –<br />

except I’m still waiting.<br />

The brain shifts and I realize that in the late 80s,<br />

early 90s, other books caught the imaginations of our<br />

generation: There was Koos Prinsloo, there was Rian<br />

Malan’s My Traitor’s Heart. A piece of gonzo journalism<br />

with an annihilating and exhilarating capacity to rout out<br />

a lie, and do so in a manner utterly implicated in that lie,<br />

which captured a radical imagination. Dissolute, addicted,<br />

and utterly conscious of its own intelligence, Malan’s story<br />

mirrored the body politic of an orphaned and psychically<br />

fucked community, one to which <strong>Wayne</strong> most defi nitely<br />

belonged.<br />

88<br />

***<br />

At a recent Dada Symposium – February 2010 – Andrew<br />

Lamprecht cut his teeth on the <strong>Barker</strong> myth. Not one to<br />

lionize others, and here I wonder what Andrew thinks about<br />

being dubbed “curator to the stars”, Andrew nevertheless<br />

found himself in the hot seat. Kendell countered with a<br />

swipe at <strong>Wayne</strong>’s desire to be the fi rst in everything. All<br />

rather boring I thought, or, after the man of the moment<br />

– Super Boring – all the in-fi ghting and back-biting and<br />


laughable nepotism, because what I think still inspires<br />

<strong>Wayne</strong> is the artist as outlier rather than out-and-out-liar.<br />

While he loves pastiche – parody is too overly cerebral<br />

or conceptual for <strong>Wayne</strong> – he has always recognized its<br />

important contribution to rewriting history. Enough has<br />

been said on this: you need only go to the latest Art South<br />

Africa to fi nd Robert Sloon’s highly engaging tit-for-tat<br />

with <strong>Wayne</strong>.<br />

My point here is simply that what, for me, defi nes <strong>Wayne</strong><br />

as an artist is that playful fauvistic pop off-the-cuff quality.<br />

You never get the sense that the artist is: 1/ in love with<br />

himself 2/ convinced he’s on the right track 3/ swanning<br />

about in the emperor’s new clothes – <strong>Wayne</strong>’s perfectly<br />

prepared to get buck naked 4/ cashing in on consensus<br />

and hype. Sure money’s good, and money for nothing<br />

even more so, which means <strong>Wayne</strong>’s in the business of<br />

validation, preferably in neon. That he’s got SMAC behind<br />

him is power for the cause, one which <strong>Wayne</strong>’s pretty much<br />

been fi ghting on his lonesome. What I’m saying here is that<br />

despite the fact that he’s been kind-of canonized, kind-of<br />

feted, there is a defi nite feeling that he – <strong>Wayne</strong> <strong>Barker</strong> –<br />

has never quite been absorbed or embraced by the art<br />

illuminati. Perhaps this is because <strong>Wayne</strong> isn’t a brand;<br />

perhaps because he is not strategically hip; perhaps it’s<br />

just because he feels too much.<br />

Not one to mince words when it comes to drinking<br />

and other recreational activities, the down side is that<br />

people forget to see beyond the recreational activity to the<br />

creation which is always on the horizon and at the core of<br />

the artist’s life. Part pop, part ab-ex, <strong>Wayne</strong> is the mutant<br />

fallout of the Cold War SA-style – we were also afraid of<br />

the Commies remember.<br />

A kid raised on junk, splattered by colour, fucked over<br />

by race, buggered by militarism, <strong>Wayne</strong>’s art wasn’t going<br />

to be anything other than messy. Of course it’s the mess I<br />

love, the discordance that’s never ever about being clever,<br />

the glaring colours and the neon and the found stuff all<br />

jammed together in a way that defi es the monochromatic<br />

correctness of SA art. Brash, with that makeshift township<br />

buzz, <strong>Wayne</strong>’s art is African in a way that Cecil Skotnes can<br />

never be. Fuelled by life rather than abstraction, by a felt<br />

grasp of a vital ordinary world and not the cool abstraction<br />

that would turn Africa’s earth and culture into a thing of the<br />

mind, <strong>Wayne</strong> shows us just how art feels and looks when<br />

it’s made for other people.<br />

Now this doesn’t mean that <strong>Wayne</strong> wasn’t-or-isn’t<br />

fi ghting, it’s just that at the heart of his war is pleasure.<br />

Given that South Africans are generally not much fun –<br />

thinking that a dour seriousness or moral high-ground is<br />

the road to Damascus – and, hey, if you look at most South<br />

African art it’s not exactly fun, my point is that <strong>Wayne</strong><br />

gives us something to laugh with. And, besides, the man’s<br />

a romantic who believes in the value of hope, that there<br />

is always something to aspire to, always something to<br />

give back, dig out, coax from the entrails of one’s soul.<br />

Of course, like all the great romantics, <strong>Wayne</strong>’s heart is<br />

also a weeping wound. Which makes his current feel-good<br />

persona all the more heartening if occasionally unnerving.<br />

***<br />

<strong>Wayne</strong> fi nally arrives at Ganesh in a white fedora and<br />

a salmon pink linen jacket – our man in Panama. I gather<br />

my daughters and we leave for <strong>Wayne</strong>’s studio, though<br />

for me studio is not quite the word. Sure it’s a bricked loft<br />

with all the appropriate sheer metal, but somehow to me it<br />

feels more like a diner – fast-food for slow minds, art-asprocess<br />

for nighthawks.<br />

I watch as <strong>Wayne</strong> settles my daughters before the<br />

piano and ink and paper. If you’re a parent you’ll know<br />

that one is always sucked in by the care a relative stranger<br />

devotes to your kids – unless of course the bastard is a<br />

psycho-killer. <strong>Wayne</strong> of course isn’t; that’s the thing about<br />

him; he’s yummy, just like his salmon-pink jacket. In fact<br />

it amazes me that this particularly defi ning quality has<br />

not been discussed enough, because it is precisely his<br />

humanity – in the Nietzschean sense of human-all-toohuman<br />

without the excessive misery thrown in – which<br />

makes his art what it is.<br />

Nevertheless, a retrospective feels somehow bizarre,<br />

to me at least, because retrospectives are so backward<br />

looking, so, ooh look at me I’ve arrived, and, here, I think<br />

<strong>Wayne</strong>’s nature confounds such memorializing. A man of<br />

the ceaseless and unending moment, situationist, prankster,<br />

lout, fool, fall-guy, artist of instants, it somehow seems<br />

crazy trying to curate and “make sense” and historicize<br />

that stuff. My hunch, take it or leave it, is that all <strong>Wayne</strong>’s<br />

been into is the intervention, the intercession. He is Walter<br />

Benjamin’s actor who enters in passing. Not one to linger,<br />

obsess, when <strong>Wayne</strong> spoofs or quotes someone else it’s<br />

never with that lumpen heaviness of high seriousness. And<br />

it is precisely this special quality – the quality of laughter,<br />

the deep distrust of irony – which sets <strong>Wayne</strong> apart. It is<br />

his very uncoolness, his heat that matters. I love him…<br />

maybe you do too…<br />

<strong>SUPER</strong> <strong>BORING</strong><br />


90<br />

Albany | 2010 | mixed media and neon tubing on canvas | 200 x 200 cm<br />


Mumbo Jumbo | 2010 | mixed media and neon tubing on canvas | 200 x 200 cm<br />

<strong>SUPER</strong> <strong>BORING</strong><br />


92<br />

Cuntree | 2010 | mixed media and neon tubing on canvas | 122.5 x 107 cm<br />



“<strong>SUPER</strong> <strong>BORING</strong>”<br />

I<br />

After spending productive time erecting his artistic<br />

career in Johannesburg and having travelled in art centers<br />

like Paris, New York and London, <strong>Wayne</strong> <strong>Barker</strong> is currently<br />

living and working in Cape Town. Be this move temporary<br />

or permanent is yet to be seen taking into account that<br />

<strong>Barker</strong> is a mover, shifter and shaker. Something not to<br />

wonder about is that <strong>Barker</strong> is content with his move to<br />

Cape Town, a place where he has been able, of course<br />

under mixed feelings, to produce a new body of artworks<br />

titled; Super Boring. Another factor not to wonder about<br />

is the curious observation that <strong>Barker</strong> is part of a coterie<br />

of white artists and scholars who are recently migrating<br />

from culturally dynamic and racially diverse Johannesburg<br />

to racially apathetic and culturally dormant Cape Town,<br />

including Stellenbosch – let us refer to this region as the<br />

Cape!<br />

There is no doubt about the fact that the Cape region is<br />

very disappointing as a socio-cultural center, specifi cally<br />

with respect to democratic transformation and cultural<br />

By Thembinkosi Goniwe<br />

diversity in the present South Africa. Yet Cape Town has this<br />

irreconcilable duality. On the one hand, it is a very beautiful<br />

place, adorned by spectacular mountains, the meeting<br />

point of Atlantic and Indian Oceans, lavish wine farms and<br />

so on. No wonder Cape Town is a popular destination for<br />

tourists, a place for leisure. On the other hand, there is the<br />

graphic segregation between black and white people, of<br />

course with Coloureds and Indians occupying the bufferzones<br />

between black and white races. This consequence<br />

of colonial-apartheid is more appalling when considering<br />

the ever-widening gap between the rich and the poor.<br />

Black people including Coloureds are the worst affected<br />

as they endure the downside of life and livelihood: poverty,<br />

unemployment, unpleasant housing, ill-education and<br />

improper health facilities, all attesting to the plight of black<br />

people as the wretched of the Cape.<br />

It takes a short car-drive from white suburbs to black<br />

townships to witness how despicable structural racism<br />

remains a haunting institution in the Cape. The recent<br />

incident of toilets constructed without walls for township<br />

<strong>SUPER</strong> <strong>BORING</strong><br />


dwellers, emphasises the continuing inhumane treatment of<br />

black people in the Cape. Mind you, these very township<br />

dwellings are also part of the tourist package. So disturbing<br />

is the post-apartheid capitalism that it is reprocessing and<br />

repackaging black experiences as commodities for tourist<br />

consumption. Such black experiences are the result of racist<br />

regimes that colonized, exploited and dehumanized Africans<br />

whilst producing the beautiful commodity Cape Town has<br />

become. Yet, perpetrators and benefi ciaries of such racist<br />

regimes continue to enjoy the highest standard of living in<br />

comparison to the black majority in South Africa.<br />

It is a fact that Cape Town remains a white-dominated<br />

region, not to mention its visual arts circuit, completely<br />

remote from anything characterized as a cultural melting<br />

pot. To defi ne such place as post-colonial or democratic<br />

remains challenging if not impossible given the institutionally<br />

entrenched and unrelenting whiteness thereof. With the<br />

foregoing, it is very curious that <strong>Barker</strong> has relocated to<br />

Cape Town, especially recalling some of the reasons why<br />

he left his hometown Pretoria for Johannesburg, many<br />

years ago. Pretoria’s racial segregation and Afrikaner<br />

conservatism were too unbearable for a young Afrikaner<br />

person who wanted nothing to do with apartheid. Such a<br />

stance must have been diffi cult given that <strong>Barker</strong> comes<br />

from a military family and his father was a pilot and a<br />

loyalist to the Nationalist government. Rebelling against<br />

conscription or compulsory service in the apartheid military<br />

force, <strong>Barker</strong> had to fl ee Pretoria to explore his possible<br />

freedom in the crazy-chaotic inner city of Johannesburg.<br />

In Johannesburg, <strong>Barker</strong> managed to negotiate his way<br />

in and out of multiracial groups of people and art circles. It<br />

was in this sounding context that <strong>Barker</strong> began his biting<br />

critique of Jacob Hendrik Pierneef’s classical paintings;<br />

a critique that somewhat underscores his recent project<br />

Super Boring.<br />

II<br />

Super Boring is <strong>Wayne</strong> <strong>Barker</strong>’s new body of artworks.<br />

It draws on and brings together some of the themes and<br />

creative strategies <strong>Barker</strong> has been examining since<br />

94<br />


appearing on the South African art scene in the late<br />

1980s. Its underlining premise extends <strong>Barker</strong>’s critique of<br />

classical modernist art, authority and authoritarian systems.<br />

<strong>Barker</strong> expands this critique to include dimensions of<br />

appreciation and gratitude and instead of merely lashing<br />

out and antagonistically assaulting Pierneef’s classical<br />

paintings; <strong>Barker</strong> extends his critique to other South<br />

African “Modernists”. His quest is complicated by then<br />

paying tribute to eminent South African individuals or<br />

“Legends” as he calls them, against the backdrop of his<br />

now notorious digitally manipulated Pierneefs.<br />

Notable in the series; The Legends, tributes are<br />

dedicated to musicians Hugh Masekela, Miriam Makeba<br />

and Lucky Dube, the novelist JM Coetzee, political<br />

leaders Nelson Mandela and Mahatma Gandhi, to name<br />

a few. These individuals have questioned and challenged<br />

oppressive regimes. <strong>Barker</strong> holds them dearly important<br />

as he visually inscribes them in his paintings.<br />

He does so by superimposing them onto Pierneef’s<br />

landscape paintings. These portraits are positioned in<br />

small, round encased shapes that distinguish them from<br />

the rest of the wider painted surface. Pierneef’s paintings<br />

serve as backdrop to these portraits which stand out<br />

individually, assuming a distinctive presence that speaks<br />

to their signifi cant contribution to the history of the South<br />

African body politic. It is no exaggeration to construe<br />

that, in different ways, these individuals are humanitarians<br />

whose ideals and work bear testimony to the democratic<br />

society South Africa is becoming. They are historical icons<br />

that deserve praise and recognition. This is the reason<br />

why <strong>Barker</strong> embraces and celebrates them, especially for<br />

the gift they have offered him, South Africa and the world<br />

at large. <strong>Barker</strong> makes it his responsibility to inscribe them<br />

into the powerful domain of historical writing: the visual art<br />

history or the (re)writing of South Africa’s cultural history.<br />

In an interesting manner, <strong>Barker</strong> situates these<br />

prominent fi gures in a South African historical context<br />

haunted by unsettling social and economic concerns.<br />

Thus his use of Pierneef’s landscape paintings as surfaces<br />

become representative of the land itself, land; that was<br />

robbed from Africans by whites, land; that continues to<br />

be exploited for the enrichment and privilege of whites.<br />

Such a reading of African-exploitation is made possible<br />

by <strong>Barker</strong>’s insertion of a steam-train crossing Pierneef’s<br />

landscape in the Hugh Masekela work. It is worth recalling<br />

that in his classical song Stimela, Masekela refl ects on the<br />

paining experience of this train that used to carry African<br />

mine-workers from rural South Africa and neighbouring<br />

countries such as Mozambique and Zimbabwe, to<br />

Johannesburg and Kimberly, to work in the darkest-deepbelly<br />

of earth from where their return to the surface of the<br />

land was never guaranteed.<br />

Even though <strong>Barker</strong>’s The Legends pay homage to<br />

important individuals, he remains critical of the history<br />

that has shaped the democratic South Africa. In fact, he<br />

continuously wrestles with the socio-economic problems<br />

rooted in colonial-apartheid. It is for these reasons that<br />

Pierneef’s landscape paintings remain primary targets<br />

as they exemplify symbols which buttressed colonialapartheid,<br />

particularly in the domain of visual arts. These<br />

works become an indictment of Pierneef’s classical<br />

landscapes; not at the aesthetic level, but rather at the way<br />

in which they advance complacency, despite their symbolic<br />

complicity in the exploitation of land and human labour.<br />

The Legend series speaks to the bias in representation of<br />

the land in South African modernist art.<br />

It is important to recall that the target of <strong>Barker</strong>’s initial<br />

critique was the political power and cultural imperialism<br />

inherent in and espoused by Pierneef’s paintings, the<br />

indirect support of the colonial mission and processes<br />

which affected not only Africans but also whites, in<br />

particular the youth, such as <strong>Barker</strong> who grew up in the<br />

heart of Afrikaner Pretoria, in a military family. It has been<br />

tough-going for <strong>Barker</strong> whose father and brother were<br />

both pilots and loyal Afrikaner Nationalists. These works<br />

therefore also become personal as the psychological<br />

and emotional implications of his upbringing are evident<br />

in the aggressive manner by which <strong>Barker</strong> has attacked<br />

Pierneef’s paintings.<br />

Pierneef’s contribution to realizing the apartheid mission<br />

cannot be minimized, particularly when examined in light<br />

of the Afrikaner Broederbond as a cultural movement that<br />

was instrumental in promoting apartheid policies and<br />

brutally violating human lives. Pierneef’s monumental<br />

paintings played a role in constructing South Africa<br />

as a sanitized land, without people, without problems,<br />

without confl ict. In fact, Pierneef’s sanitizing aesthetic<br />

representation of South Africa evacuated Africans from the<br />

land and in so doing rendered the landscape empty and<br />

accessible for colonial settlement. Pierneef’s works gloss<br />

over the brutal violence applied mainly to Africans and<br />

somewhat to rebellious whites in building a white country<br />

ruled by Afrikaners. Pierneef’s landscape paintings were<br />

not simply espousing a utopian fantasy or purist ideology;<br />

they were in fact instrumental in erasing fraught histories<br />

and concealing bloody murderous deeds inherent in the<br />

construction of a white South African history.<br />

<strong>Barker</strong>’s mission was therefore apt, to deconstruct<br />

such apartheid mythology, in particular questioning and<br />

challenging its visual representation in historical paintings<br />

such as those commissioned by the colonial-apartheid<br />

state. Thus, <strong>Barker</strong> considered it necessary to perform<br />

such deconstructive mission, at the time when the<br />

Afrikaner novelist and essayist JM Coetzee published his<br />

important non-fi ction work; White Writing, a text discussing<br />

the ideology expressed in Afrikaner nationalism writing,<br />

attempting to justify colonialization.<br />

Another important point to mention is that, <strong>Barker</strong><br />

undertook his mission just at the moment when the world<br />

was about to witness the political transition of South<br />

Africa from apartheid to democracy. <strong>Barker</strong>’s artistic<br />

intervention was just before the release of Nelson Mandela<br />

and other political prisoners and the unbanning of political<br />

organizations such as African National Congress and the<br />

Pan African Congress. How apt and timely was <strong>Barker</strong>’s<br />

critical project historically and in the light of his recent<br />

critique of other South African modernists in his Super<br />

Boring series?<br />

<strong>SUPER</strong> <strong>BORING</strong><br />


96<br />

Kind: Ingrid Jonker | 2010 | mixed media and neon tubing | 138 x 138 cm<br />


Click Click: Miriam Makeba | 2010 | mixed media and neon tubing | 138 x 138 cm<br />

<strong>SUPER</strong> <strong>BORING</strong><br />


Super Boring attests to <strong>Barker</strong>’s unrelenting quest or<br />

extended critique of Pierneef’s landscape painting, but<br />

this time including other South African modernists such as<br />

Hugo Naudé, Irma Stern, Maggie Laubser, Frans Oerder<br />

and Wolf Kibel. These premier modernists have made a<br />

signifi cant impact on South African art. They are in fact,<br />

along with the likes of John Mohl, Ernest Mancoba, Gerald<br />

Sekoto, Albert Adams, Gerard Bhengu and George Pemba,<br />

pioneers of South African art. This inclusive history,<br />

however, still waits to be written in a way that represents<br />

and refl ects the complexities and contradictions of a<br />

country that continues to wrestle with its becoming.<br />

These artists are part of the privileged few who have<br />

been written into the partial South African art history and<br />

have been adopted by the secondary market and the<br />

art-buying public. These white modernist painters have<br />

fetched the highest prices from both local and international<br />

collectors. Some of the speculative reasons have to do with<br />

stereotypical representations of South African landscape<br />

as well as natives. Such representations of primitive,<br />

primordial images of the land and native in the paintings<br />

of Naudé, Stern and Laubser continue to attract the most<br />

interest amongst contemporary South Africa.<br />

III<br />

More than investing in the critique of subject matter or<br />

contents, <strong>Barker</strong> has also been incessant in exploring a<br />

visual language that is provocative and subversive, at time<br />

polemic and disturbing in its strategies of appropriation,<br />

quotation and assemblage. While using painting as a<br />

basis, his visual language involves the use of existing but<br />

distinct images, aesthetics and objects. Such is <strong>Barker</strong>’s<br />

creative strategy, one that is a conscious experimentation<br />

with multi- or mixed-media, combining conventional<br />

and non-conventional artistic techniques and materials.<br />

It is a mixture of different but related phenomena and<br />

procedures, which speaks to malleable notions of<br />

readymade and postmodernism. In this mixture, historical<br />

and contemporary subjects and forms are reconfi gured in<br />

processes intended to produce something dissimilar to<br />

the canon in art practice and discourse. <strong>Barker</strong>’s use of<br />

98<br />


the readymade and postmodernism involves mediums of<br />

drawing, painting, printmaking, sculpture, digital media,<br />

performance, installation and curation.<br />

Copies of modernist painters, portraits of idols and<br />

photography of women either scanned or uploaded onto<br />

the computer form part of this process. They are then<br />

digitally manipulated and reconfi gured into photo-montagelike<br />

painterly images. Thereafter they are printed onto<br />

canvases that when stretched-over rectangular wooden<br />

frames assume the status of conventional paintings.<br />

These printed-on-canvas-paintings become beautiful, in<br />

fact precious, objects but <strong>Barker</strong> does not settle for this<br />

easy accessibility, he wants more. He wants to experiment<br />

further and to discover an effective visual language to<br />

communicate his ideas. Even the so-called cutting edge<br />

digital medium is apparently inadequate; <strong>Barker</strong> takes it to<br />

be just another tool, a different kind of paintbrush. In his<br />

artistic quest, <strong>Barker</strong> seems pressed to produce works of<br />

art that are challenging, refl ective and engaging.<br />

He stretches his experimentation further by, for example,<br />

adding props such as miniature -wooden-sculptures,<br />

beads and neon lights onto the paintings. Still <strong>Barker</strong><br />

is not satisfi ed until he physically paints directly on the<br />

precious artwork. His personal touch matters as a gesture,<br />

central to his interventionist persona, a desperate painter<br />

whose mission is to attack authority. Of course, <strong>Barker</strong>’s<br />

interventionism is a symbolic gesture, nevertheless potent<br />

within the domain of visual art practice, to assaulting<br />

images, signs, symbols and icons of those in power.<br />

IV<br />

To extend his artistic critical quest, <strong>Barker</strong> also made<br />

use of his persona which has tended to cross between the<br />

realm of art and life. In fact, <strong>Barker</strong> has cultured himself into<br />

a persona that traverses across boundaries of disciplined<br />

and undisciplined human behaviour. Apparently, his<br />

persona comes across as that of an autonomous individual<br />

who challenges institutionalized convention or systems<br />

not only within the demarcated, albeit limited, realm of<br />

artistic medium but also in real life, in the actual social<br />

realm wherein people interact physically, psychologically<br />

and emotionally. Very few artists have performed such<br />

controversial, subversive and troubling acts symbolic of a<br />

highly complex ego, which is an indispensable component<br />

in the art-making process to challenge and shift people’s<br />

perceptions.<br />

It is however unfortunate that <strong>Barker</strong>’s performed ego,<br />

to some extent, has tended to work against him, to do a<br />

disservice to his instructive works of art. Critics and artlovers<br />

have tended to focus on <strong>Barker</strong>’s self-manufacturedego<br />

at the expense of paying attention to his inviting<br />

artworks. This writer is also painstakingly labourious in his<br />

effort to avoid falling into that blind spot of not looking at<br />

or properly considering <strong>Barker</strong>’s works of art outside of his<br />

personality. <strong>Barker</strong> is also responsible for such misfortune,<br />

that is, to seductively lure people to paying attention to<br />

his personality at the expense of his art. Besides, <strong>Barker</strong><br />

is very aware of his ego and how to solicit attention in<br />

the culture game. Thus, arty people, specifi cally art critics,<br />

should also share the responsibility for being misdirected<br />

from the artwork, if we take into account the inherent<br />

pretentious liberalism and couched complacency within<br />

the white-dominated art circuit.<br />

It is important to acknowledge that <strong>Barker</strong>’s persona<br />

is neither unique nor outside the context of art history.<br />

Just recall artists such as Marcel Duchamp, Robert<br />

Rauschenberg and Andy Warhol and their interventionist<br />

avant-garde approach intertwined with their larger<br />

than life personas. As a formally trained, academically<br />

qualifi ed and internationally travelled artist, <strong>Barker</strong> might<br />

have encountered these artists and learned from their<br />

creative strategies and politics. Therefore, it should not<br />

be surprising to discover that <strong>Barker</strong> in many ways is<br />

comparable to them in so far as his attitude is premised<br />

on or derived from avant-garde principles and aspirations:<br />

to make- shift, shake-up, disturb and disorientate comfort<br />

zones and safe havens in the art world.<br />

Disturbing forms of intervention have characterized<br />

<strong>Barker</strong>’s driving mission since the late 1980s, preoccupying<br />

himself with the politics of the artistic medium and<br />

aesthetic forms notable within dated-local-modernism<br />

and the political contents and social conditions, selectively<br />

addressed, within the changing South African landscape.<br />

<strong>Barker</strong> has always purchased from the discourse<br />

of controversy and subversion, hence his creative<br />

interventions have never been without a contradictory<br />

sense of provocation, playfulness and entertainment. Yet<br />

so crucial to this sense of Postmodern humour and irony,<br />

is a seriously disturbing critique of and refl ection on things<br />

problematic in the art world and society at large.<br />

V<br />

<strong>Barker</strong> has done this by modeling his creative strategy,<br />

for example, in the Duchampian sense of readymade,<br />

but an expanded kind of readymade, no longer limited to<br />

Duchamp’s original and primary purpose. Such a version<br />

includes numerous if not unlimited contemporary artistic<br />

strategies some of which involve postmodern tendencies<br />

of multiplicity of media, quotation, mechanisms of<br />

reproduction and transformation already existing images,<br />

aesthetics and materials into new/other meanings/<br />

signifi cations.<br />

Such strategies have been useful for <strong>Barker</strong>, in<br />

particular his tendency to shuffl e through earlier artistic<br />

developments in art history. <strong>Barker</strong> has assigned to<br />

himself license for ironic quotation, mockery and criticism<br />

of South African premier modernist paintings as well as of<br />

photographic images of women he has photographed in<br />

his studio.<br />

The procedure by which he has approached Super<br />

Boring, for example, is a tendency traceable to Duchamp’s<br />

makeover of Leonardo Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa into L.H.O.O.Q.,<br />

a vile visual pun that disturbed the divinity of the Western<br />

art canon. After Duchamp, the artist Asger Jorn, founder of<br />

the COBRA and member of the Situationist International,<br />

also undertook a similar exercise when he painted over<br />

a portrait of a bourgeois woman, adding a moustache<br />

and inscribing this provocative slogan: “The avant-garde<br />

doesn’t give up”. Such innovations have been signifi cant<br />

<strong>SUPER</strong> <strong>BORING</strong><br />


in the continuous quest of the avant-garde to not only<br />

rupture and subvert stable and oppressive regimes but<br />

also champion new avenues. A number of artists desperate<br />

to advance cutting edge critiques not only against art itself<br />

but also against circumscribing socio-political conditions<br />

in society have benefi ted from such avant-gardism.<br />

<strong>Barker</strong> is one of the many benefi ciaries who, in his<br />

home context, have somehow pursued Jorn’s call that the<br />

avant-garde doesn’t give up. Employing the avant-garde<br />

spirit of readymade, <strong>Barker</strong> not only appropriates paintings<br />

of South African modernists and images from various<br />

publications, he also appropriates images of women’s<br />

bodies that he has photographed in his studio. This is an<br />

interesting body of work, which at one level presents itself<br />

as a critical engagement with prostitution. <strong>Barker</strong> invites<br />

women into his studio, where he arranges them as sitters<br />

surrounded by theatrical props which include his own<br />

painting, displayed fl owers, and all sorts of objects. In their<br />

curious aesthetic qualities and insinuations, these props<br />

function as decorative visual forms that amplify the visual<br />

atmosphere in which the women are photographically<br />

rendered whilst distract any total attention to these<br />

women, whose visual representations cannot escape<br />

objectifi cation. Whatever critical engagement they might<br />

posess, it is notwithstanding their questionable rendition:<br />

they seem to feed into that dramatic representation of<br />

women’s bodies that either confronts or buttresses power<br />

relationships between men and women. In a sense, they fall<br />

in to that trap of a patriarchal tendency to render women’s<br />

bodies as exotic fascination and consumable properties of<br />

men’s taste. It is such an appropriation and representation<br />

of women’s bodies as readily available subjects or objects,<br />

even more disturbing as readymade that makes <strong>Barker</strong>’s<br />

project fall short as a critique.<br />

100<br />


<strong>Barker</strong> undertakes another curious appropriation in<br />

producing his artworks, one that involves the commissioning<br />

and contracting of other artists and assistants. In this way,<br />

<strong>Barker</strong> also brings his own innovation to the avant-garde<br />

project, nevertheless a curious innovation that deserves<br />

comment even if briefl y.<br />

Questions of exploitation seem inherent in <strong>Barker</strong>’s<br />

discourse of readymade, specifi cally his appropriation<br />

which mines other persons’ creativity, craft and labour.<br />

Whatever gain, positive or negative, Super Boring<br />

accumulates, only <strong>Barker</strong> the artist will have to enjoy or<br />

endure. <strong>Barker</strong>’s name will be inscribed in publications<br />

that promote and preserve the authority of Super Boring.<br />

Not the names of his invisible collaborators who will not<br />

enjoy the privilege value of publicity and circulation in the<br />

art world and society, today and tomorrow.<br />

The foregoing is just a brief critical reading, of course a<br />

partial one, of <strong>Barker</strong>’s usage of readymade in producing<br />

Super Boring. There are other readings, I am sure, but they<br />

are for another occasion. What needs mentioning herein<br />

though is that a substantiated criticism will have to engage<br />

with <strong>Barker</strong>’s artistic quest in the same vein that his<br />

artworks critique authority and its exploitative and abusive<br />

apparatus. Such a criticism surely should be fair and<br />

balanced, certainly conducted in ways that unmask and<br />

illuminate even the most seductive and dodgy artworks<br />

and artistic strategies that may lure the critic’s reason to<br />

sleep.<br />

Hell on Earth | 2010 | mixed media and neon tubing on canvas | 122.5 x 107 cm<br />

<strong>SUPER</strong> <strong>BORING</strong><br />


102<br />

<strong>Wayne</strong> lived and worked in Troyeville, Johannesburg where he perfected his unique<br />

painting style and neon fi ttings to express his feelings, opinions and beliefs regarding<br />

prominent personality and social issues in a direct and honest way. More recently from his<br />

studio in Observatory in Cape Town his multilayered images and markings on canvasses<br />

are further being amplifi ed with skillfully crafted sculptures which he conceptualized<br />

and commissioned from Richard Chauke for individual large canvasses. His conceptual<br />

expressionism brings life to objects and shows the link between these objet d’art and<br />

our existence. His masterly touch, a combination of realistic detail and abstract painting,<br />

projects his confi dence as an artist. <strong>Wayne</strong>’s art, for me, matches the work of the greatest<br />

artists of our time.<br />



<strong>Wayne</strong> <strong>Barker</strong> is defi nitely not super boring and rock and roll is defi nitely not dead.<br />

This I know now, consequently after spending many hours assisting in the months leading<br />

up to the Super Boring exhibition.<br />

Chaotic and frantic are words that I would use to express the mood building up to<br />

the exhibition. Meetings on the run and running to get to meetings and running away from<br />

meetings. Dodging bullets and late night working sessions that would last until sunrise. Not<br />

stopping and not giving way. Countless stories and tales – <strong>Wayne</strong>’s reputation preceding<br />

him by far and an aura of unexpected randomness surrounding that which he does. But as<br />

I have found – very little is not carefully thought through and deliberately enacted. Very few<br />

random and chaotic acts as it may appear. And not just in <strong>Wayne</strong>’s art but the way that he<br />

lives and interacts with society. He deals with both in the same manner – life and art – and<br />

that is what sets him apart from the rest in contemporary South African art and everyday<br />

life. In a way I think his own personal struggle is about correcting injustices both personal<br />

and political and maybe sometimes even both.<br />

There is a certain quality of being that attracts characters to him from all walks of<br />

life. Not everybody always shares his idealistic viewpoints about life or are open-minded<br />

enough to consider the notion, which would be the real advent to change. This is, I guess<br />

what all artists strive for, essentially.<br />

NEIL NIEUWOUDT, <strong>SUPER</strong> <strong>BORING</strong> ASSISTANT, 18 FEBRUARY 2010, CAPE TOWN<br />

<strong>SUPER</strong> <strong>BORING</strong><br />


104<br />

What time is it? In <strong>Wayne</strong>’s world, from Beryl Court to Biarritz, it is always 1920.<br />

Sometimes I feel that <strong>Wayne</strong>’s works are illuminated by this funny relationship to time,<br />

places and History. <strong>Wayne</strong> does not teach history, although through his works, he<br />

assembles paint, beads, sweat, soul, conscience, what-what all together and he tells<br />

stories. Stories that, put all together,<br />

could be part of History.<br />



WORKS<br />

<strong>SUPER</strong> <strong>BORING</strong><br />


106<br />


Untitled | 1987 | mixed media on metal | 115.5 x 87 cm<br />

Velvet Underground | 1987 | mixed media on metal | 70 x 140 cm<br />

Lamb to Slaughter | 1987 | mixed media on metal | 53 x 100 cm<br />

<strong>SUPER</strong> <strong>BORING</strong><br />


108<br />


Our Home is on the Range | 1990 | oil on canvas | 139 x 126 cm<br />

Transit Culture | 1990 | oil and found object on canvas | 118 x 127 cm<br />

<strong>SUPER</strong> <strong>BORING</strong><br />


110<br />


<strong>SUPER</strong> <strong>BORING</strong><br />

And Life Goes On | 1992 | oil on canvas | diptych | 120 x 197 cm<br />


112<br />

She was the fi rst black girl to go to a white school but on the arm of a child.<br />


WAYNE BARKER, 2004<br />

Winky Doll | 1992 | media and bronze | 25 x 27 cm<br />

ZULU-LULU – The new swizzle stick sensation<br />

Slave Painting – Slave Doll | 1992 | oil and masonite on canvas | 111 x 140 cm<br />

<strong>SUPER</strong> <strong>BORING</strong><br />


114<br />


Castle | 1996 | mixed media on canvas | 169 x 160 cm<br />

Blue Colonies | 1995 | mixed media on canvas | 169 x 160 cm<br />

<strong>SUPER</strong> <strong>BORING</strong><br />


116<br />

I went to Mozambique and walking around Mozambique and going around hospitals<br />

and seeing no doctors and seeing Coke machines in this war-torn country was for me like<br />

a massive installation of apartheid. So, the fi rst installation I made was called “Coke Adds<br />

Life”. If you can get a Coke machine in a hospital, can’t you get a doctor?<br />


WAYNE BARKER, 2002<br />

His and Her Mozambique | 1995 | mixed media and neon tubing on metal | 200 x 246 cm<br />

<strong>SUPER</strong> <strong>BORING</strong><br />


118<br />

Blood | 1995 | mixed media and neon tubing on wood | 200 x 123 cm<br />


Hope | 1995 | mixed media and neon tubing on wood | 200 x 123 cm<br />

<strong>SUPER</strong> <strong>BORING</strong><br />


120<br />


The Rest is History | 2008 | mixed media and neon tubing on canvas | diptych | 200 x 400 cm<br />

<strong>SUPER</strong> <strong>BORING</strong><br />


122<br />


No.1 | 1996 | mixed media on paper | 150 x 120 cm No.5 | 1996 | mixed media on paper | 150 x 120 cm<br />

<strong>SUPER</strong> <strong>BORING</strong><br />


124<br />


Notice | 1996 | mixed media on paper | 160 x 150 cm Nothing Gets Lost in the Universe | 1996 | mixed media installation<br />

<strong>SUPER</strong> <strong>BORING</strong><br />


126<br />



<strong>Wayne</strong>’s enthusiasm for ‘anything art’ brought us together in 2001 and very shortly afterwards<br />

we found ourselves with a small project space in Underwood Street near the famous Hoxton Square,<br />

and the new White Cube gallery in London. This was a prime time for the YBAs and Hoxton Square<br />

was home and a home away from home for many of the leading YBAs at the time. Amongst those<br />

with studios there were Gary Hume, Damien Hirst and Sarah Lucas.<br />

<strong>Wayne</strong> and his current girlfriend at the time, Claire, were participating in a new (and the fi rst if<br />

not mistaken) reality TV programme, Sweethearts, on Channel 4, about her divorce/separation and<br />

their new relationship. A presentation at the LUX theatre, also on Hoxton Square, got very heated<br />

between a small ‘South African contingent’ and Claire’s ex on the opposite side of the theatre.<br />

Things were later amicably smoothed out at happy hour by the ever-charming Mr <strong>Barker</strong>, at one<br />

of the numerous pubs in the area. There were many brushes with the YBAs and art personalities<br />

that included beers with Tim Noble and Sue Webster, chatting with a spellbound Jay Jopling about<br />

<strong>Wayne</strong>’s new monograph, meeting Gary Hume, chatting with the friendly Jake and Dinos Chapman<br />

brothers, Tracey Emin slapping <strong>Wayne</strong> at an exhibition at the White Cube, popping a monograph<br />

under the door of Gilbert and George’s home, drinking way too much bubbly at the Gagosian when<br />

<strong>Wayne</strong> personally gave Charles Saatchi another monograph and told him he expected a call the next<br />

day, being chased out of the Green Room after <strong>Wayne</strong> experienced a foam explosion, being dissed<br />

by Sarah Lucas, being dissed by Damien Hirst, great dinners with Lisa Brice, seeing great exhibitions<br />

and having <strong>Wayne</strong> as a personal art guide in London.<br />

A short while after we got back to Cape Town we met with Charles Saatchi’s ex wife, Kim<br />

‘Saatchi’ Hartenstein who gleefully recounted how while moving into a new apartment with new<br />

partner Nigella Lawson, the voluptuous television food personality, how the refrigerator for the Marc<br />

Quinn work, Self, a portrait of himself made from 5 pints of his own blood and worth approximately<br />

GBP 300 000, was switched off by contractors and the work had half melted.<br />

Charles should have called <strong>Wayne</strong> the next day.<br />


1 MARCH 2010, CAPE TOWN<br />

Fille 1 | 2002 | mixed media and neon tubing on canvas | 172.5 x 172.5 cm<br />

<strong>SUPER</strong> <strong>BORING</strong><br />


128<br />


Lucky Star | 2003 | mixed media<br />

Black Label – Sunlight | 2003 | mixed media<br />

<strong>SUPER</strong> <strong>BORING</strong><br />


130<br />


Radio City | 2003 | oil on canvas | 95 x 95 cm The Rapist | 2003 | oil on canvas | 95 x 95 cm<br />

<strong>SUPER</strong> <strong>BORING</strong><br />


132<br />


Jozi Nudes in Studio, Troyeville | 2003<br />

In the plethora of artists active at the moment, many are fashionable, but hardly a<br />

handful are serious. By serious we mean artists whose importance will become more<br />

obvious in the decades to come. In this context, it was not a surprise to see <strong>Wayne</strong><br />

<strong>Barker</strong>’s work included in the thought-provoking Dada South exhibition at the National<br />

Gallery this year. This was confi rmation that <strong>Wayne</strong> is amongst that very small group of<br />

artists, the relevance of whose work will endure.<br />

To us, the integrity of the artist is a prerequisite for the artist to be taken seriously.<br />

In <strong>Wayne</strong>’s world every human being, irrespective of their station, is very and<br />

equally important. <strong>Wayne</strong> really cares and this shines through in his work. In this sense,<br />

<strong>Wayne</strong>’s art is in the tradition of Vermeer in that both of them display huge empathy with<br />

their subject matter. The timing for a retrospective exhibition of <strong>Wayne</strong>’s work could not<br />

be more apt, because this will give us the opportunity of better understanding the intense<br />

social history of the country’s last couple of decades.<br />



<strong>SUPER</strong> <strong>BORING</strong><br />


134<br />


Faith | 2003 | mixed media and neon tube on wood | 126 x 99 cm<br />

Hope | 2003 | mixed media and neon tube on wood | 126 x 99 cm<br />

<strong>SUPER</strong> <strong>BORING</strong><br />


136<br />


<strong>SUPER</strong> <strong>BORING</strong><br />

His and Hers | 2003 | mixed media on board | diptych | 125 x 197 cm<br />


138<br />


Trust the Native | 2006 | mixed media and neon tubing on canvas | 200 x 400 cm<br />

<strong>SUPER</strong> <strong>BORING</strong><br />


140<br />


<strong>SUPER</strong> <strong>BORING</strong><br />

Man and Woman in Delft Landscape | 2004 | mixed media and neon tubing on canvas | diptych | 170 x 340 cm<br />


142<br />


Boy 2 | 2004 | oil and neon tubing on canvas | 171.5 x 171.5 cm<br />

Ubuntu | 2004 | oil and neon tubing on canvas | 171.5 x 171.5 cm<br />

<strong>SUPER</strong> <strong>BORING</strong><br />


144<br />


<strong>SUPER</strong> B<strong>BORING</strong><br />

Land Desire | 2006 | Mixed media and neon tube on canvas | 320 x 180 cm<br />


146<br />



South African history cannot be separated from these two words because ultimately<br />

it is about the desire for land. Histories are always layered and underpin present realities –<br />

<strong>Barker</strong> has expressed this by drawing the viewer into a darker level of the canvasses.<br />

CAROL BROWN, 2006<br />

Land and Desire | 2005 | laser print and enamel on canvas | 100 x 100 cm<br />

Land Desire | 2006 | mixed media on canvas | 91 x 91 cm<br />

<strong>SUPER</strong> <strong>BORING</strong><br />


148<br />

Untitled (Land and Desire series) | 2004 | monoprint and enamel on canvas | 19 x 17 cm Untitled (Land and Desire series) | 2004 |<br />

Untitled (Land and Desire series) | 2004 |<br />

monoprint and enamel on canvas | 19 x 17 cm<br />

monoprint and enamel on canvas | 19 x 17 cm<br />


Untitled (Land and Desire series) | 2004 |<br />

monoprint and enamel on canvas | 19 x 17 cm<br />

Untitled (Land and Desire series) | 2004 |<br />

monoprint and enamel on canvas | 19 x 17 cm<br />

<strong>SUPER</strong> <strong>BORING</strong><br />


Untitled | 2008 | mixed media on canvas | 25 x 20 cm<br />

150<br />


Untitled | 2008 | mixed media on canvas | 25 x 20 cm<br />

Untitled | 2008 | mixed media on canvas | 25 x 20 cm<br />

Untitled | 2008 | mixed media on canvas | 25 x 20 cm<br />

<strong>SUPER</strong> <strong>BORING</strong><br />


152<br />


Hell Shell | 2003 | glass beads on resin | 8 x 11 x 8 cm<br />

Global / Desire | watercolour on paper | 76.5 x 56.5 cm<br />

<strong>SUPER</strong> <strong>BORING</strong><br />


154<br />

Hope | 2006 | mixed media and neon tubing on canvas | 180 x 180 cm<br />


Sorrow | 2006 | mixed media and neon tubing on canvas | 180 x 180 cm<br />

<strong>SUPER</strong> <strong>BORING</strong><br />


156<br />


<strong>SUPER</strong> <strong>BORING</strong><br />

World’s Apart | 2006 | mixed media and neon on canvas | 150 x 300 cm<br />


158<br />

Clandestin | 2008 | mixed media and neon tubing on board | 181 x 243 cm<br />


clandestin<br />

[French] klan-des-tən also - tīn or - tēn or klan-dəs- / clan·des·tine adj.<br />

Middle French clandestin, from Latin clandestinus akin to Latin celare - to<br />

hide<br />

: marked by, held in, or conducted with secrecy : surreptitious, concealed<br />

[opérations] clandestine<br />

[réunion, rendezvous] secret<br />

[traffi c, marché] illegal, (POLITIQUE) underground, undercover<br />

passager clandestin: stowaway<br />

travaileur clandestin: illegal worker<br />

<strong>SUPER</strong> <strong>BORING</strong><br />


160<br />

In the wake of the recent Picasso exhibition, the French Institute commissioned him to<br />

do a work inspired by it, so he went back, past Cubism, way yonder to the African mask<br />

that put modern art on the map, or was it vice versa? Touched by the plight of Africans<br />

all over the world, <strong>Barker</strong> took the anonymous curio masks and gave them identities, and<br />

jobs – like the president. The work is plastered with words like “immigrant”, “exile” and<br />

“homeless”, and it becomes much more than a collage of masks and newspaper cuttings,<br />

and more than a political statement. It makes your skin crawl with compassion,<br />

its poignancy without sentimentality.<br />


BRAAM KRUGER, 2006<br />

<strong>SUPER</strong> <strong>BORING</strong><br />

Clandestin Series | mixed media on board | 181 x 79 cm<br />


162<br />


<strong>SUPER</strong> <strong>BORING</strong><br />

Clandestin 1 | 2009 | mixed media on canvas | 150 x 300 cm<br />


164<br />


Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow | 2009 | oil, mixed media and neon tubing on board | 120 x 360 cm<br />

<strong>SUPER</strong> <strong>BORING</strong><br />


166<br />

Hope | 2009 | oil, mixed media and neon tubing on canvas | 78 x 81 cm Flight | 2009 | oil, mixed media and neon tubing on canvas | 180 x 180 cm<br />


<strong>SUPER</strong> <strong>BORING</strong><br />


168<br />


Gold Fish | 2010 | mixed media and neon tubing | 122.5 x 107 cm<br />

Cinema: Gerard Sekoto | mixed media and neon tubing | 122 x 98 cm<br />

<strong>SUPER</strong> <strong>BORING</strong><br />


170<br />

Sex in the City | 2010 | mixed media and neon tubing | 130 x 150.5 cm<br />


Baselitz | 2010 | mixed media and neon tubing | 124 x 110 cm<br />

<strong>SUPER</strong> <strong>BORING</strong><br />


172<br />

Invitation to ‘Great African Nudes’ Exhibition by Karl Gietl and <strong>Wayne</strong> <strong>Barker</strong> | 2003<br />



I met <strong>Wayne</strong> <strong>Barker</strong> for the fi rst time in jubilant 1994. In roaring Rockey Street,<br />

Johannesburg... Staggering backwards and falling over a café table<br />

and somehow still managing not to spill his drink!<br />

This <strong>Wayne</strong> <strong>Barker</strong> and his art, has always remained one and the same for me,<br />

despite the changes his work and the country (South Africa) have gone through since<br />

then. Although our work could not be more different in style and content, it was his energy<br />

and ability to be effortlessly just one step ahead of his contemporaries that infl uenced and<br />

inspired me in many ways, notwithstanding the fact that we are best of friends and shared<br />

the same hedonistic appetite for life and for a number of years the same<br />

houses and studios.<br />

For me <strong>Wayne</strong>’s work was always a fresh take on his already existing ideas, which<br />

he would rework and reformulate continually; and as with all works which are loaded with<br />

historical content, the more one readdresses issues of the past in a contemporary context,<br />

the more one becomes aware that history is a repetition of itself, in one form or another.<br />

His work, whether it be delicate glowing neon mounted onto a canvas exploding with<br />

colour, a book on plants coated in wax, a glass box full of live bees, or him covered in<br />

chocolate mousse playing the piano naked and being licked clean by some French girl in<br />

Nantes... whatever <strong>Wayne</strong> <strong>Barker</strong> makes, can only be made by <strong>Wayne</strong> <strong>Barker</strong> and his art<br />

is a product of his lifestyle and how the world has affected him.<br />

Whether you like it or not, understand him or cannot, <strong>Wayne</strong> <strong>Barker</strong>’s work, life and<br />

infl uence, has taken on mythical proportions in his own lifetime.<br />

There are millions of so called artists in this world, but there can be<br />

only one <strong>Wayne</strong> <strong>Barker</strong>.<br />

KARL GIETL, 2010<br />

<strong>SUPER</strong> <strong>BORING</strong><br />


174<br />


<strong>SUPER</strong> <strong>BORING</strong><br />


176<br />



The past is history, the future a mystery, the moment a present – <strong>Wayne</strong> <strong>Barker</strong> is<br />

both, a gift and intensely present, wrapping up the past into future memories condensing it<br />

all to one powerful moment that again lasts for ever,<br />

as Nothing Gets Lost in the Universe.<br />

<strong>Wayne</strong> is the fi rst to greet me when I enter my studio here in Vienna, Austria, as he<br />

looks at me from a giant poster fi xed on the wall right at the entrance, a poster from the<br />

exhibition‚ Gurus & Lovers in France together with Samson Mnisi, where we all met, having<br />

the time of our life. My space, which is a public art space too, is invaded by remnants and<br />

tokens of <strong>Wayne</strong>, of our many meetings in different countries, of his visits to Vienna.<br />

His Madonna on wax displayed in the glass cabinet, a postcard from the South coast<br />

of Natal mounted with a bright yellow plastic shovel on the wall, framed artworks of his<br />

serial Landscapes of Desire, his portrait on the Sasol Wax Art Award catalogue, just to<br />

name a few, form a sort of permanent installation here which is symptomatic of his way of<br />

enriching environments, reshaping and reformulating them with his presence. People here<br />

remember him, they keep asking after him, many of whom he inspired in his workshops of<br />

our Art Symposia in Hungary, Slovakia and Poland.<br />

<strong>Wayne</strong> <strong>Barker</strong> certainly didn’t Jump into the World to be ignored… Assimilating<br />

contradictions, reading behind the scenes, disagreeing, reversing irritation into messages<br />

of hope, faith and healing, he puts works in our faces, allowing people into his work, his life<br />

and emotions. Referring to the current term of‚ walking exhibition as used by the German<br />

media artist Rusmann, <strong>Wayne</strong> can be seen as “walking art”, himself being part of the fabric<br />

of his country, interwoven with the fabric of the world, exploring similarities and differences<br />

and depicting a new cultural diversity. We can meet in these worlds, we can reconstruct<br />

the present and reinvent the future. There is nothing too utopian in the merging of art and<br />

life. Coming Out of Darkness, covering Lands of Love the works of <strong>Wayne</strong> <strong>Barker</strong> have<br />

reached a complex, beautiful maturity, dismantling stereotypes, unveiling the hidden and<br />

immersing the viewer in the whole range of human emotions from anger, fear, sorrow,<br />

horror to desire, love, respect, tolerance, hope, forgiveness, always returning to healing.<br />

The themes are deeply universal and at the same time subjected to cultural connotations<br />

in their expression. In the refl ection of this concept of universality and singularity I have<br />

allowed myself, as an observer from Europe, and as a stylistic device in this text, to employ<br />

many of <strong>Wayne</strong>’s own words and titles of his works, reassembling them in a sense of<br />

sharing and trust. Accordingly ending with another quote: “People get alive, lets distribute<br />

work and knowledge”.<br />



<strong>SUPER</strong> <strong>BORING</strong><br />


178<br />




2010 Super Boring [solo exhibition and retrospective],<br />

SMAC Art Gallery, Stellenbosch;<br />

Standard Bank Polokwane and Standard Bank Gallery,<br />

Johannesburg, South Africa<br />

2009 I Linguaggi del Mondo: Languages of the World,<br />

collateral exhibition to the Venice Biennale, Pallazzo<br />

Querini Art House, Venice, Italy<br />

History n , [group exhibition], UCA Gallery, Cape Town,<br />

South Africa<br />

2008 Heal, [solo exhibition], Polokwane Art Museum,<br />

Polokwane, South Africa<br />

Collection 10, [group exhibition] SMAC Art Gallery,<br />

Stellenbosch, South Africa<br />

2007 007, [group exhibition], Polokwane Art Museum<br />

Sasol Wax Art Award Exhibition, Johannesburg Art<br />

Gallery, Johannesburg<br />

2006 Urban Jungle, [two man show] , Afronova,<br />

Johannesburg, South Africa<br />

2005 Land and Desire, [solo exhibition], AF Gerard Sekoto<br />

Gallery, Johannesburg, South Africa<br />

The ID of South African Artists, [group exhibition],<br />

Fortis Circus Theatre, Scheveningen, Holland<br />

2004 10 Years of Democracy [group exhibition],<br />

Gallery Frank Hanel, Frankfurt, Germany<br />

Evidence [group exhibition], Artspace, Johannesburg,<br />

South Africa<br />

2003 Black and White, [solo exhibition], Art on Paper,<br />

Johannesburg, South Africa<br />

Great African Nudes, [two man show], Everard Read,<br />

Johannesburg, South Africa<br />

2002 It’s All Good, [two-man show], CPC, New York, USA<br />

Erratum [solo exhibition] Alliance Francaise,<br />

Johannesburg, South Africa<br />

Gurus and Lovers [two-man show] CACBN, Basse<br />

Normandie, France<br />

Lost and Found, [solo exhibition], NSA Gallery, Durban<br />

KultureAxe: International Summer Academy and<br />

Symposium, Kleine Plastische Triennale, Stuttgart,<br />

Germany<br />

2001 No Logo, [group show], Prince Albert Museum,<br />

London, United Kingdom<br />

1998 Memorias Intimas Marcas, [group show], The Electric<br />

Workshop, Johannesburg, South Africa<br />

Kunst is Kinderspielen, Kunsthalle, Krems, Austria<br />

Beauty in Politics, [solo exhibition], Millennium Gallery,<br />

Pretoria, South Africa<br />

1997 All Washed up in Pretoria, [solo exhibition], Millennium<br />

Gallery, Pretoria, South Africa<br />

All Washed Up in Africa, [solo exhibition], Gallery<br />

Franck Hanel, Frankfurt, Germany and Cape Town,<br />

South Africa<br />

All Washed Up in Africa, [performance with Ian<br />

Waldeck], Venice Biennale, Italy<br />

Dirty Laundry, Festival End of the Century, Nantes,<br />

France<br />

Trade Routes: History and Geography, [group<br />

exhibition], 2 nd Johannesburg Biennale, South Africa<br />

1996 Nothing Gets Lost in the Universe, [solo exhibition],<br />

FIG, Johannesburg, South Africa and Gallery Franck<br />

Hanel, Frankfurt, Germany<br />

Colours, [group show], Haus der Kulturen der Welt,<br />

Berlin, Germany<br />

<strong>SUPER</strong> <strong>BORING</strong><br />




180<br />


1995 Laager, [group exhibition], 1 st Johannesburg Biennale,<br />

South Africa<br />

Spring Time in Chile, [group exhibition], Museum of<br />

Contemporary Art, Santiago, Chile<br />

1993 Coke Adds Life, [solo exhibition], Everard Read<br />

Contemporary Gallery, Johannesburg, South Africa<br />

1992 Bodies of Love, [solo exhibition], Everard Read<br />

Contemporary Gallery, Johannesburg, South Africa<br />

1987 Images on Metal, [solo exhibition], Market Theatre<br />

Gallery, Johannesburg, South Africa<br />


2008 Modern and Contemporary Art: Then Now and Beyond,<br />

Polokwane Art Museum, Polokwane, South Africa<br />

Co-curated with Dr. Fred Scott<br />

1996 The Young and Restless: Not Allowed, Sandton Civic<br />

Gallery, South Africa. Co-curated with Kendell Geers<br />

1995 Spring Time in Chile, Museum of Contemporary Art,<br />

Santiago Chile<br />

Scurvy, Castle of Good Hope, Cape Town,<br />

South Africa. Co-curated with Brett Murray<br />

Brown and Green, Pretoria Art Museum, Pretoria,<br />

South Africa<br />

Can Art Exist Alone? Pretoria Art Museum, Pretoria,<br />

South Africa<br />

1989 Klapperkop, South African Association of the Arts,<br />

Pretoria, South Africa<br />

Anglo American Collection, Durban Art Gallery, Gencor Collection, Gertrude Posel<br />

Gallery - University of Witwatersrand, Iziko South African National Gallery, Johannesburg<br />

Art Gallery, MTN Collection, Polokwane Art Museum, Pretoria Art Museum, Rand<br />

Merchant Bank, SABC Collection, Sanlam Collection, Sandton Civic Gallery<br />


Andrew Lamprecht lectures in Theory and Discourse of Art at the Michaelis School of FineArt,<br />

University of Cape Town. He has a multi-faceted academic profi le and respected as a lecturer and<br />

researcher. Andrew Lamprecht has an active interest in contemporary South African Art, as a writer,<br />

curator and occasionally as a practitioner.<br />

Simon Njami is an independent lecturer and art critic, and is co-founder and editor-in-chief of Revue<br />

Noire. He is also a consultant in visual arts for the Association Française d’Action Artistique. His<br />

extensive publications include essays in the catalogue for the Sydney Biennale and contributions<br />

to a wide range of other exhibition catalogues. Njami has been the artistic director of the Bamako<br />

photography biennale since 2001, and was the curator of the fi rst African pavilion at the 52nd<br />

Venice Biennale in 2007. He has curated numerous exhibitions of African art and photography,<br />

including Africa Remix, which is touring the world and Johannesburg Biennale.<br />

Ashraf Jamal teaches Art History and Visual Culture at Rhodes University. He is a recognized<br />

playwright, novelist and cultural analyst. Jamal has been involved in numerous seminal publications<br />

as co-author of Art South Africa: The Future Present; the co-editor of Indian Ocean Studies: Social,<br />

Cultural and Political Perspectives and the author of Predicaments of Culture in South Africa.<br />

Carol Brown is freelance writer and curator and art consultant. Currently the curator of the Moses<br />

Mabhida Stadium collection, Brown is former director of the Durban Art Gallery with exhibitions<br />

which include Positive 2007, Not Alone 2009 and Past/Present 2009 to her credit.<br />

Thembinkosi Goniwe is an art lecturer at the Art Department of Wits University. He received an<br />

MA(FA) from the university of Cape Town in 1999, where he also served as an assistant lecturer<br />

of drawing and printmaking. He is currently completing his doctoral studies in History of Art at<br />

Cornell University, New York. He has been included in, and has curated numerous national and<br />

international exhibitions.<br />

<strong>SUPER</strong> <strong>BORING</strong><br />


182<br />


When I asked <strong>Wayne</strong> how he came to be an artist he recounted early years growing<br />

up in Pretoria, observing proteas in a state of wonder as to how nature could produce<br />

such a curious creature of beauty and started to experiment with the possibility of<br />

reinterpreting that beauty with paint. On any ordinary day he can be stunned and delighted<br />

by the way sunlight tenderly caresses the leaves of a tree and penetrates through its<br />

branches, illuminating all its colors. Only a soul of exquisite sensitivity can incarnate such<br />

an artistic gaze, but sensitivity alone is not enough to make one an artist, one has to be<br />

fearless and passionate in the face of the tremendous mysteries of life.<br />

<strong>Wayne</strong> embodies everything that historically and mythologically has come to represent<br />

an artist. He who lives on the frontiers, intrepidly confronts the shadows while embarking<br />

on the light, with the innocence of a child and the intensity of a lover. He reinterprets<br />

nature’s beauty, life’s mysteries, society’s tragedies and comedies for us to eat with our<br />

eyes, feel with our viscerals and simultaneously satisfy our aesthetic desires. He drinks<br />

from the glass of the bourgeois and eats from the hands of the people; champagne topped<br />

with a quart from the closest shebeen. Today, the artist wears Prada while still reveling<br />

in the decadent pleasures of wine, women and song. It is of course also the role of the<br />

artist, in this case <strong>Barker</strong>, who is meant to on occasion enrage the authorities and provoke<br />

the uptight galleries through his personal antics, yelling to the masses “Ontsnap uit jou<br />

wit kokon in ‘n helder van kleure!” But beyond the decadent and fl amboyant disguise is a<br />

generously creative being. Generous color, generous depth,<br />

generous beauty, generous love.<br />



It began there,<br />

at a precise moment in Time,<br />

our vacant night fi lling suddenly<br />

with the dash of an idiot.<br />

It is not anymore an intention,<br />

or pure potential,<br />

that hint of Fate has moved a dormant idea<br />

concrete in the world.<br />

Bauer!<br />

The bar was hectic and stuffed,<br />

Veronica in her Marni chicly outside;<br />

its my turn!<br />

the pedant young man shouted<br />

at the stunned, old gent;<br />

thus Baylon and <strong>Wayne</strong> in Venice,<br />

by their kindred spirits in Venice,<br />

their antics hang the rogue to silence,<br />

but where on planet will they now take him?<br />

A clash not a murmur,<br />

with a thousand clangs not with a sigh,<br />

<strong>Wayne</strong> from nothing built<br />

the unsung ultracity of<br />

Super Boring.<br />

FC & EP<br />

Francesco Capodiferro (Poet) and <strong>Wayne</strong> <strong>Barker</strong><br />

in Venice | 2009


Special thanks to Mr Francois Nel, Mr Emiliano Sandri<br />

and the Van Rooyen Family for their role in the realisation<br />

of this project.

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