'Not a judge, not a saint' paintings by Mpumelelo “Layziehound” Coka at Ecclectica Contemporary Opening on August 3 preview. Pictures: Supplied
'Not a judge, not a saint' paintings by Mpumelelo “Layziehound” Coka at Ecclectica Contemporary Opening on August 3 preview. Pictures: Supplied

His drawing is strong and displays a confident mark and observational skills. However, this is not just an exercise in some sort of process. The imagery and titles certainly speak to a range of subjects: “The devil made do it”; “Judging idols”; “Earthly judges and prophets of doom”; and the list goes on.

One could argue that the artist has interpreted such themes with their social, cultural, religious, political and economic dimensions in quite a literal way, but he adds to the significance of such social commentary in visual terms.

He uses signs; incisive line and figures that convey emotional discord. Text sometimes is included and adds to the drama, a sense of a system that is failing or that has failed. It appears that such a failing may be because of a drive for power, coercive force and ideological and institutional might.

There is a sense of an awareness of past visual methods and style and a kind of visual quoting that allows “Layziehound” to acknowledge the play of history and perhaps the fact that the failings of the past cannot now be ignored and perhaps then not so easily transcended. Such commentary appears to be a general, global one and not only applied to the South African context.

Beyond the words and chatter, the policy-making and assertions of power, one gets a sense of a critical questioning of societal norms backed by strong drawing in charcoal and paint, as well as a sense of colour and brushwork.

I enjoyed the way the artist develops his themes via a kind of rushed brushwork, patterns and geometric lines that co-ordinate the more illustrative figures and backgrounds.

As the exhibition title suggests, “Layziehound” wishes to deduce that no individual or institution should be an arbiter of ethical rightness; there is no supreme human judge or position of sainthood.

In a sense, then, history is progressed via a dismantling of history. In other words, it is through a questioning of the system itself that the system moves forward. If such a critical stance is not possible or evident in a given society, then there is the risk of dictatorship and abuse of power. The institutions of the day, therefore are not iron clad nor held up by the authority of the Greek column and triumphant large spaces. A more human, intimate setting, one that does not dwarf the citizen, is perhaps called for. It is sure to be an exciting opening.