Picture by Liza du Plessis
The KwaZulu-Natal Society of Arts’ Members’ Exhibition has kicked off the gallery’s annual calendar. The exhibition is an annual one in which members of the KZNSA are invited to exhibit their work for free in the gallery. Each member can submit one piece and all submissions are eligible for the Joan Emmanuel Family Trophy. 
The theme this year is ‘Character’, Angela Shaw, operations manager at KZNSA, said, “KZNSA is the Durban host for the Sanlam Portrait Award. This is a touring national competition that happens every 2 years. The curators asked us to encourage more people from KZN to enter and we used the opportunity of the Members’ exhibition to inspire KZN artists to work on portraiture, while also leaving the theme open enough for those who have other subjects.”

Shaw also said there was an overwhelming amount of entries, “Members from the ages of 16 to 95 responded, we have 109 entries of artwork in multiple mediums which included painting, ceramics, metal work, drawings, photographer and woodcarving”, she said. 

Concerning the winning artwork this year, Shaw said that the judges, who include Ndabo Langa, greg Jacobson and Raksha Gobardan, look for technical ability, interpretation of the theme and originality. 

This year's winner is Sharon Bischoff, who created a pencil and mixed media piece titled Faka Imaski Ekusweni. Speaking to Tonight, Bischoff said, “My interest in people has been ongoing for many years. As a school teacher I had the opportunity to involve myself with many different parents, teachers and students at school and outside the school environment. It has always amazed me at the different layers of ourselves we show to the person we are facing.”

“This topic of "character" fell into my lap, as it is something I have often thought about. The title gave me an opportunity to put onto paper that which I was thinking,” she said. 

Bischoff said that her painting is about a young man who puts on a mask of happiness even though he is in pain. 

“ Faka Imaski Ekusweni (put on a mask) is about a young man I have known for almost six years. My interaction with him has always been about work. Until a short while ago I asked him about his family and was saddened to hear that his little son had died. He came to work as usual and never said a thing. It got me thinking that we look at people without ever seeing them”, she said. 

“He was my study. I made a plaster-paris mask of his face, took many pictures in different light and started drawing. The play with the textures of the pencil marks and touches of white paint gave the drawing the emotive quality I was looking for”, Bischoff said. 

The exhibition runs until 5 February and Shaw said the exhibition represents the energy and talent of the KZNSA.