Gasworks, in Vauxhall, is to reopen after a major redevelopment with an exhibition by emerging South African artist Kemang Wa Lehulere on 24 September.
Sincerely yours, is the first UK solo exhibition by the artist. The show takes inspiration from South African intellectual Sol T. Plaatje’s (1876-1932) journeys to England in the early 20th century and aims to establish a speculative encounter between Plaatje’s past and Wa Lehulere’s present. The show will include new chalk on blackboard drawings, and soil and grass sculptures, which Wa Lehulere refers to as ‘living sculptures’, among other works.
Working across performance, drawing, writing, sculpture and installation, Wa Lehulere’s work explores how South Africa’s past continues to haunt the present, unravelling the relationships between personal and collective histories, amnesia and the archive, remembering and forgetting. Forgotten historical figures often resurface anachronistically as characters or props in the artist’s narrative repertoire. This process of revision — of both past lives and his own work — will underpin his exhibition at Gasworks, for which he will create site-specific works in the newly refurbished building.
In researching to produce work for this exhibition, Wa Lehulere has drawn from various sources including his collection of postage stamps from countries that no longer exist and American playwright Richard Walton Tulley’s (1877-1945) forgotten play ‘The Bird of Paradise’ (1912) set in 1890s Hawaii via the legacy of Sol Plaatje. Also inspired by theatre and set design, Wa Lehulere’s works are often conceived as dramatic ‘acts’ or ‘rehearsals’ in long-term narrative arcs centering on motifs such as the act of falling or the unfaithfulness of language.
Sincerely yours, is the first exhibition in Gasworks’ newly redeveloped space, after the organisation purchased its freehold and underwent a major redevelopment by award-winning British architects HAT Projects. Gasworks has a rich history of supporting UK and international artists, by providing an innovative programme of exhibitions, international residencies, artists’ studios and outreach activities. The redevelopment ensures that Gasworks has a permanent home in the Vauxhall area and can continue its legacy of nurturing emerging artists. Alongside this exhibition, there will also be an opportunity to view Open Studios with artists-in-residence Grace Weinrib (Chile), Desire Machine Collective (India), Andrea Canepa (Peru) and Rubén Grilo (Spain) on Saturday 26 September.