Cited internationally as one of South Africa’s foremost resistance artists , the exhibition ‘Community’ reviews and showcases Willie Bester’s various contemporary themes that have been a continual thread throughout his artistic practice for over the last 30 years. Tracing Bester’s development from his spirited early 1970’s and 1980’s paintings such as District 6 and Elsies River, we are led into his merging of the mixed media formats that he is most well known for.
Here the re-appropriation of found everyday objects in artworks such as Tap Water (1999), and the ongoing Transition series serve to highlight his distinctive use of discarded scrap yard off cuts, army objects and flea market finds. The exhibition reinforces a constant reminder of Besters desire to review the evolving political landscapes of South Africa.
The multi sectioned artwork entitled Community (made up of 26 ‘canvases’ dating from the 1990’s to the present day) and the ongoing Township Lives series champion the various narratives and points of reference of this country’s people. Bright colors and rich imagery imbue the surfaces to remind the audience of both the scope and breadth of his social interactions and influences, and that Bester hopes to represent them all articulately and with an authentic eloquence.
This concise but detailed exhibition retraces Besters rich artistic observations of his country, from its raw political history to the relevant contemporary challenges which have emerged from post-apartheid South Africa, and serves to reinforce Willie Besters role as the adopted voice of the proud everyday people from all different disadvantaged circumstances.
Born in Montagu, Western Cape, in 1956. Willie Bester attended the Community Arts Project, Cape Town in 1986. Having had various solo exhibitions across South Africa, his art work has been seen extensively internationally including in Austria, Brussels, Belgium, Brazil, Canary Islands, Cuba, Dakar, France, Germany, India, Ireland, Italy, Malaysia, The Netherlands, Senegal , Spain Switzerland and the USA.
Bester is also represented in numerous public collections such as Iziko SA National Gallery, Cape Town; Johannesburg Art Gallery; Nelson Mandela Metropolitan Art Museum, Port Elizabeth; Durban Art Gallery; Tatham Art Gallery, Pietermaritzburg; Pretoria Art Museum; University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg; University of the Western Cape, Bellville; University of South Africa Art Gallery, Pretoria; Department of National Education, Pretoria; Department of Foreign Affairs, Pretoria; South African Broadcasting Corporation, Cape Town and Johannesburg; Human Sciences Research Council, Cape Town; Contemporary African Art Collection, Paris; and the Smithsonian Institute, in Washington DC. In 2004 he was awarded the Order of the Disa, Members Class, by the Government of the Republic of South Africa