06 july – 19 august 2017

Fried Contemporary is pleased to present an exhibition by Andreas Schönfeldt in the Collectors room, opening Thursday 06 July from 6pm-8pm.


Dr Ariana van Heerden | June 2017

The notion of the photographic image as a trace of the subject and the site of memory is not new. Andreas Schönfeldt’s installation Ancestral Flagellation is informed by the photographic image, together with archival documents, inclusive of various versions of coats of arms, as well as etchings and art works – this altogether spanning eight generations of ancestry. Collectively such data overreaches mere representation of history and rather starts creating a rich source of metaphor and analogy not only of the past, but as a synchronous reflection of how he acquired source material in the present and a prescient glimpse of the future. Through his craft this white South African male chronicles this ontological continuum of atonement and cultural collateral damage with compassion as well as veiled cunning.

Upon entering the intimate venue one is at first aware of the semblance of an altar at the opposite end. But one’s view is obscured by a forest of trees which one is compelled to navigate, or a curtain which needs to be parted, intimately. One thus becomes part of a wandering in the wilderness, or the revelation of a sacred thing beyond. One is tempted to rush forward to find that which is being veiled from view, but to both sides of the small venue one encounters Images that both delay, yet point the way forward.

To the left is a warrior – sourced from an etching done by Andreas’s ancestor Johann Heinrich Schönfeldt (artist and etcher) – cryptically alluding to a dead tree – a skeleton tree – that he glimpses in the future. The tree is significant as it is a central icon in the Schönfeldt coat of arms and also alludes to the family tree. The name Schönfeldt translates from German as ‘beautiful landscape’. But it is a skeleton tree that Andreas encounters on his morning wanderings with his dogs. It is the personification of the genealogical dead end that blocks his path. His Schönfeldt forefather who entrusted him with perpetuity of the Schönfeldt genealogy when he came ashore at Cape Town in 1811 from Germany, would surely mete out punishment to Andreas for accommodating the diaspora of his one son to a more Southern continent; or the cynicism of his other son to deny the continuity of progeny in South Africa at all. Andreas is thus no warrior. He does not personify the Schönfeldt coat of arms with its knights in armour and shields of gold. He should be punished for causing his own progeny to wander in the wilderness. On the right side is his great-grandfather captured in a photograph whilst incarcerated as a prisoner of war in Ceylon at the start of the 20th century. This kindly settler wandered in the South African wilderness and was punished for being at a particular place, at a particular time. He now personifies the white colonial male’s guilt in contemporary South Africa and becomes Andreas’s template for the crimes that he himself must atone for culturally, collectively. Andreas must now become both flagellator and flagellant. 1000 lashes, no less.

In the centre of the venue is a collection of relics which Andreas wishes us to view with the detached-engaged reverence one reserves for museum displays. Upon closer inspection one finds a motley grouping of impermanence and detritus – crumpled bits of paper in a box representing the forgotten or neglected females connected to this family tree – torn fragments of an ancestral photograph – strips of paper as flesh representing 1000 lashings. In essence paper pulp. One is not sure what to do with such information other than to inculcate and project bits as cultural remnants of one’s own neglected collective.

Andreas Schönfeldt offers this sketch of his ancestors as an (economical) offering of himself. He intends this offering to be ambivalent – the result is an experience rich with analogy and metaphor which lingers long after the encounter.

Andreas Schönfeldt was born in 1950 and spent his first years on the slopes of the Tokai mountain in Cape Town. He left various footprints on the beaches of Muizenberg, St. James and Fishoek. In 1970 Andreas settled in Pretoria where he acquired skills in cinematography and later photography at The National Film Board. He completed the National Diploma in Fashion Design (1974); National Diploma in Art and Design in Graphic Art (1979); and the National Higher Diploma in Fine Art (1984). Andreas’s academic career spans a period of some thirty-two years, during which time he was study leader for Printmaking and Fine Art Photography. Andreas has exhibited extensively in various media, but his preferred mode of expression has tended to be printmaking and graphic media, in which he ranks amongst the finest in South Africa.