Allow me to introduce you to… is an exhibition of new work by Robyn Field. Her 2021 exhibition is a case study in how artists are adapting to a dramatically changed industry. Moving online has allowed artists and galleries to keep showing work, but earning the same living as pre-pandemic has proved to be a challenge for an industry reliant on exhibition openings and art fairs.
A longstanding Jozi-based creator, Field is mixing up options and is launching her solo show, Allow Me to Introduce You To…, at Melville’s Upstairs at Bamboo venue from 19 March to 19 April, 2021.
She’s also launching the show online at the same time to cater to social distancing norms. And the digital show isn’t simply an upload of images into a viewing room. Field and her husband, writer and speaker Andrew Miller, have put together a carefully narrated digital tour to accompany the real thing.
Allow Me to Introduce You To… is a collection of large-scale canvases featuring Field’s signature use of colour and expressionism in addressing complex socio-political themes. Miller’s narration of the online exhibition talks to the audience about the ideas behind the work. An accomplished speaker, his narration adds depth while also offering context through samples and snippets of music, movies and media themes that have informed his wife’s creative process.
While her real world and online exhibitions offer different lenses on her work, they also reinforce each other. Art lovers who have already viewed the online show can visit the venue to see the work in the real, socially-distanced world, while those experiencing the show at the venue for the first time can use their smart phones to follow the narration, effectively taking the artist’s voice with them as they keep a healthy social distance.
A personal, contextual interaction
“We love art openings because you get the opportunity to have a glass of wine and speak to the artist and hear the stories behind the art,” says Field. “But with Covid uncertainty there’s no guarantee you can schedule a show and even make this happen. By combining online and offline events – and putting equal effort into both – we’re hoping to create the personal, contextual interaction the art world is missing so much now.’
Allow Me to Introduce You To… will be opened by one of South Africa’s most prominent artists, Blessing Ngobeni. But two months before the show launches, it’s still impossible to know whether he will speak virtually, or in real life, or both.
“It’s a huge honour to have Blessing involved, and we want to ensure his presence is felt. With a carefully produced online structure, a virtual opening talk from him will fit right in and work well in the social media space. And obviously if we can do a more traditional real-world opening event we’ll jump at the chance. Either way, the structure is flexible enough to cope,” she adds.
Field was the owner and curator of the city’s Unity Gallery for over 10 years, and has worked with a wide range of the city’s artists and arts organisations.
What: Allow me to introduce you to Robyn Field
Where: Upstairs@Bamboo and online
When: 19 March – 19 April 2021