Representations of Absence in Emerging Art

These select works from the TAF Paper exhibition depict men in spaces of absence, prompting the viewer to consider the deeper meaning behind the imagery. By analyzing the artworks, one can gain a better understanding of what the artist is trying to convey, and how it relates to society as a whole. 

Despite the lack of people or narrative action within many of these images, they still manage to convey a sense of presence through the use of subtle details. This lingering feeling of a life force within an empty space is something that resonates deeply with many South Africans, for whom absence is a palpable and emotional experience. It is in this way that the works capture the essence of absence, each in its own unique way. 

Roland Barthes’ concept of a photograph as a “certificate of presence” in his book ‘camera lucida’ is particularly relevant here, as it highlights the paradoxical nature of these works. The figures depicted are present, yet their absence is what is being represented. Each photographer has used their own personal iconography to represent their understanding of absence, resulting in a collection of timeless and somber images that capture the hidden messaging and sentiments of those who have experienced loss. 

Moreover, these works also prompt us to reflect on broader social issues related to absence, such as the impact of forced migration, displacement, and the aftermath of conflict. They urge us to consider the human cost of such experiences and to empathize with those who have been affected by them. In this sense, the works not only serve as a reminder of the power of art but also as a call to action to address the underlying social and political issues that give rise to absence in the first place. As such, they offer a powerful example of the ways in which art can be used as a tool for social commentary and advocacy.

Ultimately, these works highlight the power art has in conveying messages and experiences that others can relate to. By representing absence in such a poignant and evocative way, the artists have succeeded in creating works that resonate with viewers and speak to the universal experience of loss. 

Voids and the darkness they bring by Rebaone Kgomotso Setshedi
Invincible Spirit by Melusi Masike
On Camera by Michael Wilson
current state of mind by Tumisho Mack Ramokonyana
“Retaliating” renditions i - Katlego Kgomo copy
Retalaiting Renditions I by Katlego Kgomo

Written by Shayna Rosendorff 


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