South African artist in Istanbul with ‘Stonebreakers’

South African artist in Istanbul with ‘Stonebreakers’

South African artist in Istanbul with ‘Stonebreakers’ Istanbul’s BLOK art space is hosting a new exhibition by South African artist Nicky Broekhuysen, “The Stonebreakers.” The exhibition is a reference to the 1849 realist painting by French artist Gustave Courbet depicting two peasants, a father and a son, laboring on the side of a road breaking rocks. 

“The Stonebreakers,” a monumental piece, shows the harsh reality the peasant class faced at the time. By choosing them as his subject matter, Courbet elevates the peasants’ status to the status of the upper ruling class, previously the sole subject matter of such paintings. 

Deeply connected to the social and political context of the time, Courbet’s Stonebreakers depicted not only a shift but the breaking down of a status quo. With events such as the Arab Spring and social and political movements gaining momentum all around the world, society finds itself at a similar crossroads. This time, inter-connectedness driven by social media in today’s digital age is proving to be the vehicle for social and political change. It is this digitalism that drives Broekhuysen’s work.

“Using binary numbers 1 and 0 as ‘building blocks’ of form in my work, I use binary code as a metaphorical language, which reflects this digital context. Binary code also represents data, information and meaning collected and stored from society. This information not only forms the basis of our ideas and beliefs but also the social and political structures that we subsequently build from them. The idea of potential therefore forms a cornerstone to the exhibition,” says Broekhuysen.

Binary code as a system depends on how the numbers 1 and 0 are arranged; however, the numbers can continually be shifted, re-arranged to form new meanings. Thus, the potential for change is ever present.

The exhibit strives to take this “logical system” and make it completely illogical. The numbers, instead of being coded, exist forever in that transient moment between fixed states. They remain open, ambiguous spaces where the unknown is forever present. This idea is demonstrate in the exhibit’s abstract works.

The exhibition will be open through Nov. 15.