Regarding her artwork Finis Tenebris, Minnette Vári states, “On my mind when I started this drawing, was a recurring dream I had as a child:
I am staring at a field of pure white; it extends beyond my peripheral vision. It feels safe and serene. Suddenly, one little black dot appears. Then, there are two more. Soon, seven, no, twelve more, scattering at random. More follow, their numbers increase exponentially and before long the entire space is vibrating with countless dots: the closest visual equivalent would be televisual noise. It is incredibly disquieting, a point of crisis. My task now is to harness all my mental capacity into making the dots disappear, one at a time until eventually, it is all quiet again, back to calm whitespace. But then, a new dot appears… a new turning point looms.”
In making this work, I wanted to bring the drawing to a turning point’ or a point of crisis, and see what would develop after that. In epidemiology, crisis is the critical point where a disease comes to a turning point. This notion derives from the Greek word krisis, which means “decision”. As the world navigates the Covid-19 pandemic, we have been witness to so many turning points, so many critical decisions, for better and for worse. I wanted the work to physically embody the idea of “turning a corner”, hence the shape of the drawing. To be in a corner is also a space of isolation, which resonated strongly for me in the Nama song Saritêre. A simple lament that translates as follows:
As night falls so softly, my heart aches
Even moon and stars are hiding tonight, I am all alone
Can anyone, please come to me
That my loneliness can cease
The making of this drawing really was first and foremost a performance piece. What I finally extracted from the dark surface that I built up with all those dots, was a simple wish: an incantation for these times. Finis Tenebris. End of Darkness.”
Minnette Vári works in digital video, drawing, painting, printmaking, and most recently, virtual reality art. Vári’s research methods focus on the politics of obscure or neglected histories, identities and mythologies. She holds a Masters of Fine Art from the University of Pretoria (1997).
Since the early 1990’s, her work has featured on local and international exhibitions, such as the Second Johannesburg Biennale (1997), the Venice Biennale (2001 and 2007), Personal Affects: Power And Poetics In Contemporary South African Art, Museum for African Art, New York (2004), the 10th Biennale of Havana (2009) and The Divine Comedy: Heaven, Hell, Purgatory Revisited by Contemporary African Artists, MMK, Frankfurt (2014).
In 2016, the Standard Bank Gallery in Johannesburg hosted her mid-career survey exhibition, Of Darkness and Of Light. Other solo exhibitions include a monographic exhibition at the Art Museum Lucerne, Switzerland (2004), Chimera at Art Unlimited, Basel (2003), Vigil at Elga Wimmer Gallery, New York (2007) and The Eleventh Hour at the Goodman Gallery, Johannesburg (2017).
Public collections featuring her work include The IZIKO South African National Gallery (Cape Town), MuHKA: the Museum van Hedendaagse Kunst (Antwerp), The Museum of Art (Luzerne), the Sindika Dokolo Collection of Contemporary African Art (Luanda) and SAFFCA: Southern African Foundation For Contemporary Art (Johannesburg and Saint Emilion).
She lives and works in Johannesburg, where she is a part-time lecturer in Visual Arts at the University of Johannesburg. www.minnettevari.co.za