Well-Travelled: Pofadder and Back
Painters Lise Hugo and Aidan Walsh's 'Other' Landscapes
Remember the old joke about reaching Pofadder?
A recklessly jovial name in a very distant, desolate, survivalist landscape, the little town represents the furthest one would travel; symbolically, the farthest one could get. While in many ways a typical dorpie of its kind, getting there implies (or used to imply) the most arduous of journeys, the ultimate achievement of exploration of South African geography.
The joke is that once you get there, there may only be a snake if you kick over one of the grim-grey, sun-baked desert rocks. Nothing else.
In a jolly metaphorical sense, you have to be kind of odd to go there, but the absurd trip would provide its own real, personal awards: If you reach Pofadder, you've been there - as simple as that.
Of course, when artists with a natural inquisitive demeanour and a cheerful mindfulness of irony, go on such a personal journey to observe, record, reflect and come back to paint, the resonances and significances of their trip and its results will record exactly that irony of the 'nothingness', the nowhereness, of Pofadder.
What it materially turns out to be is a remarkable body of work ū a contemporary visual contemplation of South Africa's 'other' landscapes, its human presences and social orders. Individual in execution, the resultant exhibition of two artists in tandem in theme is an order of captivating paintings: gently nostalgic, coolly empathetic and inevitably lyrical.
It includes, of course, scenes that only painters and artists can discover and record.
Lize Hugo and Aidan Walsh's journeys have taken them to the real Pofadder. It has also taken them to places such as Putsonderwater, Prieska, Port Nolloth, Pella, Verneukpan and Hope Town.
If it was romance and other obsessions that compelled colonial explorer-artists through our ever-changing panorama, the voyages of Hugo and Walsh are rewarded in the alternative way we, as viewers in the gallery, can consider what they saw and painted.
It is in this sense that the word 'back' of the title is important. Like ancient travelling artists came home to show something different, so would they.