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About The Artist

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Artist Biography

Derek Zietsman can be regarded as a ‘late bloomer’ in the art world. Although he enjoyed a successful career in the business world, he decided to leave behind a senior position and live out his passion for art on a full-time basis. Derek enrolled at UNISA from where he received the Bachelor of Visual Arts (BVA) degree in 2007 and subsequently moved on to the University of Johannesburg from where he obtained a Masters in Fine Art (Cum Laude) in 2013.

Studying art formally was a watershed experience for Derek. He says that becoming more informed about contemporary art practice and art theory opened up new worlds for him, ‘I realised that art-making is much more than painting pretty landscapes or drawing cute kittens’.

The issue of ‘reality’ and our search for ‘truth’ underpins most of what interests Derek in his art- making. The works he prepared for his first group exhibition after obtaining his undergraduate degree, Intervention, which showed at Unisa Art Gallery in 2008, explored these issues.

‘It fascinates me that in our contemporary world almost everybody seems to be concerned about whom they are and how they appear to the outside world. In the Western world ‘image’ is everything. However, my search for what constitutes ‘truth’ has more recently caused me to rather reflect, through my work, on what it means to be a white man in post-apartheid South Africa. I explore what I perceive as an existential angst in South African society. My exploratory magnifying glass is strongly influenced by identity theorists, such as Stuart Hall and Judith Butler, who contend that identities are not something which already exists, but a construct that undergoes constant transformation.

In South Africa we experience constant transformation. My identity, which includes gender and ‘race’, is not a fixed attribute but should be seen as a fluid variable which shifts and changes in different contexts and at different times. The concept of identity as a performance; seeing identity as free-floating, unconnected to an ‘essence’, is a key focus of my recent work’.

Derek has participated in a number of group exhibitions:

  • 2007 Final year visual arts student exhibition, UNISA Art Gallery, University of South Africa
  • 2008 Interventions, University of South Africa – curated by Koos van der Watt
  • 2008 Celebration, Coolart Space, Johannesburg
  • 2008 If I were a woman, Magpie Gallery, Pretoria
  • 2009 Fried group show, Fried Gallery, Pretoria
  • 2010 Games People Play, Fried Gallery, Pretoria
  • 2011 Group exhibition, Gordart Gallery, Johannesburg
  • 2010 Printed, David Brown Gallery, Johannesburg
  • 2011 Altered Pieces, various galleries – curated by Gordon Froud
  • 2011 Group exhibition, Charity door auction for Jhb Child Welfare
  • 2012 Group exhibition, David Brown Gallery, Johannesburg
  • 2013 Student Exhibition, FADA Gallery, University of Johannesburg
  • 2013 Performing ‘man’, Fried Gallery, Pretoria

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