ACCOMPLISHED Eastern Cape photographer and painter, Marc Pradervand, presents his first solo art exhibition in Port Elizabeth entitled “Assume Relaxed Position”, at the Athenaeum from 15 – 25 April 2014.  Pradervand’s latest body of work, comprising 14 large format paintings, presents cheeky political, social, psychological and sexual content which may leave sensitive adult viewers quite the opposite of relaxed.

 Pradervand’s provocative artistic expression has already attracted robust support from admiring South African art fraternity peers who previewed his work in the run up to the exhibition. Internationally acclaimed Afrikaner author of ‘My Traitor’s Heart’, Rian Malan, playfully describes Marc’s new body of work as “Ruder than Brett Murray and much funnier too”.  Considering Brett Murray rocked the nation with his controversial depiction of Jacob Zuma’s phallus in his work ‘The Spear’, sensitive audiences should consider themselves duly warned about the similarly adult nature of this exhibition. Marc confirms that his work unashamedly confronts “social issues such as violence, power, abuse, obsession, materialism”, mirroring Murray’s public investigations of power, race, politics, patriarchy, oppression and the manipulation of the media in South Africa via ‘The Spear’.

 Pradervand’s handling of this latest exhibition reflects an unself-conscious candour, verging on a disdainful disinterest, in the potential shock factor of his new body of work.  His past career credits place him in the very acceptable second tier of South Africa’s fine art hall of fame, meaning Marc is confident to experiment and explore without external validation. Hailing from East London, 44-year old Marc holds a National Diploma in Photography from the Port Elizabeth Technikon as well as a Higher Diploma in Education from the Port Elizabeth Teachers College. He has worked both locally and internationally as a professional commercial photographer for over 15 years, and has had five solo photographic exhibitions. Selected three times as a finalist in the ABSA Top 100 Le'Atelier Art Competition, in 2008 Marc was selected as one of eight finalists in the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan Art Museum Biennale. Some of Marc's work has been bought by the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan Art Museum and forms part of their permanent collection.

 Undoubtedly, Pradervand’s renegade confidence enabled him to ply his trade in the glam advertising world in Cape Town and pull weapons from his creative armoury on demand for clients. Yet, the hollow pretention of the advertising agency scene and the pace of Cape Town city life drove him and his wife Yolande to abandon the city about five years ago, embracing the pristine spartan lifestyle of rural hamlet Riebeck East instead. In so doing, Marc ditched his commercial photography career, while retaining his passion for fine art documentary photography. Said Marc, “Living in a wendy house without running water, electricity and flushtoilets for three years while we built our cob house was a fantastic experience”. In fact, it was an immersion into an existential exploration of the romanticised noble savage archetype: a human being unspoilt by the corrupting influences of materialistic civilization; one who symbolises an original, innate sense of goodness, with connection to land, people and community.  “Now we have a few mud huts on the property, a large vegetable garden and hundreds of the original Acacia Karoo trees that form our very own forest” said Marc proudly. This transformational isolation has yielded interpretations removed from any reference to other artists or influences, culminating in his candid, unmediated expression of the art savage. While a city sensibility in exhibition audiences may well interpret his works as rough or uncultivated, Pradervand appears unfazed by such potential subjectivities.

 Accomplished Eastern Cape photographer, artist and friend, Tim Hopwood suggests “I have seen nothing in South African painting quite like the works of the reclusive art savage Marc Pradervand. They are uniquely South African, and more often than not directly inspired by South African occurrences, usually very unsettling occurrences, stuff most visual artists would shy away from. They are not so much a breath of fresh air as they are a blast of cold brutal reality.”

 Marc’s selection of the beguilingly reassuring word string “Assume Relaxed Position” contrasts directly with the conscious and sub-conscious memories and messages presented.  In fact, these lyrics pulled from the Rodriguez track ‘Crucify Your Mind’ from the album ‘Cold Fact’, take Marc back to teacher training college days, where he shared a dormitory with an army combatant still “bossies” [Post traumatic Stress Disorder-induced mania] from the effects of the bush war in Angola, who played the album ‘Cold Fact’ every night for an entire year to fall asleep to. Said Marc, “I listened to Cold Fact a lot while I prepared for the exhibition. Painting helps me process recurring dark memories in a functional way, rather than acting out like an adolescent aggro jerk.” Anger and rage are depicted graphically in his works, via iconic explosions of two-dimensional colour. Freudian fans will have a field day interpreting his phallic messaging which cocks a snook at so-called civilized prudery. Marc concedes his stylistic expression in this body of work is “children’s paintings that children really shouldn’t see.” 

 Local contemporary journalist and author Hagen Engler aptly remarks that “Marc Pradervand has an amazing ability to shock and offend. In our mollycoddled society we need more people like him. His current body of work is another vibrant assault on complacent convention. More power to his arm!” In the context of Port Elizabeth’s ever-growing creative arts sector, Marc Pradervand’s challenging exhibition offers progressive art audiences a bold platter of treats to chew on. Assume a relaxed position, leave the kids at home with a babysitter, and support Marc Pradervand’s exhibition launch at the Athenaeum at 5.30pm for 6pm on Tuesday 15 April 2014.