Henry Symonds doesn't deliberately piss people off. Sometimes it just happens. When you're a white South African and you paint pictures of black people, sometimes people get annoyed. But then, what's he supposed to do? This is the thing I'm most drawn to in his work - the way he negotiates cultural identity from the point of view of someone implicated by his race in maybe the most oppressive culture of the late twentieth century. His work deals, often in a jarring way, with the cross-cultural interaction, usually between himself and 'other' cultural groups. By dealing with his own stories, he combines personal myth with the contemporary cultural politics. His images can be erotic, violent, funny and sad.
Sight Lines is a survey of some of Symonds' recent prints. I first met him when he was working on the Falls of Shadow series. The four black and white prints in this show came out of that. Making these works is a pretty drawn out process. initially, there are the photos in the middle. These are silkscreened and then layers of black, white and grey dots are overlaid. Once that print is made, Symonds photographs it, scans it, touches it up in Photoshop and spits it out again on a laser-jet printer. So each step seems to take the work further away from the original image. But then all this distracting doesn't change the fact that the photos in the middle are bizarre and sometimes scary... (continued text can be read in the attached PDF)
Henry Symonds grew up in rural South Africa. in the late 1960s and early 1970s he attended the Michaelis School of Fine Art in Capetown, which, at the time, was the leading art school in apartheid South Africa the encouraged the study of contemporary European art. His work came to prominence in South Africa in the 1980s and in 1987 he was one of the artist to represent South Africa at the VII Biennial de Arte, Valparaiso, Chile. in 1993, he moved to Auckland, where he currently works as Dean of Instruction at Whitecliffe College of Art and Design. In 2000 he graduated with an MFA from Elam School of Fine Arts, Auckland. He exhibits in New Zealand, South Africa, the United States, Germany and Holland.