Acclaimed artists Johan Conradie and Karl Gustav Sevenster form the artist duo AD-Reflex. Their current work, Hindsights and Foresights is a navigation of moments of unexpected beauty in the mundane.
‘Of all the forms of wisdom, ‘hindsight’ is by general consent the least merciful, the most unforgiving. With the benefit of hindsight, one begins to search one’s past for such “turning points”, and is apt to start seeing them everywhere.’-
Where does your name, AD-Reflex originate?
The “AD” within AD-Reflex, refers to notions of ‘ascent’ and ‘descent’.
Seemingly opposites collide and coexist in the work of the artist duo. These so-called ‘collision boundaries’ where opposites meet, spark the “reflex” or the creative energy, that is AD-Reflex.
Ad-Reflex is a collaborative duo. How does this dynamic work and how does it translate to your practice?
Collaboration implies the rejection of the idea of the individual artist as genius. Instead, our collective voice spontaneously becomes a singular voice. From the start, we had very similar overlapping interests and visual observations. The impetus of new work might be sparked by anything from travels, to mundane daily life experiences. We compile various design/collage ideas that are vigorously scrutinized to achieve the desired identity and vision of a new artwork. Fine-tuning the initial concept to achieve the most desired final result follows this, including elements like size, scale, technical and production process. Although we both have distinctly different skill sets, we share a unified vision, and that includes equal involvement throughout the process.
There are recurring themes of the classical present in much of your work, but also the subversive. Tell us more about this process’ evolution and the AD-Reflex language.
Our initial partnership was sparked by an intense shared interest and love for the baroque and the classical. Both artists have embraced ever-present ‘duality’ in the baroque, as well as ‘drama’, ‘pathos’, ‘sensuous colours’ and ‘swelling, sculptural forms’. In spite of the love of the baroque and the classical, we retain a firm grounding in the contemporary. We undermine the idea of flawless progress in the contemporary moment, that the right direction is always known.
Instead, everything can mix with everything; everything is
possible and in perpetual transformation. Triviality mingles with glamour, banality with sophistication, and despair with beauty.
In several works from Hindsights and Foresights, subjects from the local lived urban everyday experience are a pivotal departure. Can you elaborate on that?
We don’t see it as a pivotal departure. The similarity between a Rembrandt etching of the poor and destitute in the 17th century, and a 21st-century man scrambling through garbage in contemporary Africa in a recycling effort seems distinctly similar to us. The garbage collectors have become an everyday reality within the South African contemporary landscape. In conversation with several of these guys, we become aware of the pivotal role they play, and their collective sense of community.
Beauty and despair appear constants of the AD-Reflex oeuvre. The tactility and movement of paint as a sculptural medium could also be seen as an impassioned, near-violent response. Can you elaborate on how these reconcile in your work and why?
Duality is ever-present in our work. We see it as our task to subvert the expected and the known. We want to subvert what is traditionally seen as the ‘rift’ between the painterly and the digital. Instead, we celebrate the co-existence or dance between the two art forms. The liminal space where these two meet forms the core of the AD-Reflex expression.