'I don’t limit myself,' says Sanell Aggenbach

Sanell Aggenbach is a painter who used to teach print making and likes to play with sculptures

Artist’s Biography:
Cape Town based Sanell Aggenbach was born in 1975 and graduated from the University of Stellenbosch as a Fine Artist in 1997. Between June 2000 and March 2004 she lectured at the Cape College and has been a full-time artist and designer since 2005. Sanell Aggenbach was part of many group exhibitions: Bell Roberts Gallery Cape Town, exhibitions in Stellenbosch, Johannesburg, Austria, Canada etc. and solo exhibitions at several galleries in Johannesburg, Cape Town, Oudtshoorn and in New Delhi, India. She has been a finalist in several awards (Spier Contemporary Art Award, Kanna Award), a curator at the Bell-Roberts Gallery in Cape Town and a winner of the 2003 ABSA L’Atelier Award, won a residency in Paris for 6 months, and spend 5 months in New Delhi, India as a selected for the UNESCO-Aschberg Residency programme at the Sanskriti Kendra (1999). Also, Sanell Aggenbach published several catalogues and was also involved in several other publications. Her works are part of various private and corporate collections locally and abroad such as the Absa collection, Spier collection, SABC, Red Bull Collection Austria and many more.

"Aggenbach is proving to be an important, intelligent voice in SA contemporary art", Alex Sudheim, Mail and Guardian, January 2008

Sanell Aggenbach is Brett Murray’s wife. Brett is a well known South African pop artist. Together they live in Woodstock with their daughter Lola who was born in 2009. Two artists, lot’s of interaction and a similar sense of humour: "My husband Brett is my big inspiration."

Sanell does art with absurdity: "I don’t limit myself. I paint, I also make sculptures, I play with different mediums." Her themes are based on history and private narrations as well as social commentary with a gentle humour. "A lot of my work has to do with nostalgia. Nostalgia and narratives make new stories."

"You don’t have to smile when you stand in front of Aggenbach’s art. I do, though, most of the time. Because I think I get it. Most of it, anyway. Perhaps I can hear her artist’s voice so clearly because I am also a child of the volk, of the white tribe of the furthest south. God’s Chosen People, remember? Aggenbach understands all this and nostalgia is a recurring theme in her work. She makes me miss my granny, the one who told me the horror stories about the British concentration camps every day – her mother and sisters died in those camps," says Max du Preez, author and political commentator, and continues, "But Aggenbach’s satirical take on this nostalgia is a liberating one. It holds the possibility of a new excitement, a new way of looking at our nation, our continent and ourselves. Perhaps she is going to help us redefine ourselves – even if 'we' are not Afrikaners or Africans."

"
Art is an excursion."

This excerpt from Max du Preez‘s article is just a taster, I want you to check out Sanell Aggenbach’s work for yourself. One of her pieces that got stuck in my mind is "Degrees of seperation" (2004), a painting that is 3,5m long. "It’s a self-portrait. With each panel, the painting becomes darker. From European to African."

In 2004, Sanell’s career turned around when she gave up her lecturing position, and with the fear of not being able to support herself, she risked it: "I don’t care, I’m going to focus on work. I’m going to make challenging works," were her thoughts that time. Experiencing Paris and high quality, well executed works, she wanted to live up to it. Today, Sanell sells her works of art and enjoys commercial success.

Another series, 'Graceland', is based on being Afrikaans, "My own inspiration of heritage and language". For example, she took old photographs of Apartheid politicians and folded their mouths. Mouth gone. Look at the fold, a feeling of censorship. Another work of this series is about the Miss World competition, where a white South African girl took part. Normal? Strange? "Art is an excursion," concludes Sanell.

For another project, Sanell painted portraits of photographs she got hold of from photographer Van Kalker. "He lived in District Six and took pictures of Muslims, soldiers, of initiation, of everybody. He was the only photographer there. My works reference his works. He documented the original inhabitants of District Six without knowing it."

"South Africa is not simple, not straight forward. I am an outsider looking at a culture I am part of. It’s an internal dialogue."

by Antonia Heil

PS. Sanell Aggenbach tries to have an exhibition every one and a half years – you usually find her works at João Ferreira in Cape Town or at Gallery AOP in Johannesburg. Keep your eyes open, Sanell Aggenbach might have an exhibition in April 2011 at the Blank Gallery.

Check out Cape Town’s galleries and be part of the art!

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