Kobie Nel is South African, and was born there in 1985. She graduated with a MFA from Kunsghøgskolen i Bergen, KHiB, in 2016, and has since then made some remarkable exhibitions. Noteworthy amongst these, is the Apple Puma project from 2018 at Bergen Kjøtt’s premises.
Kobie Nel describes herself as a multimedia, mixed technique, installation artist of staged imagery. She dabbles, so to say, in a lot. In a biographical review, we can read that she seeks to give physical form to the pictorial. A painting, or a photograph, might as we know be a random slice of a reality that makes sense, or a composition of known or unknown landscapes or objects that gives us an experience beyond the immediate. If we can understand this imagery as visual semantics, Kobie Nel provides us in her art with an opportunity to examine the syntax of the pronounced, and to enter the underlying meaning of our point of view. She builds her body of work by grammatically assembling expressive units, objects or elements, regardless of its materiality. Her enactments are not like a tableaux vivant, with people depicting some event or mythological motif, but more so like facilitated encounters between a furnished condition and the unknown response.
In Kobie Nel’s work Appel Puma, two armchairs are placed at the center of an industrial room. Three panels in pink, blue and green only partially cover the rough concrete walls around us. Ropes, looking like vines from a tropical forest, hang between the ceiling and the walls. Scattered on the floor we find pieces of raw clay, about to solidify, interspersed with broccoli and apples, which are about to be eaten, among the occasional glass of water. Randomly placed around the room we also find a series of transparent plastic bottles with flowers laid to rot in water. Four neon ornaments decorate the walls, each with motifs reminiscent of old African tribal shields, one of them representing the famous diamond The Star of Africa, to be found in the British crown jewels. 28 colorful songbirds fly around us. They live in, and by the work. This particular species is, according to the artist’s own description, almost colorless in its natural state, but turns yellow through dietary supplements in a practice called “color feeding”.
There is something attractively exotic and at the same time challengingly decadent in this work. It contains a foreign beauty, yet we are immersed. We ask ourselves, among other things, who belongs in the armchairs, and why. We? This is a scene without actors other than ourselves.
In all its three-dimensionality, there is also something about this work of art that is reminiscent of the still life motifs in paintings by historical artists such as Willem Kalf or Peter Claez. Like Kobie Nell, these artists painted compositions of assembled and carefully staged trivia, of beautiful, colorful and alluring objects randomly heaped upon each other, and interspersed with food and elements of age and decay. The work of art both establishes its opulent beauty and questions its relevance.
As a participant in Local AiR during spring 2021, Kobie Nell has been introduced to various possibilities how to elaborate, and incorporate glass as an artistic material into her work. We are very excited about what she brings further into her new projects and exciting works of art.