Among Stern’s contemporaries, Van Rensburg teases out her distinctive style in relation to the flatter, more luminous style of Maggie Laubser, or the symbolic and mythically inflected work of Alexis Preller, and the abstract tendencies of Maud Sumner. Then he runs with it through the increasing abstraction of the likes of Maurice van Essche, Sidney Goldblatt and Erik Laubscher all the way to the 80s protest work of Penny Siopis. He also finds potent examples of still life works by black 20th century artists, such as Gerard Sekoto, and shows how they in turn resonate with contemporary works by Sam Nhlengethwa and Willie Bester.
He then explodes the genre into the contemporary art scene, revealing its surprisingly persistent influence in prints, photography, ceramics, textile and furniture design now, from the paintings of Georgina Gratrix all the way to ceramic works by the likes of Ardmore and Zizipho Poswa. “I really stretched them quite a lot,” says Van Rensburg. “But that was the idea.”