abstract art in south africa: maja marx

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Maja Marx (b.1977) is a contemporary proponent of abstract art in South Africa. The WHATIFTHEWORLD Gallery in Cape Town recently introduced me to her work.

The solo exhibition called Glare – mostly oils on linen – is a collection of abstract works inspired by the folds of fabric, paper and cardboard. The focus behind her show is to explore how the surface of the painting “transcends its own boundaries”.


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From a distance I swear these paintings shimmer like gauze, but obviously this is a mere illusion. Marx creates depth with her folds and creases that bring each work to life. Some of the pieces read like tattered fragments representing objects from our shared past, while a favorite piece called Increment (first image above) – a brass and steel work – is very much drawn from the tradition of 70s art in vogue today.


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Having represented South Africa at the 2013 Venice Biennale, Marx has taken her place on the international art stage and is one of the stars of abstract art in South Africa.


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When starting to collect art I always tell my clients to buy something they connect to; something that speaks to them before all else. Marx’s paintings offer an excellent introduction to contemporary art. By using a repetition of lines to create an image, she challenges us more through her overall concept than by aggressively attacking her viewer with her medium and message.


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An artist doing abstract art in South Africa of this caliber should be someone to consider when building a contemporary collection of art. She may be in the “fringes” of the art world as we know it now, but once she is in – and given her pedigree, it’s very likely she will be – you’ll be disappointed you didn’t consider her earlier.

Richard Rabel is a New York Interior Designer and Principal at Richard Rabel Interiors+ Art Ltd., a studio offering residential design, decorating and art advising.

image credits: abstract art in south africa: What if the World Gallery, Cape Town, South Africa who represents the artist.