Art exhibition: John-Anthony Boerma’s Love is a Dangerous Drug, May 1-23, 2021, White River Gallery, Mpumalanga, South Africa

Who: John-Anthony Boerma What: Exhibition -Love is a Dangerous Drug When: May 1-23, 2021   Where: White River Gallery, Casterbridge Lifestyle Centre Official opening event: May 8- by Justice Edwin Cameron. Booking essential. If you would like to attend, e-mail: Gallery hours: Mon-Sat 10am – 4pm; 10am – 2pm on Sundays and public holidays Walkabouts: Yes – with the artist. Contact the gallery for info on 082 784 6695; e-mail:; facebook or website:; Instagram: @whiterivergallery    

John-Anthony Boerma is presenting his solo exhibition, Love is a Dangerous Drug at the White River Gallery, Mpumalanga (formerly known as the Eastern Transvaal). The exhibition –an installation of 200 hand-painted clay plates has been up and running since May 1 but the official opening, will take place on May 8, with an address by Justice Edwin Cameron. Due to Covid protocols and space in general, it is essential to RSVP, to attend this event. Details in box, above or contact the White River Gallery. For the artist, this exhibition, represents a home-coming – a return to his roots. After leaving Nelspruit, he studied Fine Art at WITS (University of Witwatersrand) for two years. He was a member of the End Conscription Campaign in the 1980s and his activism led him to leave South Africa. He continued his studies in Netherlands and subsequently in New York. This exhibition of hand panted plates, forms part of his studies for his Master of Visual Arts Degree (UNISA). Each plate is a piece of his story. That story is conveyed through text which is “transcribed onto the plates.” The artist studied print making at WITS and that practice is evident in these works. Songs provide a soundtrack to many of his recollections. A sound installation, in the exhibition space, heightens his “autobiographical memory” as imaged on the plates. Read what the artist says about why he has titled the exhibition: Love is a Dangerous Drug. This exhibition is intensely personal. Walking into the gallery is very much about joining him on his journey – reading the text- listening to the sound – and becoming immersed in the images- pain , fragility and longing for love:

John Anthony Boerma- reflects on the title of his exhibition – Love is a Dangerous Drug:

The title Love is a Dangerous Drug, derives from a song with the same title performed by Annie Lennox. Many of the lines from songs referred to in this exhibition, revolve around lost love; the wanting of love and reminiscence of lovers. The title suggests that my love relationships from the past were perilous and damaging and participating in love may cause sorrow but also exhilaration. The lines from the song:  

Love is a stranger
In an open car To tempt you in
And drive you far away  

This is a summary of the theme of love in the exhibition. Currently, love for me is a stranger. I have not had a lover for the past two decades and am afraid to ‘enter that car’, even though I yearn to be adored and loved.

The lyrics of the songs are written and illustrations are drawn on the  ceramics, which is a medium associated with fragility, since any breakage can destroy the message,  which illustrates the fragility the medium as well as the shattering and fragmentation of a memory.

Ceramics are also related to strength, considering that raw clay is fluid and pliable and can be manipulated into any shape the creator intends. The plates and songs are representatives of my Autobiographical Memory [AM], and presents its strengths and breakability in the sense that AM is a powerful system that contributes in the shaping of identity, however, if effected by an aspect such as trauma, elements such as amnesia can transpire and the system becomes defected.      

Info, as supplied:

John -Anthony Boerma’s Love is a Dangerous Drug -comes home to Mpumalanga

Renowned Mpumalanga artist John-Anthony Boerma, is presenting his potent Love is a Dangerous Drug exhibition at the White River Gallery from the May 1-23, 2021. The exhibition will officially be opened on the May 8, by Justice Edwin Cameron.

John-Anthony, the artist has a layered and multi-faceted journey that started in Nelspruit, Mpumalanga and has spanned continents and showing his acclaimed collection at this contemporary gallery in his home province is something he is looking forward to.

Director of the White River Gallery Dana Macfarlane,  “ A first for the White River Gallery, we are proud to present this unique exhibition of hand-painted clay plates by renowned Lowveld artist and curator John-Anthony Boerma. Forming part of his Master of Visual Arts Degree studies (UNISA), the collection of 200 gold- trimmed vessels was meticulously produced over a period of more than a year, with each plate taking three days to complete, including two firings. Evocative text recalled from songs over time, have been transcribed onto the plates in Boerma’s childlike print. The sound installation which accompanies the exhibition, references Boerma’s autobiographical memory. This engaging interplay of earthenware clay, text and sound installation, completes the artist’s long-standing exploration of personal identity, which forms the core theme of the presentation.”    

Boerma studied painting, drawing, printmaking and sculpture as well as history of art for two years before leaving the country as a member of the End Conscription Campaign in the 1980s.  He went from studying Painting and Illustration at the Akademie Minerva in The Netherlands to an independent study programme in New York at the Cooper Union before returning to South Africa.

John–Anthony says:  “I am excited to be exhibiting at the White River Gallery in the province that continues to inspire me… as a young boy, a suitcase in hand, filled with dreams and expectations, I left the small town of Nelspruit, my hometown, embarking on a journey to discover the world and what it had to offer. Returning to the cosy comfort of my same hometown, laden with that same suitcase filled with memories, experience and a realisation that the world is as big as the memories you create and experience is what friends give you whether in the far-flung corners of exotic spaces or in the cosy armchair in the safety of what I call home. My collection of memories, as depicted in the words on the plates that are on display, depict the full circle of a road, my road, less travelled. ” In New York, the artist lived a non-conformist lifestyle for five years and revelled in exhibiting in non-conformist spaces, with intricately planned events choreographed to the last detail.  After returning to The Netherlands to graduate, Boerma returned to South Africa where he continued to exhibit under the alter-ego Johnny Golightly while working for the Department of Art and Culture.

In 2003 Boerma, launched ART AID to assist skilled crafters, artists and educators to collaborate with professional members of the industry, undergo skills development training, and develop a range of products with specific reference to the heritage, environment, culture and social challenges of South Africa and its people.

It is this multi-faceted journey of identity and memory which comes to light in Love is a Dangerous Drug. The exhibition, consisting of hand-painted plates as a sound installation, addresses his Autobiographical Memory [AM]. It includes text which is written in handwriting which is reminiscent of a child’s writing and lines from songs which are transcribed onto hand-painted red and blue lines. These lines recall the typical blue, red and white striped folio paper that was used in school notebooks. The plates mimic patterns and snippets of AM and it’s remembering process through the plates’ reflection of Boerma’s personal identity.

The body of work is reliant on his identity and presents an incoherent and fragmented structure. An important objective is to articulate that aspects of his autobiographical memory deals with continuity and discontinuity of the self. Event-specific information is presented through written songs and a sound installation of Boerma’s favourite songs associated to certain periods in his life.

Through his installation, he visually investigates aspects of a remembered event and how he recalls the latter through lyrics of songs. The way the events are remembered at a certain time, effects his perspective from which he remembers such events.

The use of music employed in the artworks plays the key role in deciphering his autobiographical memory. Music and memories are deeply interlinked since the experience of a song has the ability to transport an individual to past events. It can activate sights, noises and emotions of an explicit event. Consequently, Boerma’s artworks introduce the relation between music and intense autobiographical memory which is visualised through child-like drawings and writings that add a melancholic aspect to the exhibition.

Mpumalanga artist John-Anthony Boerma, is presenting his exhibition, Love is a Dangerous Drug exhibition at the White River Gallery from the May 1-23, 2021. The title of the show, references a song with the same title, performed by Annie Lennox. The song is emblematic of the yearning that he has “to be adored and loved.” Supplied.

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