Sue Williamson’s solo exhibition Turning the Pages at Oude Leeskamer, Stellenbosch, includes historically significant and new works spanning 1992 to 2023.
This is Williamson’s first solo show in South Africa this year. It follows an acclaimed solo survey show at The Box Museum in Plymouth UK, Between Memory and Forgetting, and a two person show with Lebogang Kganye, Tell Me What You Remember, at the Barnes Foundation in Philadelphia.
As an artist who started her professional career as a journalist, followed by a stint as a copywriter at a large New York ad agency, Williamson has always been drawn to the power of words. South African literary and archival materials provide the inspiration for each body of work. From a children’s colouring book bought at the Anglo Boer War Museum, to a South African guidebook issued by the State Tourist Department in 1936, to the witty diaries of Lady Anne Barnard, the wife of the first British Colonial Secretary in the Cape. Williamson interprets each reference in her distinctive style, offering a unique perspective on South African history.
Sue Williamson (b. 1941, Lichfield, UK) emigrated with her family to South Africa in 1948. In the 1970s, Williamson started to make work which addressed social change and by the late 1980s she was well known for her series of portraits of women involved in the country’s political struggle, titled A Few South Africans (1980s).
Major international solo exhibitions include: Can’t Remember, Can’t Forget at the Apartheid Museum in Johannesburg (2017); Other Voices, Other Cities at the SCAD Museum of Art in Georgia, USA (2015), Messages from the Moat, Den Haag, Netherlands (2003) and The Last Supper Revisited (2002) at the National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institute in Washington D.C. Williamson has participated in biennales around the world, including the Kochi Muziris Biennale (2019); several Havana Biennales as well as Sydney, Istanbul, Venice and Johannesburg biennales. Group exhibitions include, Resist: the 1960s Protests, Photography and Visual Legacy (2018) at BOZAR in Brussels; Women House (2017, 2018) at La Monnaie de Paris and National Museum for Women in the Arts (Washington D.C); Citizens: Artists and Society Tate Modern, London; Being There (2017) at Fondation Louis Vuitton (Paris) and Rise and Fall of Apartheid: Photography and the Bureaucracy of Everyday Life (2014) at the International Centre for Photography New York and the Museum Africa (Johannesburg), curated by Okwui Enwezor, and The Short Century (2001-2) also curated by Okwui Enwezor, Museum Villa Stuck, Munich, House of World Cultures, Berlin, Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, and P.S.1 New York.
Williamson’s works feature in museum collections, ranging from the Museum of Modern Art (New York), Tate Modern (London), Victoria & Albert Museum (London), Pompidou Centre, (Paris), Hammer Museum, (Los Angeles) to the National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institution (Washington D.C), Iziko South African National Gallery (Cape Town) and the Johannesburg Art Gallery (Johannesburg). Williamson has authored two books - South African Art Now (2009) and Resistance Art in South Africa (1989). In 1997, Williamson founded www.artthrob.co.za, a leading website on South African contemporary art and the first of its kind in the country. Awards and fellowships include The Living Legends Award (2020), attributed by the South African government’s Department of Sports, Arts and Culture; the University of Johannesburg’s Ellen Kuzwayo Award (2018); the Rockefeller Foundation’s Bellagio Creative Arts Fellowship (2011); the Smithsonian’s Visual Artist Research Award Fellowship (2007) and the Lucas Artists Residency Fellowship (2005) from Montalvo Art Center in California.
Williamson lives and works in Cape Town, South Africa.Download full CV