Habitat | Pedro Pires: Johannesburg

31 January - 7 March 2020

Habitat is a selection of works by Angolan born Portuguese artist Pedro Pires. Using mediums such as paper, fire and sculpture, the works in this exhibition interrogate the human form, mostly his own, to address issues of displacement and the concept of home and belonging. Habitatsees works that come from different bodies of work, Doppelganger (2018) and Six of one and half a dozen of the other(2019), shown together for the first time.


In Doppelganger, Pires sculpted human-like figures from everyday objects found in the social context of Johannesburg such as gum boots, plastic buckets and wrought iron to questions how our identities are defined by the materials with which we interact. Umtshanyelo is sculpted from several grass brooms, an object that is common in streets, shops and domestic environments – township and suburban – around Johannesburg. With an interest in the banality of this broom, Pires reorganised them into figures with the intention to confront viewers with reflections or doppelgängers of themselves. In turn he also reflects on himself and his own relationship with nationality that seems to be in a liminal space between Angola and Portugal.


The technique required to make the drawings seen in Habitat is what the artist calls an “intervention of paper”and it was developed more than a decade ago in Pires studio. The artist was grinding and welding in his studio to create his characteristic metal sculptures when he noticed the marks left on the floor by the flying sparks. From then on he started making his drawings by applying fire (sparked by his grinder) to paper. These works epitomise contrast: Pires plays with concepts of destruction and re-construction where bodies seem to appear and disappear, paralleling the ways in which identity is fashioned, negotiated, and remade. The anthropomorphic shapes emerging from partially destroyed material are reminiscent of the process of burningdry grass for dormant fynbos seeds to germinate. It’s one of nature’s most powerful allegories: that out ofsomething violent and destructive, can come something so beautiful.


Shown together, the works from these different bodies are new and dynamic creating space for new relations,meanings and paths of interpretation. This show is a continuation of Pires’s ongoing research into migration,nationality, and identity construction.