Jordan Sweke is an independent South African painter and photographer from Johannesburg, currently based in Cape Town. Jordan’s practice is concerned with an extensive and ongoing exploration of oil paint as a medium, but branches out into a wide array of media. His work is primarily influenced by the connection between humans and the natural world. His main concerns are to bring immersive natural landscapes into urban spaces and to urge the public to reconnect with their natural heritage.
In 2014, Sweke received an Honours degree in Fine Art, specialising in painting, from Michaelis School of Fine Art. Every piece at his graduate exhibition was sold. Since then, Jordan has received strong support from local and international collectors. He has had numerous commissions and his works have been exhibited at many solo shows and at group shows that have included work by internationally renowned local artists.
It is easy upon first reflection to review Jordan Sweke’s practice as an archetypical duality of realism vs abstraction. Sweke creates visual manifestations that stretch from detailed abstraction, into cellular binaries and through into formal landscapes. One can often be compelled to explore this variety as simply deliberate contradictions. On the one hand, we observe organic forests, trees, sky or the sea and then when we approach closer to investigate surface details, these quickly become a dissolved and broken geometry – like pure gesture, with pattern and coded formula.
These contrasts of positive and negative spaces, lightness versus darkness, a chaos versus order, seem to evoke opposing narratives. However, by the artist’s own account, the combinations of the contrasts converge into a third thread, a ‘space’ which is not so much ‘abstracted’ or ‘realistic’ or ‘micro’ or ‘macro’ but rather an in-between that the audience inhabits as they engage with the artworks.
There is a combination of natural materiality and digital process as well as of realism and abstracted pixilation and these all serve to catapult the audience from omniscient observer to face head on their actions, their effects, and our place within nature and the whole world around us.
‘Nature’ is a problematic word. We understand it to be something other than ourselves. Through my work, I strive to re-align notions of nature and self. Detachment from nature corrodes the disposition of our interactions with the environment. This relationship needs to be reconstituted.
Paint allows for a visual agency that I believe many other artistic media cannot offer. A tactile emphasis on materiality is helpful in breaking illusions and revealing certain truths, while scale assists access to the sublime. My work explores notions of both the mathematical and the abstract; a marriage of the geometric and the organic.
Informed by counter intuitive outcomes of scientific theories, such as quantum mechanics, I strive to represent and distort reality through the interrogation of the relationship between spatial perceptions and numerical patterns.
As well as initiating a dialogue regarding instinct and consciousness as apparently opposing binaries, each piece in my current body of work serves to create an accumulative conversation between the peaceful and the dreadful, the holy and the tainted.
Jordan Sweke, 2015
2010 - present
2010 - present
WHITMAN INDEPENDENT ARTS FESTIVAL, Bioscope Theatre, Maboneng, Johannesburg. (July 2013)
MICHAELIS GRADUATE EXHIBITION 2014, Michaelis School of Fine Art, Cape Town. (December 2014)
CAPE TOWN ART FAIR 2015 with Everard Read, Cape Town. (March 2015)
EMPIRE, Group Exhibition at Everard Read, Cape Town. (April/May 2015)
WINTER, Group Exhibition, Everard Read, Cape Town. (June/July 2015)
TURBINE ART FAIR 2015, Turbine Hall, Newtown, Johannesburg. With Salon 91. (July 2015)
PAINT IT BLACK, Group Exhibition at Salon 91, Kloof Street, Cape Town. (July 2015)
HOMAGE, Group Show at Everard Read, Cape Town. (August 2015)
CAPE TOWN ART FAIR 2016 with Salon 91. (February 2016)
PASTORAL ABSTRACTION, Small Group Show at Everard Read, Cape Town. (February 2016)
TURBINE ART FAIR 2016, Turbine Hall, Newtown, Johannesburg. With Salon 91. (July 2016)
THE ANTIDOTE - SOLO EXHIBITION at Salon 91, Kloof Street, Cape Town. (October 2016)
ROMA Artist in Residency with The Art Residency Project Italy/South Africa VI Edition and Everard Read, Rome. (November 2017)
REALTA’ IMMAGINARIE/IMAGINING REALITIES, in collaboration with Skubalisto, Centro Luigi Di Sarro, Rome. (November/December 2017)
THE ETERNAL DEATH - SOLO EXHIBITION, Everard Read, Cape Town. (March 2018)
SIYAKHULA MICHAELIS - CHARITY ART AUCTION, Hiddingh Hall, Cape Town. (October 2018)
SUBLIMIS - GROUP EXHIBITION, M Contemporary, Woollahra, Sydney. (November 2018)
WINTER GROUP EXHIBITION, Melbourne Studio Gallery, Cheltenham, Melbourne. (July 2019)
WINTER COLLECTION, Group Show, Everard Read, Franschoek. (July/August 2019)
IT IS WITHIN - SOLO EXHIBITION, Everard Read, Johannesburg. (August 31 - October 31, 2019)
TINY2020 - Group show, Everard Read/Circa Johannesburg. (July 21 - Sept 9 2020)
I AM NATURE - SOLO EXHIBITION, Cavalli Gallery, Western Cape, South Africa. (March - Oct, 2021)
SOLO EXHIBITION - Kanonkop Wine Estate, Stellenbosch, South Africa. (Nov 2021 - Jan 2022)