17 August 2010

OBITUARY: Mark Hipper (November 6, 1960 – August 11, 2010)

INTERNATIONALLY acclaimed Grahamstown artist Mark Hipper, whose risqué art exhibitions have at times caused public outrage, has died. Hipper, aged 49, died unexpectedly of natural causes, apparently from diabetes-related complications, at his Grahamstown home last week.

In 1998 Child Welfare and some other organisations slated Hipper’s National Arts Festival exhibition, Viscera, billed as an exploration of child sexuality and featuring line studies of nude children. It sparked a national debate about artistic freedom and pornography.
Cabinet minister Lindiwe Sisulu called it child pornography and, controversially, threatened to ban the exhibit. However, her Film and Publication Board dubbed the exhibit “bona fide artwork” and gave it the thumbs up. The Director of Public Prosecutions took its cue from the board and refused to prosecute the artist.
At the time of his death, the Rhodes University’s Fine Art Department lecturer was on sabbatical and preparing for a new exhibition entitled Doppelgänger/Double, to be held at the Erdmann Contemporary in Cape Town next month.
Rhodes University said in a statement yesterday that Hipper’s new body of work comprises three large canvas paintings and several smaller canvases for Doppelgänger/Double.
“In eschewing representational art, and yet embracing the figure as the truth of art, Hipper was often misconstrued as courting controversy for controversy’s sake,” said the statement.
Hipper exhibited extensively both internationally and in South Africa and his work is represented in numerous important collections both locally and abroad. He has received numerous art awards.
The statement said his “fidelity to great art forced him to confront the tired, hackneyed ruses of representation by investigating ways of luring the viewer into confronting the ambiguity of images in contemporary society”.
Rhodes said that Hipper was much loved as a kind, thoughtful, generous teacher and friend.
He is survived by his mother Nena, sister Marie-Louise, brother Gerd, nieces Thandiwe and Caitlin, and nephew Matthias.
A memorial service will be held in Grahamstown, tomorrow at 3pm at the Rhodes University Chapel. It is understood the Doppelgänger/Double exhibition will go ahead in Cape Town on September 29. — DDR


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