Christian Nerf
Cape Town, South Africa


Artist’s Statement

To whom it may concern…

Thinking is a good idea. I strive to create works and situations that encourage us (not only us as in the art community but also the public at large) to think again and think ahead. I try to be thoughtful, to be human and to make public these insights and ways of dealing with living in the now.

For me, working through art is a way and a place to interrogate and reveal the idea of Truth. It is not only about hard facts but also the poetry of time, life, death, transformation, desire, rebellion, freedom, and conscious and unconscious choice. The Truth is more erratic than we care to know. Fortunately works of art are expected to say what they have to say and also accommodate multiple interpretations.

I have spent the past decade working with others, primarily in Johannesburg and Cape Town, in an intense collaborative learning exercise of my own making. Aside from learning how to make and represent things I have been privy to diverse conceptual practices that have enabled me to tackle life from a nonjudgmental and paraconsistent stance. I have also come to know the value of what can come from relinquishing myself to the relationship knowing that our combination would conjure up a third voice; this peculiar voice that whispers ‘unnecessary solutions’. I have been surprised, endured growing pains and been empowered by these and other co-operative actions which in turn have helped me to move on from being merely a white South African male; I am not myself and this is a good thing. If you are a chancer, as I am, this is the place you want to be. Knowing I will emerge loving my neighbour in ways I never expected. Stripped bare by all the stumbling I grow a more able, more considerate, more thoughtful if not slightly bent self. All I need is courage and the willingness to forget everything.

My work encourages me to be not merely innovative and build on what exists but to be inventive and to be open to ‘uncalled-for newness’. I can only assume that what I share inspires others to open up. If not, it is at least a series of examples of mindful artistic experimentation, and proof that one needs neither deadlines nor a belief system to make and do things.

Recently I was asked what I bring to a collaboration and I responded that I bring nothing. Let me elaborate: to bring nothing allows for anything to happen, something unpredictable perhaps, versus an outcome anticipated by virtue of the combined skills of the participants. This is imperative as I attempt to find, engage with and expose that which dwells in the blind spots.

My projects revolve around ideas, specifically those which make you and I confront what makes us inconsiderate. I work with materials, platforms and people that are most effective for the specific project, with what speaks the most succinctly for the ideas to be transferred and a conversation to occur. I am not shy to develop a new skill to achieve a project and have been working with moving and still images, wood and metal work, printmaking and live theatre, ‘wordsmithing’ and ‘soundscaping’. It is not unusual for an installation or performance of mine to employ a multitude of means.

Thus far in my career I have avoided working through art galleries and have primarily exhibited in non-commercial spaces such as museums, project rooms and academic institutions. I will end off with saying that I enjoy being taught a lesson and am willing to go to great lengths to engage with and work with those in the know.

Looking forward…

Christian Nerf

Artist’s Links


gallery links:           


Christian joins us as the first artist in residence with The Africa Center.  To learn more about the Africa Center click here.