Joni Brenner was born in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe, in 1969. She currently lives and works in Johannesburg, South Africa. Brenner obtained both her Bachelor's and Masters Degreein Fine Arts from the University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg. She has been practising professionally as an artist since 1996 and has held solo exhibitions in Johannesburg andLondon.
Her work is included in several public and private collections. Brenner presented her latest solo exhibition, Some body at the Turbine Art Fair in Johannesburg, South Africa in 2021. Solo exhibitions with Art First in London include At the Still Point (2015); Unavoidable (2011); Inventory (2007); Terra Rosa (2005).
Other solo exhibitions include Collection, at Standard Bank Gallery in Johannesburg in 2008; Wrest, at Everard Read Gallery in Johannesburg in 2006; and Infra-red at Gertrude Posel Gallery, at the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg in 2002.
Group exhibitions include: TENX10: 100 artworks by women and gender diverse artists from WAM collection at the Wits Art Museum in Johannesburg in 2022; A Place in time at the Nirox Sculpture Park, in South Africa in 2016; From Sitting to Selfie: 200 years of South African portraits at the Standard Bank Gallery, Johannesburg; and NIROX sculpture at the Nirox Sculpture Park, in South Africa, both in 2014.
Since the mid 1990s, Joni Brenner has worked with four long term models, all men. Common to all four experiences is a specific relational act of producing portraits: two bodies in a room, engaged in an encounter rooted in looking and being looked at. These dialogical encounters are repeated and durational – each sitting lasting a few hours, once or twice a week and over many months or years.
Fundamentally different from any other kind of portrait making setting, the exchange of regards allows for a type of immersive, intersubjective likeness to emerge rendering portraits that are ambient and durational rather than snapshot and certain. The catalogue that accompanies this exhibition contains an essay written by the artist, in which she reflects on this relational practice to which she has returned over and again. 'It takes a long time to be able to look back' she notes, and her essay traces some of the key concerns that have remained central to her practice, as well as the subtle shifts in the portraits over the years.There is an undeniable yearning for connection underpinning these portraits, made in a shared private space, with two people spending time together in an experience where, asPaul Valery observes, 'once gazes interlock, there are no longer quite two persons and it's hard for either to remain alone'. But Brenner also reflects on her long term practice through which her grip, her scrutiny, her stare at these others moves from an anxious impulse to fight against or prevent loss ('...it is all passing, and this is the only reason for wanting to preserve it'), to a lighter though still fragile capacity, to let be. To be with. For the viewer then, being among these portraits is akin to being with the models in slow and unfolding time.
Press release courtesy SMAC Gallery.