Self-taught South African photographer David Lurie has made built a reputation for his clear eyed observation of the effects of urbanisation and marginalisation in the rainbow country; running a visual hand over the scars of apartheid and the half-formed medicine of democracy. Born in Cape Town, Lurie is a self-taught photographer with an academic background that seems evident in his latest work, ‘Writing the City,’ on show at London’s Sulger Buel Lovell gallery. The exhibition focuses on his birth city, Cape Town – in ways that allude to its’ central place in South Africa’s consciousness of urbanism, being amongst many things, the mother city in the country’s popular imagination. What is most striking about Lurie’s imagery in this show is the relative absence of people; what it gives the viewer is an unflinching focus on the landscape of the city, often highlighting the brutality of the cities’ transformation over time.
The most powerful effect of Lurie’s work is his cool observation of the critique the city offers of the South African experience as narrated through the work of street artists – one may feel that his work is parasitic on the work of these artists but their names are given and integrated into the work; observation is in itself a gift, and Lurie’s observation is both wry and unforgivingly detailed, yet funny at times. The irony of one of the country’s largest townships juxtaposed against a mural quoting one of the most aspirational lines of the freedom charter ‘The People shall share in the wealth of the nation’ mines a rich seam of contradictions of the new South Africa, the wealth is shared, but evidently not by the people of Khaleytisha. Lurie is a documentary photographer, and it would be easy to consume these works as purely a commentary on South Africa’s urban landscape, but they succeed also as art that is studied and intelligent.
‘Writing the City’ is at Sulger-Buel-Lovell Gallery, until