In his latest exhibition, Underscape, the artist turns his attention to the land, seeking to “distemper” our lived experience in relation to landscape through lush and engrossing abstract paintings.
Describing the themes that have inspired this latest series Van den Berg speaks of the land as a powerful marker for the anxieties contained in both the personal and the political sphere. In his paintings he unpacks these ideas by separating the land into what is above and what is below and subsequently that which we idealise on the surface, and what exists unresolved beneath.
It's a figurative and literal understanding of land – and one that mines below the surface to the shattering reality of what wealth has been founded upon in South Africa, a mining economy that has left many impoverished.
Darting between allegory and abstraction, he sees the body and the landscape as arresting sites that carry memories and scars.
“A swelling of earth, a hollow or dispersed pile of stones that once marked a grave or embattlement, are the grammar of my landscape vocabulary... I grew up in Luanshya, a small mining town in Zambia and now live in Johannesburg, one of the largest of all mining towns. Perhaps it is the occasional shaking of the land, its stuttering as a shaft collapses or a plate realigns, or indeed the sudden appearance of sinkholes, those most compelling of negative spaces that first made me curious about that other landscape, the underscape.”