Semaphore, the only Swiss gallery dedicated to African contemporary art, is pleased to announce anima animé, a two-person exhibition of work by South African artists Jane Cheadle and Stephan Erasmus.

A versatile artist, Stephan Erasmus uses various media including, but not limited to, oil on canvas, watercolour, silkscreen, digital prints, book art, line drawings and sculpture in wood.

Erasmus treats text as a material and, via the medium he adopts, transforms it into visual art.

In the series Mist and Split and twisted (2016; digital prints), words are manipulated rhythmically to create pattern. The negative space between letters is given precedence in Line Drawings I to III (2016; ink on paper) and Text I to III Negative (2016; watercolour). Thread is stitched through letters punctured in paper in Threaded I and II (2016; cotton thread on black abum paper).

In manipulating the text like a material Erasmus removes from it any capacity to instruct or inform. In Mist, the result of the working of the text is an obscuring veil. The text in Split and twisted has been woven into incomprehension and the threads hanging from the letters in Threaded I and II cloak any words.

In some of these series Erasmus uses five sets of texts from five short stories by Jorge Luis Borges as the basis for his visual manipulation. The Borges stories Erasmus has chosen deal with labyrinths, thus creating a ‘mise en abîme’: text in a visual form that renders it illegible and labyrinthine (Erasmus’ work) uses as its matter a legible text that explores the idea of a labyrinth in an – at times – surreal way that calls into question the very existence of material reality (Borges’ writing).

Some of Erasmus’ artworks make direct reference to coding and encryption. The artist will not give away the exact wording of the texts he manipulates. However, in the game of hide and seek there is always a tension between the desire to remain undiscovered and its opposite, the wish to be revealed. As Erasmus admits, ‘the hidden begs to be found.’ Yet he embraces the deflection and reflection his art engenders. Speaking of one of his pieces, he says, ‘each person who read [a] line of text started recognising different words […] as people will recognise what is familiar to [them].‘

The exhibition will open on Thursday 9 March 2017 at 5 p.m. and end on 11 April. This is the gallery’s third exhibition since opening in November 2016.