Press Release - 21 April 2011
Carnivals and carousels (merry-go-rounds) in particular have long held appeal for artists internationally. Painted in 1940 during the World War Two, François Krige’s Merry-Go-Round is a vibrant work, replete with the festive air of a carnival at night.
In this the artist has utilised an unusual composition in that the viewer is kept separate and thus denied participation in the festivities - carnival goers have their backs turned and others appears as faceless figures. Their hidden identities are further emphasised by the inclusion of the masks on the canopy of the carousel. These are not festive decorative elements but rather sinister allusions to darker times to come. The crowded atmosphere also lends a sense of claustrophobia and the horses appear to be on the brink of a stampede- nightmares coming to life. The threat of an impending stampede is illustrated in Freida Lock’s work bearing the same name. Lock, a contemporary of Krige’s, also harnessed the sense of lost identity and helplessness with the exclusion of human subjects in her composition. These two works were painted within a matter of years of each other.
Justin Fox, in his monologue on his uncle’s work, talks of the painted panels that appear between the masks and raises the question: “Could these be allusions to the troopship journey and North African campaign in which so many South African soldiers were involved? And could the raised arms of the child against the fence in the foreground allude to the raised hands of surrender?”
Justin Fox wrote of this work, “Bold outlines surround the figures and the bright colours of the machine are set against the dark blue of the night, reminiscent of the Expressionist paintings of George Roualt.”
. This stained glass approach was to become integral to Krige’s work throughout his career.
 Justin Fox, The Life and Art of François Krige, Vlaeberg, 2000, p42