Can you tell us about your attraction to (re)modernism, cross-cultural art, and how you’ve used that to create art?
Over the past decade, I have found myself becoming more and more disillusioned with the kind of postmodern art that is hailed by galleries worldwide. Its lack of artistic skill, its increasing homogeneous nature and its relentless emphasis on merely the conceptual aspect of art has transformed it into something I find redundant and superfluous. Remodernism, as a branch of metamodernism and all that is post-postmodern, addresses this sense of alienation from contemporary art directly and calls for artists to return to combining the conceptual with their physical creative capabilities. As viewer of art, I want to be wowed by what I see and experience, and the same holds true for when I create as an artist.
For my own creative output, I have turned to creating cross-cultural art where various visual elements from cultures foreign to one’s own culture are absorbed into the creation of a unique visual language (to me it speaks more honestly of the diverse cultural make-up of life in South Africa than for instance homogenous postmodern art could ever do). This process shares similarities with the so-called primitivist art of the likes of Gauguin and Picasso, and it remains highly contentious, because critics argue that in essence it serves as a form of cultural theft. In response to this, I always point out to the differing contexts – the primitivist artists’ context being Western colonization and contemporary cross-cultural art’s context being globalization, easier access to traveling large distances and the sharing of innumerable imagery via the internet and particularly via social media. Cross-cultural art also has an embedded raw spiritual quality, which I find refreshing and at the core of what I want from my art.
What led you to black and white artwork and what materials do you use to create this effect?
My work predominantly consists of ink on paper illustrative designs, though more recently I have started to combine it with the use of Indian Ink brushwork. Working in black and white to me equals a back-to-basics strategy. Color often carries with it differing associations depending on the viewer’s culture – for instance, in many Sub-Saharan African cultures red is symbolic of life and good health, in Western cultures red is often associated with blood, passion, war and violence, whereas many Eastern cultures interpret it as a color of heroism, good fortune, joy and celebration. By stripping my work of color, I decided to do away with these possible alternate interpretations and instead present the viewer with imagery in which symbols and narratives are to be consumed through the emphasis of its apparent structural design.
Have your experiences traveling influenced you and your art? Where have you been and what were your experiences like?
I love traveling and experiencing new cultures. Living and traveling in Southern Africa already exposed me to multiple cultures from a very young age. More recently, I worked in South Korea for four years as both English instructor and illustrator of English learning material for children. I also worked in England and Scotland respectively for two years during my early twenties doing all kinds of unskilled laboring for the sake of the cultural experience. Apart from my travels in these countries, I also had the privilege of traveling to China, Bali, Thailand, and Spain. These experiences and especially the people I met and worked with, greatly shaped my worldview and left me with a profound sense of the kind of inclusive art I want to create.
How has your work transformed throughout the years? Were you drawing as a child? How does your current work compare to what you were doing in high school and college?
I’ve been drawing for as long as I can remember. My dad use to own an arts-and-crafts shop which, amongst other things, always had different kinds of African sculptures and drew many tourists over the years. At school I would transform these sculptures into doodles and I also drew caricatures of teachers to entertain my fellow students. For a long time I intended to become a writer, and my art kind of fell to the wayside. During my time as graphic design student, I created many colorful paintings in my spare time, and especially since I decided to continue my postgraduate studies in art history, did the need to also create art transfer into painted carved wooden images. I continued with these while I lived in Korea, and it was only when I returned to South Africa in 2013 that I decided to take those sculptures from the arts-and-crafts shop along with my travels and experiences, and translate it into the Of Heart & Home series. This series turned out to be the introductory works to the current style of graphic art I produce.