I was recently interviewed by Roberta Thatcher of Sunday Times Home. See the full interview below:
How would you describe your work?
My art explores what it means to be a young man living in South Africa today. I work across a diverse range of media, including printmaking, drawing and painting. I work in both abstraction and figurative art, and sometimes both at the same time.
What informs your choice of subject matter?
As a person growing up as a young white man in a new, democratic society, I have often felt the need to work through the complex history I inherited. I see making art as a tool for “working through” and this “working through” has taken different forms with each subject that I approach. Past projects addressed themes that span both my personal and inherited histories – including masculinity, my ancestry, the ‘Border War’ in Angola, and pre-democratic South African history.
Where do you source your archival images?
Each body of work I approached has been underscored by in-depth research, which stems from both a lively interest in history itself, and my professional experience as an archivist. Archival material is drawn from from sources as wide-ranging as family photograph albums and ancestral records, to second-hand books and the Internet. My most recent exhibition, Snake Man (2015), — for instance — was heavily based on a scrap book of newspaper articles kept by my late grandfather, John Wood, one of South Africa’s foremost reptile experts and snake showmen.
In your experience, what’s the best thing about making art?
The best part about making art is getting to use my talent each day. That I get to spend my time doing what I am able to do best is a rare and wonderful gift. Not many people get to do that, even if their talents are obvious to them.
And the worst?
The hardest part about following the path of an artist is learning to trust. I often wake up on a Monday morning not quite knowing what the week will bring, and all I can do is trust that there are opportunities around the corner, even though I cannot see them. Luckily, each day is better than the next, and I am continually and genuinely surprised by what life serves up.
What are you currently working on?
I am currently working on my fourth solo exhibition set to open at Hazard Gallery in Johannesburg in September this year. I am also planning my debut as a theatre director (alongside Chad Spence) in early 2017, with a musical performance commemorating the 100th year anniversary of the sinking of the SS Mendi, a troop ship that sank on her way to France during WW1. 646 people were killed, most of whom were black troops of the South African Native Labour Corps. The play will include performances by traditional Xhosa Isicathamiya and Cape Malay choirs, and will take place at the South African Slave Church Museum in Cape Town on 21 February 2017.
I believe that in 2013 you sailed 6000 nautical miles, having never sailed before. Are you prone to crazy adventures?
Yes, one could certainly say I have an adventurous spirit. Throughout my life I have been drawn to and undertaken multiple rites of passage and pilgrimages. I have walked the Camino de Santiago for 900km in northern Spain, backpacked around the world for a year, have been to India five times, and — as you mentioned — sailed across the Atlantic Ocean. Such journeys have allowed me to work through the deepest aspects of myself — making me a truer, better human being and therefore a more honest artist.
Three South African artists whose work you’d love to own?
A drawing by Unathi Mkonto, a collaged portrait by Khehla Chepape Makgato, and an etching or painting by the late Colin Richards.
Where can we buy your work?
Smith Gallery regularly exhibits my work in Cape Town; Hazard Gallery in Johannesburg will be hosting my upcoming one-man show from 8 September – 2 October. I also have a limited edition screen print launching on Black River Studio’s 50ty-50ty platform in September.