As a fine artist, how are you contributing to the Good Good Good collection at the SA Menswear Week?
About three months ago I was approached by Daniel Sher of Good Good Good. He had seen an exhibition of mine that I had recently opened at the Hazard Gallery in Johannesburg. Inspired by the “snake abstract” motifs I was then exploring in screen prints, stained glass sculpture and mural work, he asked me if I would be interested in creating a capsule collection to premier at SA Menswear Week. I created an all over printed fabric that has been made into shirts, shirts and trousers, created hand-painted fabric for parka jackets, and graphic t-shirts inspired by the life and archive of my late grandfather, one of South Africa’s top snake catchers and reptile experts.
How has your experience working on a clothing line been?
In my years as student at Michaelis School of Fine Art, I was fascinated by the symbolic power of fabric. I made many artworks out of various kinds of material – particularly the old South African flag – from things like Apartheid-era army uniforms and vaalkomberse. It has been incredible to pick up on that line of exploration again. I have really enjoyed the process of taking a the “snake abstract” motif and transforming it into something that can be worn, not just hung on a wall. The first time I walked into the factory where the Good Good Good garments are made I was hit by a great feeling of awe and surprise. This was combined with a sudden, deep appreciation and magic affinity for the enormous collaborative process that it takes to produce just one item of clothing.
Why the snakes? And has it been important for you to establish a strong and recognisable visual language with the snakes?
My grandfather John Wood was one of South Africa’s most prominent reptile experts, snake catchers and snake show-men. Over a period of sixty years he caught thousands of snakes, spiders, scorpions, lizards and frogs for both medical research and the development of snake and spider antivenoms. Wood was a prolific poet, photographer and filmmaker, and shared his great passion for reptiles through these mediums as well as with his traveling snake show, which toured the country from the 1950ies to the 1970ies.
The snake motif was something that first occurred in linocuts for an exhibition that I made in homage to the life of my grandfather held at SMITH Gallery at the end of 2015.
Are you interested/planning on any other themes?
With each creative project that I take on, my methods of working and the appearance of the art naturally alter. This is something that is seldom pre-planned. I am currently working on a series of large-scale sculptures made from carbon fibre. At the end of March this year I will make my debut in theatre as the writer and director of “Song of the Sea”, a musical performance commemorating the 100th year anniversary of the sinking of the SS Mendi. The SS Mendi was a troop carrier in WW1 transporting members of the Native Labour Contingent to Europe, dispatched to aid the Allied war effort on the Western Front. En route to France their ship sank in the English Channel in February 1917, killing 646 of the men on board – 607 black troops, 29 crew and 10 white officers – the greatest loss of life through accident in South African naval history.