Tiny Brick Wall Interview

This was this first interview I had to do and it happened in 2013. Since then I have matured considerably, but I think it is still an entertaining (if slight cringe worthy) interview to read: 

*  tell us a bit more about your background (how you got into art, at what age, etc)

I was born and have spent my whole life in this limbo we call Bloemfontein.  The first truly formative event in my life happened when I was six and it planted the first seed which germinated into me becoming an artist: It was watching the movie The Never Ending Story. I don’t really remember what the movie was about; all I can remember was the weird crab-demon monsters which made a terrifying appearance in it.  They were the stuff of nightmare and completely captured my imagination, and for the next few years all I could draw was stygian beasts, growing all the more grotesque the more my drawing skills increased. From then on I was completely hooked on drawing.

At school I became that kid “who could draw cool shit, you know, like aliens, dragons, knights, angels, scantily clad women  etc.” (Every school has such a kid, and usually he/she is a bit shy and creepy… I completely fitted that bill) By drawing my peers their fantasies I managed to create a niche for myself in that horrible crucible of domination, anxiety and manipulation we call school. 

  * why art? (What made you decide to take it further and go study it)

When I reached grade twelve I was still drawing much the same stuff I had been creating since kindergarten, the only difference was the growth of my technical skill.  I really had no idea what I was planning to do after school: Becoming an artist never really seemed like a viable option, since people just don’t take it seriously as a career.  But in the end I realised that art and the creative processes behind it was the only thing that kept me sane throughout the awful twelve years I spent inside that prison (yes, I hated every moment of school).  It seemed ungrateful to my muse, who kept me going until then to abandon art after school, so in order to show my gratitude I enrolled for a degree in the Fine Arts.

Another reason for choosing a life in the creative world is my aversion to routine and predictability.  The whole concept of the nine to five job has never appealed to me; I want to live on my own terms and not just become a cog in a bigger system.  Art affords you a way to function outside the normal confines of society, and that was the main reason I choose to make a career of it. 

* what kind of medium do you use?

I love drawing. My main mediums are charcoal, pencil, ballpoint pen and ink.  I have also dabbled in printmaking and have found an affinity with scraperboard, but I plan to explore etching and mono-printing in the future.

 The other medium I also use is performance.  I love the immediacy and freedom of this art form, since there are no set conventions and rules, anything goes.  I also enjoy the exhilaration of acting out your concepts and ideas; there is a visceral rawness in performance which I find extremely refreshing.

Another medium I use is artist’s books.  I have recently learned to do bookbinding and I’m now busy making my own sketchbooks.  I try to carry one of these around wherever I go, so that when an idea arrives out the ether, I can jot it down before it escapes me. For me doodling and scribbling is part and parcel of the process that leads to a finished art work.

 * what/who are your main influences?

I have always been a compulsive reader and bibliophile, so it goes without speaking that literature influence everything I do, especially fiction related with the weird and fantastical.  A few authors who inspire me are William Blake, Edgar Allen Poe, Franz Kafka, H.P Lovecraft, Neil Gaiman and Stephen King.

I also love children’s books and I see the great picture-book writers and illustrators in the same league as the great masters of modern-art.  Especially Maurice Sendak, Wolf Erlbruch, Oliver Jeffers, Dave Mckean, Quentin Blake and Anthony Brown feed my creative impulses.  The sad thing is that the contemporary art world does no fully acknowledge the important work these geniuses have done in their respective fields in the visual arts.

Another source of inspiration for my art is music since I never work in silence and there is a process of cross-pollination between music and imagery in my art.  I think to fully understand my work you should be well acquainted with Radiohead, Joy Division, Depeche Mode, Leonard Cohen, Tom Waits and Nick Cave.  I enjoy music with dark atmospheric sounds and narrative driven lyrics. 

The last but definitely and unfortunately not least influence in my art is smoking.  I am a chain smoker and get most of my better ideas while inhaling the cancerous smoke of my cigarettes.  Many of the character I drawn also inevitably end up puffing on one.  I’m planning to quit sometime soon, but I secretly fear that my ability to think of new ideas will vanish along with my horrible habit.  My muse is definitely not some Grecian beauty with flowing hair and poetic eyes; I imagine him (it’s an old man) more in the line of a philosophical drunk, coughing away at his whisky in some seedy bar.     

 * what's your main thesis?

My art has always gravitated towards the weird and fantastic: myths, fairy-tales, history and any narrative driven form of story-telling inspire what I do. 

A concept which fascinates me is that of the nomad, exile and travelling story-teller.  I have always been drawn to marginalised people and places.  Art theoretically speaking we call such ‘in-between’ spaces heterotopias: Some examples of a heterotopia is a bus station, asylum, graveyard, a motel or an airport.  I see these spaces as possessing some kind of strange magic or aura, neither here nor there, existing in a different plane of reality.       

Another concept which plays a role in my art is the ‘overlooked’.  Though I have great respect for the great heroic painters like Jacques-Louis David, Gericault or Delacroix, I have always been attracted by the more peripheral painters like Cotan or Chardin.  These artists focused on the detritus left behind in the wake of life, things existing behind the scenes and between the cracks of everyday life.  I guess I am a bit of a rag-picker, fascinated by the poignancy of forgotten and discarded objects.       

 * "you have to be a little nuts to be an artist.." What's the craziest/funniest/weirdest/silliest/most interesting thing you had to/or wanted to do, for one of your art projects/pieces?

I think everyone is crazy; humans are pretty fucked up species.  Artists are lucky enough to be able to do something with this insanity which is innate to us all.  The weirdest stuff I usually do on my own, when nobody is around to see me, but I’m not going to speak about that here.

I have done some pretty strange things in my performance art.  In my third year I specialised in urban performances wherein I ventured into the city clothed in my pyjamas and face painted myself stark white with acrylic paint.  I mimed and clowned about in public spaces and had an especially positive response in a playing-park next to dilapidated low-rent apartment block: A large group of children came to join me on the jungle gyms. They really thought I was some kind of itinerant fairy tale being, and I like to think that for a small while I was able to transport them from their mundane reality. I also got chased off from somebodies car once during these performances.   

The other performance requires two people wrapping met in thread, wool and twine.  Once I am confined in this cocoon they place me in the gallery and I try to extricate myself from my ropy confinement.  This endurance performance usually takes between two and three hours to complete and people respond quite interestingly to my discomforting presence in the gallery.

In the future I would like to up the ante in my public performances, and really remove people form their comfort zones.  I want to explore the possibility of public places like shopping malls and restaurants.  

*Interview conducted by Adri Louw