Soft Walls, by Sydelle Willow Smith
As the recipient of the Gisèle Wulfsohn Mentorship in Photography, Sydelle Willow Smith began developing a body of work titled Soft Walls. The series of images seeks to deal with the relationships between migrated African nationals and South Africans; revealing the subtle ways in which individuals make sense of their experiences. To challenge the dominant perceptions wherein prejudices towards “foreign” Africans still exist, Willow Smith has sought to portray a different reality – one in which the perceived walls between migrants and locals have been broken down through the unlikely, or unexpected, bonds they have formed.
This work depicts fragments of the lives of young parents and friends from multinational backgrounds who have come to settle in new spaces – the suburbs of Cape Town such as Maitland and Claremont and the outskirts such as Strand and Grabouw. Read the full story in the Mail & Guardian Friday section this week.
In Foreign Transit – the journey of three young South Africans through India
In Foreign Transit is an online, photo, written, and video documentation of three young South Africans (photographer Max Mogale, chef Jade De Waal and videographer Dewald Brand) who embarked on a three-week journey through India.
The overall mission of In Foreign Transit entails exploring two to three distinct parts of India, the idea being that each creative will focus on their respective arts and passions to create something along the way. Brand has been recording footage, while Mogale captures the sights in photographs and De Waal cooks up a storm wherever they go. This will result in a short documentary film, a photo exhibition, as well as a cookbook containing recipes, tips and more – all of which will be revealed at an event hosted after the trip. In the meantime, follow the journey from start to finish on the In Foreign Transit blog which is updated (almost) daily with diary entries and photographs, and every two to three days with highlight reels.
365 Days in Infrared, photographs by Kate Davies
At the beginning of this year Kate Davies began a 365 project with a twist, by deciding to shoot it entirely in infrared. The already challenging prospect of taking a photograph each day is magnified by the fact that because Davies shoots in infrared, she can’t see through her viewfinder and so there is a lot of guesswork involved. Secondly, shooting for a circular format (one of the things which makes her work distinctive) requires a completely different composition to regular formats.
Ordinarily, Davies would plan and shoot a story of about 10 to 15 photographs intended to be viewed as a unit. Taking one photo each day, one the other hand, has led Kate to the realisation that the whole year is her story. View 365 Days in Infrared as it progresses on Facebook, Instagram or Pinterest.
Renée Rossouw Studio, A South African pattern lab
Renée Rossouw is a Cape Town-based architect working at SAOTA while running RR Studio, a South African pattern lab, as a side business. The studio, which was founded in 2013, is dedicated to creating work for and in South Africa, focusing on the conception of a new South African aesthetic. The patterns that RR Studio creates are graphic and colourful, and are applied to a variety of mediums from wallpaper to ceramics.
While Rossouw’s processes might be more associated with art, she values commercial appeal and enjoys making things that can be used in homes and by people. “The useful aspect appeals to me,” she says. “Design also evolves all the time with world trends, and I enjoy working within this ever-changing realm.”
A Small Portrait of Lorraine Loots, by Jonathan Sidego
A researcher at Velocity Films, Jonathan Sidego directed this intimate portrait of Cape Town-based artist Lorraine Loots, known for her incredible miniature watercolour paintings for last year’s 365 Paintings for Ants and the challenge she has set herself this year: 365 Postcards for Ants. While many articles about Loots have focused on her beautiful work and its process, in this short we learn about the artist herself in her own words. She reveals her admiration for artists who paint expressively – the opposite to her very particular and considered style; the origins of the sentimentality in her work; and the liberation that her self-set boundaries has given her.
Fashion photographer and artist Brett Rubin
“I have tried to create work that shows my own way of seeing the world”, says Johannesburg-based photographer and artist, Brett Rubin. “I am not particularly interested in trying to copy contemporary styles and trends, but do often like to pay homage to those who have inspired me”.
Brett works both independently and as the other half of creative concepts company, VATIC (with Nicole Van Heerden). Growing up, Rubin was drawn to music. Yet it was the photographs inside his favourite bands’ album sleeves that really captivated his imagination. During film school he took up a night course in darkroom printing, and began practicing as a photographer straight after.
“Knowing you want to do something and actually getting to a point of doing it, as a career, is always a journey”, Rubin explains by way of discussing his approach. He holds chance and spontaneity, and a carefully planned composition in equal regard. Yet his overarching concern is with experimentation: “Experimentation is always crucial as it’s the best way to expand your vocabulary of visual communication,” he says. This sentiment is most obviously apparent in a series of works created over a four-year period that explore the idea of our ability to interact with and remember the spaces we pass through at high speed while travelling from one place to another. In these photographs, landscapes blur into almost abstract colour fields. They were taken through the window of a moving car, with no post-editing. A selection of these images are included in the NIROX Sculpture Winter 14 exhibition that opened at the beginning of May.
Showing photography work at a sculpture show illustrates the apparent ease with which Rubin straddles genre divides. His work characteristically occupies a surprising space in the murky divide between commercial and art.
To better elucidate this, he explains: “My personal work is often created in the first person, based on my own experiences, thoughts, feelings, etcetera … When working for a client there is often a very different dynamic at play, the idea being that you are hired, based on your style and skill, to execute a brief that is often defined by various factors of commerce”.
He goes on to cite Helmut Newton who referred to himself as “a gun for hire”, and how he believes that Newton actually managed to subvert this in his work. Rubin thereby concludes that the sphere one is working in, be it commercial or private, should not dictate the beauty or creativity of an image so long as you understand the paradigms of each.
Rubin is well known for his portraits, which again, push against the boundaries of fashion editorial. He achieves this by using colour, shape and form to enhance mood or narrative and defy the predictable. Rubin is inspired by the precise geometry and design that is found in nature, and echoed in the world around us.
“I have always been fascinated with how we as a society constantly construct and display the cultural paradigms of our times into a visual identity”, he explains, “in everything we do, from architecture to fashion, art, packaging and design – all of these are inadvertently political, historical and sometimes even sexual statements”.
One School at a Time, by Project English
Project English is a radio campaign that Joe Public ran to demonstrate how regular, additional English tutoring was able to improve learners’ performance at school. Since it is impossible to fully cater for each of South Africa’s 11 official languages, English is used to teach subjects like maths and science in 80% of our country’s schools. Considering the fact that many of our learners are only taught English on a second language level, however, this has proved to be a real issue.
To this end, Joe Public embarked on a radio experiment to test whether one week of extra first language English classes could make a difference. One Grade 8 learner, Lesego, was enrolled in extra classes with a tutor and each morning a recording of her reading a radio script was aired on SAFM. Over the course of the week, the improvements in her ability to speak the English language were audible. Hereafter Joe Public set out with the goal of raising enough money to employ a full-time first language English teacher for one class at their incubation school, Forte High in Soweto. The agency is currently monitoring the progress of the students at Forte High to assess the effect of English tutoring on their final matric pass rate.
Alexia Vogel: Championing a fresh approach to landscape painting
Alexia Vogel, a recent University of Cape Town Michealis graduate, is rapidly beginning to create a name for herself around Cape Town. Having most recently joined Barnard Gallery’s stable of represented artists, she is a young emerging artist, championing a fresh approach to the tradition of landscape painting.
Paint is her chosen medium for its constant ability to surprise. Her spontaneous process means she rarely has an idea of how a painting will turn out. Alexia works will oils, thinning the paint with a lot of turpentine to work with multiple layers of glazes to create exciting colour combinations and abstractions.
WarChild, a short film by I See A Different You
WarChild is a short documentary film that tells the story of Rofhiwa Maemu, a Soweto born boxer who is overcoming his challenges in order to pursue his passion.
The up-and-coming boxer was first discovered by the I See A Different You trio – Justice Mukheli, Innocent Mukheli and Vuyo Mpantsha – who would often see him running in their neighbourhood. One day, they stopped Maemu to find out if there was anything they could do to help him, which is when they learned about his love for the sport of boxing. Because of his relentless dedication Maemu now ranks in the top 10 nationally, and it is clear that he does not intend to stop there.
Graphic Design, by Richard James Myburgh
Richard James Myburgh is a graphic designer, art director, curator and part-time lecturer currently living in Cape Town. Myburgh has always been interested in what is happening abroad as much as he is interested in the complexity of being South African. Over the course of his career he has lived and worked in London and Belgium, and studied fashion design at the Royal Academy in Antwerp.
Through his work, Richard always try to reflect our time instead of referencing the past too much. He says, “I tend to draw parallels between my work and a Japanese or Scandinavian aesthetic. It is important to me that design is subtle but effective. Fashion and the world of art tends to reflect our time most instinctively and so my interests in these fields have become more important to me over the last couple years.”