/ 1 September 2020

The Portfolio: Levy Pooe

Levy Pooe Month End
Month End, acrylic on paper, 2019 by Levy Pooe.

I was  born during the country’s transition to democracy and began my  artistic career at a very young age, struck by how things looked and how reality could be represented and altered. I work from a  home studio and sometimes do murals and live documentation, especially interpretations of musical performances.

I create work that explores the urban experiences of ordinary people. My acrylic paintings of the quotidian are aimed at getting the audience to engage honestly with my works and to make up their own understanding of meaning.

In my work, nonperformative accounts of ourselves do not have to be found only in the spectacle, but through the mundane. I often depict black figures engaged in contemplative activities, daily rituals and routines, as well as explore the relationship between the urban space and migrants. 

In Month End, a group of men are depicted in the foreground, consisting of abo-grootman or, as we say in South Africa, moreki. I try to hint at this social class by depicting them with branded, expensive-looking clothes.

The aim is not to sweat.

The two figures wearing white jeans appear to have relaxed body movements compared to the other fellows in the group going down with amavosho or doing the pouncing cat.

There is a subtle balance between the pastel warm and cool tones, accompanied by the dramatic composition through body movement, highlighting the jubilant atmosphere.

Month End simply illustrates the beauty of groove with an undertone of bad financial decisions that usually accompany a night out.

The piece speaks to a time when I was reading urban black artists such as George Pemba and David Koloane  and thinking of ways in which to depict reality, most importantly my immediate reality.

Evident in the composition, I’d say, is a background of photography, because most of my work done after 2017 comes after having pursued photography.

My art, as with photography, is a social diary of  being black in the city. I am interested in creating narratives that speak to the black experience. I use a number of themes, ranging from labour, love and class to protest; issues that affect us on the daily, set against the backdrop of Johannesburg and rural Rustenburg. 

Levy Pooe is a Johannesburg-based artist.