The Work of Others - Artist Craig Masters

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I love seeing the world through the eyes and work of others. Sometimes it’s in the form of artwork, other times it’s through passion project that reveal the truth of the person behind making it all happen.

I think it is important to take time to step into the lens of another, especially when the lens is so different or triggering to your own.

I have known the artist Craig Masters for a while now, engaged online and I have sen how he has encouraged many other artists to see and shine in their own light. 

In December 2020, I was looking to see which local artist to support for Christmas (there are many we can support by buying), and Craig’s Mistrel piece made it a very easy decision. 

Craig Masters Contemporary African artist Mistrels

“Mistrel” 2020. Oil on canvas panel. 

After unwrapping the fresh painting, I wrote this impression of his work, and what it meant for me, on Facebook:

Thank you Craig Masters for your mastery.

I enjoy Craig's work for several reasons. His style colour choice and sometimes, subject matter, challenges me, well parts of me.

His general colour choice and style, reminds me of biblical times, old story book, of stories. Almost Ancient, almost forgotten, and very familiar, and nostalgic. So in these times and in the phase of my life, relevant. I'm a bit more open to biblical nature, so the resistance has evolved.
Regarding subject matter (also a challenge for me- is it relevant or not?), in some of his previous works of the minstrels, I saw something beyond what my idea or perception and experience of the Klopse were (are). I commented on that, but this piece also spoke to me. In these works, the way he treats the figures , reminiscent of the biblical story colours and almost elongated figures, these minstrels seem more "real". Real men, wanting/ getting real attention- not through humor and high energy , sharp lines and bold colors, but through seriousness, almost, “look at me”. And because of this treatment, it’s  more a matter of Look WITH me... The minstrel isn't just on display. It's not about display.
It's not about gest. It’s not about the festival, for freedom, post-freedom, that isn't here. When he says "look with me", gets your attention, warmly , inviting you to see beyond the story, the stories of the ghostly figures and buildings behind him and to the right.

The additional highlight around the figure, to me further suggests that biblical holy story, he is of importance, awake, the one without a mask , the enlightened one- prodding that we all can be, we all are. Under the mask, under the bright colours (traditionally speaking), are many men, awake with answers.

Thinking about it now, often the minstrels wear white face paint (on their faces), and perhaps this highlight is like that mask, is the answer, is the awareness , the answer, the freedom that the figure is covered in.

Makes me think - they had to wear masks to be free? They had to be masked, to be free? The mask - the essence / the spirit of it, is that the answer?

Just notes .

Thanks Craig for delivering. :)

Craig Masters contemporary African artists

“Labourers at rest” 2010. Oil on canvas panel 

I received “Labourers at Rest” as a gift - what a treasure! Art (and art-making supplies) is one of best gifts one can receive- gifts that keep on giving ; so many things to learn, so many perspectives one can jump into. 

I am sometimes asked to write recommendations or references for people who have worked with me on projects and I had the privilege of writing something small for Craig. Here is an excerpt:

“I believe he imparts more than just knowledge and stories of different worlds, or better worlds, through his work. He is an artist of the people, of us. He helps many of us to get comfortable with our own inner reality through the way he treats the figures in his work, his play on colour and imagined city and townscapes. As someone whose identity is “between”, riddled with politics and displacement, slave heritage and festivals, I think Craig’s work colours that world with freedom and yet tugs at that idea of longing- wishing things were different, that it all was a dream. It is a reflection of an inner reality many face, not just specific groupings or collectives.”

Please follow him on Instagram or Facebook and check out his profile and features on Africa South Art Initiative and Worth Knowing About.


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