I want to tell you a bit of my journey this past week (which focuses on me exploring contemporary art in South Africa). But, let me provide you with a short, uncomplicated definition of what “contemporary art” is according to Wiki:
Contemporary art is the art of today, produced in the late 20th century or in the 21st century. … Their art is a dynamic combination of materials, methods, concepts, and subjects that challenge traditional boundaries and defy easy definition.
Why complicate it, right?
A shift in art creation
With my last blog post, I updated my readers about my sobriety journey.
But I didn’t mention exactly what I’ve been up to artwise. Especially with regards to the kind of art I have been producing. I also think I’ve been avoiding talking about the art I’m yearning to create. [insert thinking emoticon here].
Most of my artwork and experimental works are captured on my Instagram page: @yvette_hess. I think it’s easier to “micro-blog” even though I know it takes away from honing in on my writing skills. It’s easier to be seen as lots of content is produced in a short space of time. But, I risk you not clearly hearing me. If that makes sense.
If you have a look at my entire Instagram feed, you’ll notice a shift in the artwork produced. There are more experimental things happening. And, there’s a lot more honesty.
I made Big announcements!
5 days ago I announced (officially) on my Insta page, that the Association for Visual Arts -The AVA- Gallery will be hosting my very first solo exhibition in my artist career.
The AVA – promoting contemporary art in South Africa
The Association for Visual Arts is a non-profit, membership-based arts organization whose primary aim is the advancement and promotion of African contemporary art and artists.
My mentor, Scott Eric Williams, who I have written about him before and is featured on my Creative Colleagues page, told me about the programme. As he told me about the programme (during the chat!), I saved images of work I’ve been experimenting with. I also took some pictures of what I wanted to do. This happened to suit what they were looking for. It took a couple of weeks or so in the making, but I finally got the call from Bonolo Kavula (Masters Fine Art student, cartoonist and ArtReach project coordinator) to confirm that I was accepted and I needed to get to Cape Town ASAP.
Everything went pretty fast from there.
Travel arrangements, accommodation sorted!
My week in Cape Town leading up the exhibition
After check-in at the 91 Loop Street Boutique hostel, we went to the AVA gallery in Church Street, Cape Town. It was the first time I got to see and be in the space. We went up to the mezzanine level where my exhibition was held.
Loads of white space.
And I brought loads of small paintings.
Slight panic sets in.
But Bonolo sets the paintings against the walls, and she sits, mostly in quiet. I could see she was thinking but I had no idea what to expect. She moves them around, changing things up every few minutes.
Me inside: Damn it. This isn’t going to work.
Bonolo probably smelled what I was thinking and started commenting on my work. And my tears started to roll down.
She knew and could feel what I am trying to say.
She went to get more paintings from my collection. I was so late the day before flying that I didn’t get time to sort them out. So my “doodles” were included in the mix.
“Why are you hiding these?” she asked, paging through the mass of paintings. She seemed like she was falling in love or like.
Quick gallery visit in Woodstock
Off to the galleries in Woodstock, Cape Town we go!
I got to see, UP CLOSE AND PERSONAL, contemporary art in South Africa! And on grand scales! I was mesmerized and stirred and inspired by the work of Lhola Amira at SMAC, Zander Blom at Stevenson and Belinda Blignaut at Blank Projects.
And I believe by taking me there, Bonolo opened my eyes to not only what is current, but also that it’s okay to push boundaries. In fact, it’s healthy and necessary. Maybe she saw something in me, wanting to do so but fear kept me from exploring and going bigger. This especially since I rocked up in Cape Town with A5 works.
There’s nothing wrong with going small, but it has to be on purpose and for a specific purpose.
I created these works with a lot of emotion but I limited the size because I didn’t want to waste. I didn’t want to waste paper or paint. But it’s funny how that translates to not seeing my skill and my voice as worthy.
We take all my works to Bonolo’s studio at the Michaelis School of Fine Art at the University Cape Town after buying supplies. And supplies, I include in the mix, acrylic paint (a new medium for me to work with).
New medium, new lessons
I work with oil paint and a palette knife. I have been experimenting and falling in love with watercolour, but I wouldn’t call myself a watercolourist.
Who am I kidding?
I wouldn’t even call myself an artist.
Bonolo helped devise a plan to create synergy within the works and then also incorporate my new found inspiration! I learned to use acrylic and work on Fabriano paper that’s much, much larger than the A5 and A4 I’m accustomed to. After we decided the way forward, which was also the last time Scott was allowed in the studio (hahaha), I painted every single day (and night) I was there.
Redbull, Steak and Kidney pies and coffee were my new friends. #studentlife
And of course, Bonolo allowed me to play my Youtube playlist (old school and new!), so I immersed myself in creating art which resonates with who I am, my voice with the new freedoms Bonolo exposed me to.
Day in and out, I learned about myself, what scares me, what scares other artists, the art world, women, men, Cape Town.
Oh yes! And that when you work with acrylic paint, you work from light to dark (opposite to oil paint).
I had to learn to mix enough paint to work with because I was so used to working in small portions.
Images capturing a glimpse of the city and my studio fatigue
The opening night of the exhibition
I didn’t have butterflies in my stomach. I had dragons who breathed fire. Or maybe it was heartburn.
I arrived just after 6pm (my sister made me look gorgeous!) and found so many familiar faces waiting for me. From family to friends to strangers who I knew only through social media!
I said I would do Facebook Live sessions, but I didn’t even get a chance. From one convo to another I went. ALL. NIGHT. LONG.
I didn’t get to say thanks to everyone who was part of my journey so I’m going to try now.
- Love to my support structure in Mosselbay, Cape Town and Qatar (thanks to my mom and dad to helping me get to Cape Town!). <3
- To my friends, my chosen family all over the world (including those who I got to see on the night. I hadn’t seen them in months -and some in years!-Shoutout to Grant, Mica and Lee Ann) And THANK YOU to my cousin-in-law, Shaun Engel for the write on his blog!
- To my mentors, Celeste Stewart (Director at Bold Curiosity– a learning and personal development consultancy), Jonelle du Pont (Owner of the well-established blog, Tyranny of Pink who is passionate about social and community development) and the only guy in my dream team, Mr Scott Eric Williams (Artist and Arts Project manager at Scott Eric Williams Arts)
- And of course, to the new friends and contacts, I made on the night, “Welcome to my world!” (Shoutout to Aneeka Moosa, Haylee Dugmore, Barbara Northmore and Keri-Lee Stroebel ( From the Powerwomen Project, which I support in various ways))
These are my people!
To the AVA gallery, the Director, Mirjam Asmal-Dik and especially Bonolo Kavula- thank you. Thank you for the warmth and the genuinely welcoming stay in Cape Town.
Bonolo, you shared not only your studio space but also the woman you are with me, and I am honoured.
The night may have ended, but this is just the beginning.
My work is available for purchase at the AVA until early May.
3 works were sold on the opening night!
Follow me here on my blog or catch me on Instagram!
Watch this space.