Afro Pop: A group exhibition celebrating Pan-African culture
Ndabuko Ntuli; 'Ngiyelo Umbala Ophuzi', Plastic bottle tops and wood, 130 x 130 cm; 2018.
Pop Art is currently experiencing a global revival and the Continent of Africa is taking advantage of this renewed focus and opportunity to present our social commentary in our own unique way.
‘Afro Pop’ showcases works by Esther Mahlangu, Faatimah Mohamed-Luke, Aza Mansongi, Bastiaan van Stenis, Richard Mason, Gavin Rain, Vusi Beauchamp and Vusi Khumalo. The exhibition however explores how all of these artists have been influenced and directed by local socio-political landscapes and narratives, the media, technology, fashion and popular consumer brands.
Esther Mahlangu has been able to successfully translate Ndebele pattern which is traditionally used for the decoration of houses in her collaborations with the likes of BMW, Belvedere Vodka, South African Airways, British Airways, Fiat and Freshpak Rooibos amongst numerous others. Esther, at 83 years of age, still travels the world painting murals in respected Museums and outdoor spaces.
Faatimah Mohamed-Luke is quickly making a name for herself for her interesting artworks that are influenced by pattern making gained from her experiences working within the local fashion industry. Her large scaled Lego installations with intricate geometric patterns that are timeously and elaborately planned and then set against large scaled aluminum sheets are inspired by her love for detailing on garments and intricate pattern production. Lego creates a sense of visual nostalgia for the 80’s, a period where youth were consumed with mass consumption and technology which is mirrored in their current obsession with cellular phones, social media and other digital technologies.
Richard Mason is also influenced by nostalgia and 80s popular culture and technology and is commonly referred to as a ‘glitch’ artist because he successfully translates our angsts of the mass digital age from TV and advertising streams he references. Mason creates brightly detailed compositions with laborious physical ‘glitch’ manipulations, reflecting a deep seated relationship he has developed with his materials which are often non lucid and industrious in nature. Gavin Rain has likewise developed a deep seated relationship with his process, namely pointillism- a technique of painting in which small, distinct dots of bright colours are applied in patterns to form an image developed by a round laser cut stencil patterning which sets the initial layout of the painting’s development. When viewed from a distance, Rain’s bright dots recompose and formulate into iconic portraits such as Steve Biko and Nelson Mandela.
Aza Mansongi, a young multi-disciplined painter initially from Congo and now Cameroon, reflects the Congolese school of classical, figurative realism, although her canvases are characterized with colourful abstract backgrounds using flat areas of colour. Mansongi is inspired by daily life and popular culture resulting in powerful, energetic paintings that have a unique African pop art style. Her primary subject matter is people, men and women, often in multiples, armed with spectacles, hats, masks, and extravagant make-up and jewellery. African masks, domestic pets wearing head phones to drown out the noise, fashionistas and their high heels, music, the people of Cameroon, cars, cellular phones, camera’s and TV screens all dance on the canvas and present a window into West African life.
Bastiaan van Stenis is a popular painter producing locally in South Africa, actively exhibiting in both Cape Town, Johannesburg & Europe. Bastiaan’s most recent works are an assembly of visuals inspired by nature and our internal and external environments. The diversity and the artist’s explorations in materials on his canvas surfaces echo the duality of urban and rural landscapes. Van Stenis’ works oscillate between quiet and chaotic turmoil through the juxtaposition of his chosen mediums, Bastiaan reflects his contemplations of his external world by asking larger existential questions in his paintings. Different but producing in a similar graphic model is Vusi Beauchamp, a graphic multi- media talented painter whom encompasses spray painting, stenciling, colourful drawing media or acrylic paint in his applications. Beauchamp’s larger scaled works can be considered bold and intrepid such as van Stenis’ production, too providing commentary on everyday societal issues in South Africa critiquing our socio-political landscapes. Beauchamp commonly choses to portray political icons in a bold visual satirical manner, encompassing atypical characteristics, adopting the anarchy of pop and urban art that are relevant and necessary for visual activism in today’s cultural fabric.
Inspired by common day experiences and the back drop of the informal settlements in South Africa, artist Vusi Khumalo frequently paints and creates collaged layers into his works by encompassing found metals inspired by architecture found in settlements. The artist has developed a unique understanding with materiality and more recently has created minimalist inspired works with colourful enamel paint and found bottle tops, mirroring the works of Damien Hirst and Andy Warhol whom were infamous for utilizing repetition and pattern. Similarly Khumalo’s submissions to ‘Afro Pop’ prompt the audience to ideas of mass consumption and repetition.
‘Afro Pop’ is an intimate collection of bold works by well-respected names and new contemporaries producing influential and important works with particular reference to popular culture in our continent. Local galleries continue to promote and celebrate the visual language of anarchy of the pop and urban artist, ‘Afro Pop’ provides a marginal but noticeable view into the growing movements within the continent of Africa.
05 – October 2018
The Melrose Gallery, 10 The High Street, Melrose Arch
Curation and texts by Megan Kathleen Theunissen, 2018.
Cities of The Future, Richard Mason, Enamel on aluminium composite, 240 x 150 cm,