Johan Thom, ‘The OK Revolution’, 2007, Museum of African Design (MOAD)

Artist's Statement
Thom is a multidisciplinary artist, frontrunner of a New Generation of South African practitioners drawing on dramatic histories while creating self-reflexive journeys. His work encompasses two disparate elements: dark humour and light tragedy. It deals with the dividing line between the self and the other where the former fulfils the role of a crazy loner seeking agency, while the latter is a real life arbitrator of reason and knowing. The irony of his work lies in the artist’s prejudice against the self, and in his act of looking outward towards something materially positive. Thom works across a variety of media including sculpture, video, performance, drawing, printmaking and photography. As protagonist Thom places himself in different contexts where he is set to endure often-painful outcomes.
But pain is incidental, and although the audience may perceive that the artist is consciously using his art to liberate himself from ordeal, that is not so.

Thom calls pain, ‘more a basic material requirement of the art work. It’s a game of perception. I enjoy making my viewers squirm or getting them involved via empathy. In that sense I am a real bastard.’ His work has involved the act of physically entwining his face and chest with fishing gut (in Bind/Ontbind2, Venice, 2003), licking sand off anthills (in Licked Colony, SA, 2011), painting his face with gold leaf, honey, flour and oil while defacing a gallery wall (in Figurehead, Rotterdam, 2010), and having sump oil and milk poured into his outstretched hands containing Buddha statuettes sewn into his skin (in Thank You, Bodh Gaya in India, 2011).

Image rights: Photographer: Louis Grobler Artwork copyright holder: Johan Thom

PhD in Fine Art, Slade School of Fine Art, UCL, London, 2014

MTech Fine Arts (Cum Laude), Pretoria Technikon (currently TUT), Pretoria South Africa, 2002

BAFA, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa, 1999



‘The Animal Series 2013 – 2014′ (feat. collaborations with Willem Boshoff, Diane Victor, David Koloane, Guy Du Toit & Bevan De Wet), at Nirox Projects, Maboneng Johannesburg, Feb 2014

‘Becoming, Binding and Disappearing’, Iwalewa Haus (The Africa Research Center of the University of Bayreuth), Germany, 2010

‘Bind/Ontbind’, Kwazulu Natal Association of Art, Durban, South Africa, 2008

‘The Theory of Flight’, Bag Factory Gallery (Fordsburg Artists’ Studios) Johannesburg, 2008

‘Minotaur Series 12’, a collaboration with Christophe Fellay (Composer & experimental percussionist, Switzerland) at the Forum d`Art Contemporaine, 2004 & Johannesburg Art Gallery, 2006 (Catalogue)

‘The Diary of New York’, Graskop Gallery, Mpumalanga, South Africa, 2006 (Catalogue)

‘bind/ontbind’, Outlet, Pretoria, South Africa, 2004

‘The Exorcism series’, National Cultural History Museum, Pretoria, South Africa, 2003


‘Visual Encounters’, University of Pretoria, Fine Art Staff exhibition, Sep -Oct 2014 (Catalogue)

‘The bodies we tell’ as part of Ravy Festival, Gallery of Contemporary Art Yaounde, 2014

‘Winter Sculpture Fair’, Nirox Sculpture Park, South Africa, 2014

‘FIAC’, Paris, Goodman Gallery (South Africa), 2014

‘Nomad Bodies’, Artesis University College, Antwerp, Jan-Feb 2014 (Catalogue)

‘Surfacing’, Goodman Gallery (Cape Town) 22March -19 April 2014

‘Buroarbeit’ curated by Nico Anklam, YEARS, Copenhagen, Nov 2013

‘Working title’, Goodman Gallery (Johannesburg) 27 July -17 Aug 2013

‘Mine’, a selection of films by South African artists (including William Kentridge,Minette Vari, Berni Searle, Johan Thom, Robin Rhode, Greg Smith, Simon Gush, Bridget Baker and others) curated by Abrie Fourie Travelling group show: Iwalewa Haus, Bayreuth, Germany, 2011; DUCTAC, Dubai, Feb 2012; University of Johannesburg Art Gallery, Johannesburg 2012

‘Opening Borders/Opening Objects’, an online group exhibition curated by MA/MFA/PHD students and hosted by the University of Western Ontario (Online from 1 May -30 August 2010:

‘Off the shelf: performance, film, video, poetry music’, an evening of live events staged by the Slade School of Fine Art and presented by the Slade Word/Image Forum, University College London, 2010

‘Dystopia’, traveling group exhibition of South African art (May 23 – June 30, 2009: Unisa Art Gallery; Pretoria; October 8 – November 15, 2009: Museum Africa, Johannesburg; June 10 – August 8, 2010: Oliewenhuis Art Museum, Mangaung.

‘Britto New Media Festival’, group exhibition at National Gallery, Dhaka, Bangladesh, 2009

‘The Double Body: being in space’, group exhibition curated by Anthea Buys and held at the FADA Gallery, University of Johannesburg, South Africa, 2009

‘The heart of the African city’, group exhibition organized by MAP ZAR as part of African Perspectives 2009 and held at The University of Pretoria, 2009 (Catalogue)

‘Dada South?’, Iziko South African National Gallery, Cape Town, South Africa (curated by Kathryn Smith and Roger Van Wyk), 2009

‘Rites of fealty/ Rites of passage’, Bag Factory Art Gallery, Johannesburg, group exhibition of new performance art (co-curated with Bronwyn Lace), limited edition portfolio prints, 2008

‘Between meaning and matter’, group exhibition at the Bell Roberts Art Gallery, Woodstock Cape Town, 2008

‘.za: Giovane arte dul Sudafrica’, group exhibition of new South African Art curated by Lorenzo Fusi, Kendell Geers Minette Vari, Sue Williamson, Berni Searle and Marlene Dumas, Pallazo delle Papesse, Sienna, Italy,
2008 (cat)

‘Spier Contemporary Art Award’, Spier Estate (Stellenbosch) & Johannesburg Art Gallery, 2007 (cat)

‘South African Art on Paper’, Group show at Gallery Barry Keldoulis, Sydney Australia, 2007

‘A Legacy of Men’, Group Exhibitionat the Johannesburg Art Gallery in support of the 16 Days of Activism against Violence against Women and Children (Nov 2007 – Jan 2008)

‘Bliss‘, a three person exhibition with Marc Cloet (Belguim) & Jacki McKinnes (South Africa) held at
Fried Contemporary Art, Pretoria, 2007

‘The First Architecture, Landscape and Art Biennale of the Canary Islands’, curated by Antonio Zaya,
2006 (cat)

‘Hotspots: Johannesburg and Mexico’, held as part of the Rotterdam Film Festival, curated by Aryan Kaganof
and Catherine Hennegan, 2006

‘Waste at Work’, traveling group exhibition curated by Jeanetta Blignaut and held at Hollard Headquarters, Johannesburg (Sept 2006) and at the Spier Estate in Cape Town (Nov 2006) (cat)

‘The 10th International Computer Arts Festival’, Maribor, Slovenia, 2004 (cat)

The Venice Biennale, Venice, Italy, as part of the group show ‘Recycling the Future: vivieravenezia2, curated
by Angela Vetesse and organized by the IAUV Academy of Fine Art, Venice, Italy, 2003 (cat)

‘Negotiate’, a series of exhibitions at the Johannesburg Art Gallery (JAG) in celebration of the Decade
of Democracy in South Africa, curated by Simon Gush, Hanli Becker and Hannes Olivier, 2004

‘The Klein Karoo National Arts Festival’, Oudtshoorn, South Africa, 2004 (cat)

‘Aardklop, Potchefstroom National Arts Festival’, South Africa, 2002, 2003, 2004 & 2005 (cat)

‘The Brett Kebble Art Awards’, South Africa, 2003, 2004 (cat)

‘X- an Exhibition in Celebration of Ten Years of Democracy’ in South Africa, curated by Kelly O`Reilly at
the Stephen Lawrence Gallery, Greenwich, London, 2004 (cat)

PPC Young sculptor’s competition held annually at the Association of Arts in Pretoria.1995, 1996, 1998 & 2001 (Merit Prize, New media)

‘Sasol New Signatures National Art Competition’ held annually at the Pretoria Art Museum, 1996, 1998, and 2001 (Judges Award)

‘Kempton Park Tembisa Metropolitan Art Competition’ held annually by the Ekurhuleni Metropolitan in Kempton Park, 1995, 1999, 2000, 2002 and 2004

‘ABSA Atelier National Fine Arts Award’, 1999, 2004 (Catalogue)

‘Young Vision 2004‘, group exhibition of young artists curated by Kay Hassan and held at the Alliance Francaise, Johannesburg, 2004


Thom, J. 2014. Without Blood: ‘Phase 14’ by Jaco Bouwer. Published in Working Title (the catalogue for an exhibition by the same name held at the Goodman Gallery).

Thom, J. 2011. Santu Mofokeng: Fotograaf maak van Kunskyk alledaagse iets onvas. Die Burger: 2011-01-03 (Available online at:

Thom, J. 2011. Bas Jan Ader: Ontsnapping van die menssyn. Die Beeld: 2011-07-11. Available online:

Thom, J. 2011. The sense of fresh air. Artthrob. Available online:

Thom, J. 2008. Karl Gietl at Afronova,. Art South Africa Vol 6: Issue 4 Winter 2008: Bell Roberts Publishing: Cape Town

Thom, J. 2008. The sleeping monster dreams of reasons: Diane Victor (Catalogue essay). MAP ZAR: South Africa

Thom, J. 2007. Digging up old horses. In: Onemillionandfortythousandyears(and sixtythreedays) edited
by Kathryn Smith, 2007: 214-218. SMAC Gallery: Stellenbosch, South Africa

Thom, J. 2007. Jeering at a one-eyed man: Kendell Geers at the Stephen Friedman Gallery. Art South Africa Vol 5.4, Summer 2007: Bell Roberts Publishing: Cape Town. Available Online:

Thom, J. 2007. Thoughts on residencies (ed. Wilma Cruise). De Arte Summer 2007. Pretoria: South Africa

Thom, J. 2007. Life Intimidating Art. The Diplomat, Sept/Oct 2007: James M. Pach, Australia. Available Online:

Thom, J. 2007. The Aristocrats: Roger Ballen at the Johannesburg Art Gallery Art South Africa, Vol 6 Summer 2007: Bell Roberts Publishing: Cape Town (see:

Thom, J. 2006. The answer is under the rock. Art South Africa: Interview with Willem Boshoff. Art South Africa Vol 4, Issue 3, Autumn, 2005: Bell Roberts Publishing: Cape Town. Available Online:

Thom, J & le Roux, M. 2006. The Minotaur series 12: Johan Thom with a collaborative Soundtrack
by Christophe Fellay. CRIC (Centre de Reflexion Sur l’Image et ses Contextes) & Johan Thom: Johannesburg

Thom, J. 2005. Cobus Haupt. MAP ZAR: South Africa

Thom, J. 2005. Sekoto to Sihlali at Warren Siebrits, Modern and Contemporary, Johannesburg. Art South Africa Vol 2, Issue 3, Spring, 2005: 25. Bell Roberts


‘The Animal series: A visual overview’ lecture presented as part of Shifts, a postgraduate practice-based conference & exhibition held at the University of Pretoria, 11-12 April 2014.

‘Every sentence draws blood’, performance held as part of ‘Doing Research’ the European Research Networks (EARN) participation at Documenta 13, 2012.

Two performances held as part of the conference ‘Sexuate Subjects: politics, poetics and ethics’, held at UCL, London, 3-5 December 2010

‘Decoy’, Performance lecture as part of ‘Tables of Thought’, organized by the Finnish Academy of Fine Art
and the European Artistic Research Network, Helsinki 28-29 April 2010

‘ProSpecter’, lecture presentation/ performance held as part of ‘Arts research: publics and purposes’, hosted by GradCam (Graduate School of the University of Dublin) as part of the European Artistic Research Network, 18 February 2010

‘Mobilizing forces’ lecture presentation/ performance with Slade Fine Art PhD group at Making Sense Conference organized by the French Department, Faculty of Modern & Medieval Languages, The University of Cambridge, 25 September 2009

Invited keynote speaker: Wits (University of the Witwatersrand) Student Architecture Film Festival, Wits Great Hall, 16 July 2008

‘Reconfiguring the archive: Art education in Post-apartheid South Africa’, research presentation at the 40th Belgrade International Theatre Festival, Belgrade, 20 & 25 September 2006

‘The Minotaur Series 12’ artist presentation at the Johannesburg Art Gallery, Johannesburg, South Africa, 2006‘The state of emerging art in South Africa’, presentation and panel discussion, The Forsdburg Artist Studios (Bag Factory), Johannesburg organized by SA Arts Emerging, 2006

The Venice Biennale, Venice, Italy, as part of ‘Real Presence: Floating Sites’ 2005 a parallel event and workshop curated and organized by Bilyana Tomic and Dobrilla Denegri, 2005

‘The Exorcism Series: Identity in a Postcolonial South African Context’ – a research methodology seminar
held at the Technikon Witwatersrand, 11 August 2003

‘Postmodernism as a continuation of western dominance: discourse, power and the other’, a research presentation held at the Technikon Pretoria as part of the TUT Annual Research Conference, 2003

‘Taming the Trojan Horse: Disarming the Politics of Otherness in a Postcolonial (African) Context’.
Paper delivered at “The 18th Annual Art Historians Conference hosted by the University of Pretoria, 2002

‘Consumerism and Transcendence: Defining freedom of choice within Postmodern South Africa’.
Paper delivered at the 16th Annual Art Historians Conference hosted by the Department of Art History, Rhodes University, Grahamstown, 2000


Currently Senior Lecturer in Fine Art at the Department of Visual Arts, University of Pretoria (2014 -)

Co-Convenor (with Josly van Wyk) for Shifts – a postgraduate practice based conference and exhibition held at the University of Pretoria 11-12 April 2014.

‘Rites of passage / Rites of fealty’, a 10 day workshop in performance art, Bag Factory (Fordsburg Artists Studios), Johannesburg, 2008

Workshop in Performance art, Wits School of the Arts, Johannesburg: 31 March–18 April 2008

‘Root to route: Workshop in Video Art’ co-presented with Garreth Fradgley, Bag Factory (Fordsburg Artists Studios), Johannesburg, 2008

Workshop in Performance Art, Bag Factory (Fordsburg Artists Studios), Johannesburg: ‘RE/Action: Performance Art Now’ , 18 July–8 August 2007

‘Filter’, a three week workshop in Video Art co-presented with Garreth Fradgley at the Bag Factory (Fordsburg Artists Studios), Johannesburg, 2007

‘Personal Geographies: the body, action and context’, workshop in Performance art Wits School of the Arts, Johannesburg: , 24 June–15 May 2006

Course leader and examiner for Art Theory 1 & 3 in African and South African Art at the Department of Fine and Applied Arts, Tshwane University of Technology, from Jan 2004 – Dec 2006

Part time lecturer and examiner in Postmodernism, Performance Art, Postcolonial Studies and Feminism at the Tshwane University of Technology (Formerly known as the Technikon Pretoria) for Theory of Art 400 from Jan 2004 – Dec 2006

Examiner and Supervisor for various B.Tech and M.Tech students at the Tshwane University of Technology from January 2003 – Dec 2007

Part time lecturer in History of Art and Design 2 & 3 at the Department of Graphic Design, Technikon Pretoria from Jan 2003 – Dec 2006

Part time lecturer in first year Multi-Disciplinary Studies from January 2003 – 2004 at the Department of Fine and Applied Arts, Technikon Pretoria

Appointed part time lecturer in first year Sculpture at Technikon Pretoria from January 2002 – Dec 2003

Part time lecturer in Post-colonial Studies at the Technikon Pretoria for Theory of Art 400 from Jan 2002 – Dec 2006

Part time lecturer at the Design School of Southern Africa in Pretoria and Johannesburg in History of Art and Design from January 2002 – April 2003


Krause, M. Johan Thom. In: Working Title (Exhibition catalogue for a group show held at the Goodman Gallery, Johannesburg, 2013)

Thorolf Lipp & Tobias Wendl 2010. Performance, Media & Memory: South African Artists in Dialogue II – Terrorizing the Concept of Meaning – Conversations with Johan Thom. Documentary film: 43 min. Produced by IWALEWA-Haus & DFG (Federal German Research Council)

Halliday, A. 2008. From here to there: .ZA: Giovane arte dul Sudafrica at the Pallazo delle Papesse, Sienna Italy. Art South Africa. Vol 6, Issue 4, Winter. Bell Roberts Publishing: Cape Town.
Available Online:

Du Preez, A 2008, (Im)Materiality : on the matter of art, In: Image & Text, no. 14, pp. 30-41

Sassyn, R. 2007. Johan Thom: Bag Factory, Johannesburg, 1–30 November 2007. Art South Africa
Available Online:

McInnes, J. 2007. Johan Thom. In: A Legacy of Men (Exhibition Catalogue for group exhibition at the Johannesburg Art Gallery in support of 16 Days of activism against domestic violence, p26-29). Johannesburg: David Krut

Le Roux, M. 2007. Johan Thom. A Look Away. No7: Cover, 10-11

Gomez-Baeza, R (ed). 2006. The First Architecture, Art and Landscape Biennale of the Canary Islands.
Spain: Graficas Sabater

Farrell, L. 2006. Interview with Johan Thom. In: Johan Thom – Diary of New York. MAP ZAR: Johannesburg

Stevens, I. 2004. Johan Thom. Art South Africa. Vol 2, Issue 3, Autumn. Bell Roberts Publishing: Cape Town

Farber, L. 2004. Embodying the Other as Self in Johan Thom`s exhibition ‘exorcismseries’. De Arte. No 69 2004: 26-46

Staden-Garbett, M. 2003. From the sublime to the ridiculous: Johan Thom courts controversy in his art. Pretoria News 29 April: 18

Vettese, A, Walther, M & Calderoni, I (ed). 2003. Recycling the Future: viverevenezia 2. 50th
Esposizione Internationale d’Arte, La Biennale di Venezia. Marsillio Edizione: Italy


Awarded Commonwealth Scholarship for PHD studies at the Slade School of Art, UCL, London 2008-2011

Nirox Foundation Residency, Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site, Johannesburg, 2007

South African National Arts Council Award, 2007

Britto Arts Trust Residency, Dhaka, Bangladesh, 2006

The Ampersand Foundation Fellowship (New York/ Johannesburg), New York, May-July 2005

South African National Arts Council Award, 2005

CRIC/Pro Helvetia Residency, Ecole Cantonale d’Art du Vallais, Sierre, Switzerland, 2004

PPC Annual Young Concrete Sculptors Awards, South Africa, 2002 (Merit Award: New Media)

SASOL New Signatures Annual National Art Competition, South Africa, 2001 (Merit Award)

About Johan Thom