Artists challenged to think outside the box

Phemelo Ramasu
Thursday, 26 November 2015
Artists challenged to think outside the box

From the minute that an artist conceptualises an idea about what piece they wish to create, they need to think about the bigger picture. That picture could be seeing their works being displayed in one of the top class exhibitions in, say Dubai, Venice, London or New York. Going this route when conceptualising their works could demystify the notion harboured by some local artists who only think about local consumers/buyers instead of thinking outside the box and dreaming about seeing their works being consumed by international buyers.

They also need to think about how the viewers will see that piece, is it something that one will understand or something that one will be left pondering about the idea behind that art piece even long after they have left the gallery. Pieces that are particularly difficult to interpret are in most cases, what many define as the true essence of art. In the instance that a particular artist prefers to paint a donkey, they need to take considerably note of the fact of how such a painting of a donkey would be depicted and interpreted by the art collectors outside the country and whether it is something that notable art collectors would die to get their hands on.

Drilling local artists on what one needs to remember when creating their art pieces, Zimbabwean born Charles Bhehe stressed that one of the aspects that collectors and art appreciators wanted to see in an art piece was content and the fact that they wished to see pieces that are telling their own stories as compared to painting or sculpting a donkey or animal that is not really doing anything and is just empty. Bhehe is one of the four judges who were tasked with determining who out of the 97 participants who participated in the 11th edition of the Thapong Artist of the Year Awards (TAYA) are worthy to walk away with the title of Thapong Artist of the Year.

The overall winner and the runner-up as well as winners from other categories will be announced at the end of the year gala that is slated to take place next Wednesday. The judging panel also comprised of Yobe Shonga, Doreen Perekisi, as well as Jack Mazebedi. Sponsors for this year ranged from Ministry of Youth, Sport, & Culture (MYSC), Mascom, Diamond Trading Centre, European Union, Botswana Tourism Organisation, Collegium, Ministry of Finance & Development Planning, BOTS50, Plascom, Chinese Embassy as well as Gabz FM. Minister Thapelo Olopeng is the Guest Speaker.

Bhehe who was very frank during the session that was held on Sunday evening at Thapong Visual Art Centre also cautioned local artists to go beyond the notion that they could paint and draw. And that they needed to remember that for one to make it into international circles of the visual arts, they need to think outside the box. “You should take risks. And that’s when someone will take notice of your work,” he said.

He said that having seen what the artists had to offer through the pieces that they had submitted for the competition, he was of the opinion that they had all passed the stage of wanting to be an artist.  “Yes we can all draw or paint, but can you challenge an audience. And does you work have substance,” he asked. “Think about how you want your work to be seen outside the world. How do you want the donkey to be viewed in top galleries and how will people take it. What is the story behind it and you should also remember that it should be a piece that is exciting,” highlighted Bhebe.

He said that in his home country, artists such as Owen Maseko were big because their works focused on controversy. One of his shows was banned for five years after it was regarded as treason against the President. The works, which for the five years have been closed in his gallery and the windows to the gallery covered, were recently released. Bhebe also said that when he arrived in the country, he was surprised to see donkeys all over the city. And that he was even more surprised when he saw the very same animals being painted or drawn by artists.

“An artwork should have depth and meaning. One of the problems that I picked from the submitted pieces was the fact that people just do art and give titles and have missed depth and meaning. At the end of the day it all boils down to what you are saying through that piece,” he noted. “We want to see pieces that will inspire us. Pieces that will leave me with the type of impression that when I go home, it would challenge me,” he added. He also urged local artists should also think about seeing their works being featured in international exhibitions such as the Venice Biennale, where a number of African countries are presently regulars including Zimbabwe, Angola, and South Africa. 

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