Over the last few decades the rise of alternative and socio-political movements has led to another rise; a noticeable growth in the production and popular acceptance of street art or street-inspired art throughout the African continent. This is what underpins Urban A: Part 1, a travelling group show hosted by Space Between.
An extract from the exhibition text reads, “Although there is minimal creative activity happening within the continent to date as paralleled to the international underground art community, artists from all over the world have been travelling to our continent to further engage and create awareness around social and environmental issues, as well as underground arts movements in Africa.”
Urban A: Part 1 showcases the work of nine artists from Cape Town, Durban and Johannesburg and the first instalment of the exhibition was held from 29 January – 6 February at the newly launched Space Between Gallery in Woodstock.
In the graphic work of Ninjabreadboy, a long-time obsession with skateboarding is a clear inspiration. His line-based style of illustration reflects his passion for graffiti and tattooing and all visual aspects of the sub-culture.
Chris Auret has been active in the street art scene for just over a year now, though he’s had a keen interest in public art from a young age. It was only after painting his first mural that he realised the power he could exercise to spread a positive message in the public realm. “Currently I am interested in the social barriers between ourselves and the homeless. I have always had an interesting relationship with these fascinating individuals, often just being an ear to their stories. Mostly, it is the act of noticing them as people and treating them with the respect they need that I’ve seen make a difference in their lives and those surrounding them. I’m interested in hearing and retelling their stories in my own fascination and making sure they are simply seen again. And in doing so, I see myself.”
Fersyndicate is a graphic designer by trade who enjoys painting characters. With a strong affinity for letters, he’s inspired by street culture and simplicity and is always looking to incorporate humour into his work.
Also a qualified graphic designer, Skullboy has been active as an artist, illustrator and curator in the local low-brow art scene since 2007. The bulk of his work deals with the human condition, vices, Sunday morning guilt and “other things our parents don’t usually talk about”.
Nardstar specialises in graffiti art, but also experiments with digital mediums, inks, acrylic and printmaking. She enjoys using her art to creatively uplift and add beauty to otherwise neglected or overlooked areas. Her unique style involves the use of radiant colour schemes and the deconstruction of letters, animals and faces into a harmonious balance of shapes and patterns.
Ariel23 seeks inspiration from alternative sources of informative that push his forward, liberal thinking. Inspired by commercial platforms that society tends to pay very little attention to, his mediums revolve around the use of acrylic paint, aerosol and ink. “I’ve tried to pull away from merely visually stimulating work without any information – the prettier pictures that push self-idoltary and narcissm in our “fore-head” generation,” he says.
Steve ‘Crack’ deliberately deconstructs the irrelevant notions of normality that defines ‘us’ and our lives within contemporary society. He does so by incorporating themes, symbols, words and ideas into his (predominantly digital) work which intends to offend or cause discomfort. He explains, “I like to see my work as some sort of criticism towards society, religion, culture, ideologies and authority. The status quo. Our perception of normality. The absurdity of our existence.”
Young artist Jack Fox comes from a family of established artists. His murals and illustrative works are humorous, playful and full of imaginative characters.
The works of street artist r1 are the result of his interactions with his immediate surroundings. “I work with urban interventions and collect every day found materials, transforming them and placing them back where they came from, to become a part of the city’s journey. I like to play with familiar places and public objects, and imagine different alternatives to the reality I see around me on a daily basis,” he says. “Working with processes of transformation, replacement and motion, my role as an artist is that of a mediator. My work subtly changes the city streets to create a dialogue and interactions between the environment and the experience of it. The artworks take ownership and manipulate city spaces, opening new relationships with daily familiarity. The end result carries conversations, becoming a fragment of the ever changing city’s ‘history’.”
Space Between launched in January this year with the aim to promote street and graffiti artists previously marginalized from contemporary galleries in SA. Uncirculated talent and those with unique voices and practises rooted in popular street culture also form part of the gallery’s program. Going forward, Space Between will be hosting regular group and solo exhibitions and creative events. Their growing body of artists will also be hosting community driven workshops for creative upliftment and development amongst Cape Town’s youth. Visit www.sb-gallery.co.za and find them on Facebook for more.