Faith47 is a prolific and multi-skilled artist. Examples of her work exist on canvases in gallery spaces for the more classic art enthusiasts, underneath Johannesburg bridges for street vendors, and on multiple story buildings on De Waal Drive for Cape Town’s daily commuters. Her most recent body of work is being hosted in New York at the Jonathan Levine Gallery and is a testimony to Faith’s explorative artistic process.
Titled Aqua Regalia – Chapter Two, the exhibition is a continuation of her first show in London. Translating to ‘royal water’, the body of work combines and showcases Faith’s street murals, found objects, and studio work to interrogate and evoke the dichotomy between the everyday and the sacred.
In light of her debut New York exhibition, we thought we’d catch up with Faith to find out a bit more about her history as an artist and dive a little deeper into Aqua Regalia.
When did you first know you wanted to become an artist?
I’ve always had a strong intention to manifest the environment that I want to be in. There was no defining moment, rather a series of consistent events and decisions that have lead me in this direction.
You started writing graffiti at a time where the scene was largely male dominated. Is the private art world much the same?
Yes I feel that I’ve always been working within a male dominated scene, there is a deep need for a stronger female presence and perspective not only within the art world but within society in general.
Do you remember the first tag or piece you ever did? Where was it?
Along the train lines in Clovelly Cape Town, facing the ocean, with Wealz 130 patiently schooling me.
Your work has seen you travel the world. What sort of influence has this had on your own art?
I am very grateful for traveling as much as I do, as I no longer feel that I need to identify with one ‘place’ on the planet as ‘home’. I see the earth as a whole body, and humans as one species, not divided into nations and groups. This has allowed me to slowly discover my own preconceptions and social conditioning and let it drop off of me, in order to investigate who I really am, what I believe, who I want to be, to explore my inner universe as well as the exterior universe. This defines the work I want to make, instead of being only reactive to the situations around me.
You took part in the second edition of Drawings in the Sky in Johannesburg recently which you hand printed your own font for. Can you tell us more about that project?
I was one of four artists taking part in the second edition of Drawings in the Sky, running alongside Art Week Johannesburg during September 2015. Drawings in the Sky displayed artworks on four massive LED screens crowning a 29-storey tower. These screens were hailed as the world’s largest when they launched in 2013.
I translated the words ‘home,’ ‘sanctuary’ and ‘ache’ into various languages spoken on the African continent, from Amharic to Zulu, from Arabic to Xhosa, using a custom-designed font hand-inscribed on cardboard.
These are emotive words, we may not understand the different translations, but we can all identify with the layered meanings behind them. While language, like culture, can divide us, essentially we all share the same deep-rooted human longings and feelings embodied within these words.
The artwork is a response to the xenophobia in Johannesburg, which is home to people from across the continent. I wanted to communicate with the city utilising the language of a larger African diaspora, reflecting on the meaning embedded in these words, in our globalised word, where we’re almost all immigrants of one generation or another.
Many still view your work as being strictly street art, but you’ve been doing gallery work for a few years now. When did you first make the move to gallery spaces and how much did you have to adapt your work?
Street interventions are just one element of the work I’m making. For the last few years I’ve been moving into different mediums. I find that each new medium I explore allows me to grow in thematics and in the kind of emotion produced within the work. The mediums I’m currently exploring are video, photography, collage, paintings, muralism, printmaking and installation. I hope to explore sculpture and theatrical production in the coming year.
Your latest exhibition is titled Aqua Regalia which translates to ‘royal water’. What’s the story behind the name?
Aqua Regalia or ‘royal water’ is the alchemical name for a highly corrosive mixture of nitric and hydrochloric acid that transmogrifies, dissolves and changes the most powerful substance – gold. This is a symbolic explanation of the narrative within this project. The first Aqua Regalia exhibition was in London last year. This New York show is the second chapter of this ongoing narrative.
The body of work is a combination of studio work, found objects and your street murals. Is this an attempt to intertwine private gallery and public street spaces?
Aqua Regalia is an exploration into the sacred and the mundane. Creating a shrine from discarded objects that I collect on my travels. It subverts the notion of what is and what is not considered valuable. By juxtaposing the imagery a narrative is created on an instinctive level allowing for an immersive experience. For the New York show, many of the works are on found objects, I also explored the medium of collage, creating smaller shrine-like artworks from found objects, allowing the feeling of each work to organically arise during its creation. I aim to create an intimacy and sensitivity within a harsh environment. This is a manifestation of a fundamentally existential quest.
Street art can be seen as an art form that creates its own public gallery spaces. Would you ever consider moving some of your gallery work into the public eye as installations?
Yes, there is not a great division between the two. I have already done this.
A lot of your work also seeks to speak back to traditional and mainstream media narratives dispelling inaccuracies about everyday politics. Can art be used as a form of media on its own?
We are visual creatures and there is a strong power in creating emotive imagery. The symbolism therein runs deep to the core of our archetypal subconscious understanding. All creative endeavors influence and effect the viewer. To balance out the mainstream perspectives with individual perspectives and opinions is the inherent power of art and music. We should all embrace this as its part of our collective evolution. Without creative thinking and emotion we are dead. Mere machines.
You’ve also been involved in various projects like ‘The Freedom Charter’ and more recently ‘Landfill Meditation’ that draw attention to social awareness and general socio- economic divides. Are projects like these a result of you being so intimately involved with the spaces you paint in?
Those projects are a result of me being intimately effected by the space that I grew up in.
What does 2016 have in store for you?
I’m working on a collaborative project developing a theatrical performance in a derelict building in Detroit. Merging painting, sound, dance, video and projection mapping. There is a large memorial mural being painted in Nigeria to celebrate the life and struggle of Ken Saro Wiwa. I Have a show in Milan in July for which ill be exploring works that are more sensual and explicit in nature. There are several other projects on the go, and I’m pretty excited to use 2016 to further explore new mediums and collaborative works.
Video courtesy of Chop ‘Em Down Films.