Absa L’Atelier | Being in the Top Ten



As we heard earlier this week from the 2013 Absa L’Atelier award winners, winning isn’t actually everything. In fact, just entering the competition is the most important part. By entering L’Atelier, you position yourself alongside the other young South African artists who are busy forging their art careers and creating important networks. We’ve spoken to some of last year’s Top 10 finalists to find out more about what entering this competition really means for you as a young artist.





What has been the best thing about being selected in the Top 10?

I mean, the exposure is always great from something like this but it is the confidence boost you get that is really encouraging. To work so hard for so long and to finally be affirmed by your peers is pretty rad.


What did you learn and gain from this experience?

The experience was quite an eye-opener in terms of what it means to get into that higher tier of the Art Wurld. To see the level of work and professionalism that is required of you is pretty inspiring. It’s a reminder what it’s all about: work, work, work.


Has this experience impacted on your practice, and if so, in what ways?

The whole experience definitely encouraged me to analyse my work and to make the important decisions about what I aim to do and how I’m going to do it. 8 months later and I’m still thinking everyday about what I learnt and what it means for my work.


What advice that you would give to other artists thinking of entering
the competition?

1) Read the contract (thoroughly!) 2) If you make it through – don’t fuck around. You’ll be working with an experienced group of gallerists and artists who are where they are because they bring their A-game every time. So should you. 3) Finally, it’s only art. Just make cool shit and enter. Who knows what the fuck is really going on


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Vincent Bezuidenhout


“I have been in the top 10 twice and the best thing has always been the opportunity to meet and engage with other artists from all over the country. Artists often work in isolation and it is always a pleasure and in fact important for artists to talk and get feedback from each other. Being exposed to a wider range of artistic practices allows one to get a better understanding of the arts in South Africa which is still very fragmented. This exposure in turn allows for new insights and perhaps directions in art making.


“I think it is good for emerging artists to enter competitions even if it is simply to gage where they are currently within their practice or simply to set a deadline for themselves to finish a work. In a wider context the exposure and networks these young artists can establish might become very important later on down the line. I have been on residency at the Cité Internationale Des Arts in Paris and it is definitely a prize worth winning. South African artists seldom get the chance to experience so much art first hand and the community of artists in Paris is fantastic.”


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Franli Meintjes


“As artists we tend to be poor judges of our own work. Entering your artwork for a competition like the Absa L’Atelier exposes you as an artist to some of the best judges and experts in the contemporary art scene in South Africa, as well as puts you in front of the public. So for me, it definitely helped build my artist profile. I also learned how to engage professionally with the art industry and the importance thereof. This experience impacted my practice by giving me future exhibition opportunities, it has also given me a great networking platform and motivated me a great deal to keep on persevering and to enter again this year.”


What advice that you would give to other artists thinking of entering the competition?

“Go for it! What do you have to lose? If your artwork gets rejected, then enter again next year! If your artwork gets selected then a whole new world can open up to you. It is definitely worth it!”





Ruan Huisamen


“As a neophyte artist, I would say the biggest advantage of being part of the Top 10 is the exposure and prestige it gives to artists who are struggling to promote themselves in an extremely competitive industry. Through this experience, I gained a greater understanding about some of the business practices of the art world, as well as meeting many talented artists at the opening exhibition. It also reaffirmed my belief that the best method to achieve success is simply to work hard, take advantage of the opportunities presented and to welcome divergent opinions about one’s work. Enjoying the work is a bonus and always think about the work before you think about the reward.”


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Heidi Fourie


“The best thing about being in the Top 10 was to meet the other top 10 finalists. Most of them were further in their careers than I was so I learned a great deal from them. I felt very honoured to be considered as one of these top 10 young artists in the country. I received confirmation of my own potential and motivation to pursue a successful career as an artist even more vigorously.


The experience definitely impacted my practice. I have been working much harder since then, and am much more aware of how I present my work and myself both artistically and professionally. I think many more people know about my work since then. Although I didn’t win 1st prize, I am currently preparing for my first solo exhibition at Lizamore & Associates in 2015, under the Mentorship of Frikkie Eksteen. The exposure, experience and recognition I gained from the experience is immeasurable.”


What advice that you would give to other artists thinking of entering the competition?

“I would advise entrants to carefully consider the way they present their work. It impacts the way the judges and viewers perceive the work. As this year’s theme is “blood sweat and tears” I predict that they will pay attention to the amount of time and dedication that went into the work, thus set aside as much time as possible to work on your entry.”






Great art takes blood, sweat and tears.


Entries to the 2014 Absa L’Atelier competition close on Friday 7 March. Only online entries will be accepted. Click here for more info.


Young artists, aged 21-35 may enter, and also art students (meeting the requirements) who are in their final year of study. Entrants may submit a maximum of 3 pieces, which must be original and completed in the 24 months prior to closing date.


–          Main prize: R150 000 from Absa, a return air ricket to Paris and at least 3 months (no more than 6) study and accommodation at the Cite Internationale des Arts in Paris


–          The Gerard Sekoto Award prize: (most promising artist with an annual income less than R60 000) A return air ticket to Paris and 3 month residency at Cite Internationale des Arts in Paris, sponsored by Alliance Francaise and French Embassy


–          Two Merit Award prize: 2 month stint at the Sylt Foundation on the Island of Syly in Germany and 1 month stay at the Ampersand Foundation in New York


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