The RVCA Artist Network Program is an initiative by the brand to support and showcase artists whose work and ethos align with their surf/skate/street/art culture. In South Africa the RVCA ANP hosts regular exhibitions and makes projects possible for young artists be they large scale murals, self-published ‘zines or product collaborations, all somewhat informed by or catering to young creative South Africa. Some of the most exciting projects we’ve seen over the last few years have been RVCA ANP initiatives; from Daniel Ting Chong’s fast food clothing range to the Dreams Close To Home mural tour across South Africa with artists Mr Fuzzy Slipperz, Skubalisto and photographer Mooki Mooks.
We thought it no better time to find out more about the Artist Network Program than during Youth Month in South Africa. Here, we chat to the ANP’s new marketing manager Melissa Williams.
How and why did the RVCA Artist Network Program come to include South Africa?
The RVCA Artist Network Program is a world-wide program. Some of the artists have grown from their bases in Europe, Japan or Australia to become International Advocates of the RVCA ANP (Artist Network Program) which means that they are included in International RVCA projects and clothing ranges. When RVCA first came to South Africa around 4 or 5 years ago, we setup the ANP as a part of setting up the foundation of the RVCA entity.
RVCA Founder and President, PM Tenore envisioned a brand which combines art, music, fashion and a modern lifestyle in an original way and the ANP is at the forefront of the RVCA vision.
What is the message or goal of the brand and the program?
RVCA is about the Balance of Opposites, redefining the way people view art and fashion through how they coexist… water, oil; air, land; destruction, industrialisation; art, science; foreign, domestic; order, chaos; past, present. These are all themes that run consistently through everything that RVCA does.
The ANP is about showcasing the talents of accomplished and unknown artists who inspire our generation and push the boundaries of creative excellence.
How do you decide on projects to do or people to work with?
Originally we established the ANP with artists who where incredibly talented and persistently active. Some of these were relatively unknown and some already established as successful artists. There have been some changes through the years but mostly the ANP Advocates have been with us from the beginning and we support projects that they create themselves or we get them involved in the things that we have going on.
Sometimes we get involved in supporting other people and projects but we like to work closely with our ANP so that we are able to really make a contribution to what they are doing, and make a significant difference.
What have some of these been so far?
RVCA has done many projects with our ANP artists. We just did a really successful collaboration clothing range with Daniel Ting Chong, and Senyol is about to do an exhibition in Berlin with International ANP artist Benjamin JeanJean.
The ANP supports the First Thursdays events that take place at The Pit in Bree Street, Cape Town. It’s a very grass-roots type space and it’s great to be able to make it possible for artists to frame their work, sell work commission-free and have young bands perform without worrying about the high costs usually involved.
The ANP has just started supporting the 1000Drawings evening taking place at the Open Spaces in Durban. It seems like Durban is a place that has always struggled to establish an artist community and culture and we would really love to support Wesley van Eeden’s home town and to see a community established over time.
What’s being planned for the rest of the year?
We’re about to leave for Los Angeles where we will be meeting with the International RVCA team which means that we’ll be able to come back with some fresh inspiring insights and ideas.
At the moment we are working on a collaboration rain umbrella with Jade Klara and we’ll be seeing the release of an International range by Freddy Sam, which is the first time a South African artist has been included in the worldwide RVCA catalogue. It’s really an incredible achievement and we couldn’t be more proud to be representing our country with his work.
How do you hear about new artists?
I suppose just being naturally involved in a number of subcultures like skateboarding and music and having a lot of friends who are artists, you see things and talk to people and hear about things that are happening and cool things that are coming up. There are so many incredible artists, we wish we could support them all!
Compared to the ANP artists producing work around the world, is there a ‘South African-ness’ to the projects happening here?
Someone like Freddy Sam for instance has these South African elements that are evident in his work with imagery of things like animals and local political figures. So on a basic aesthetic level, there’s that. I’ve heard it said that South African art is so refreshing because in places like the States, artists are often producing work just to fit in with what is popular or to sell. Therefore we’re generally on a different tip, being so far away from the rest of the world.
I would say that a lot of the projects that RVCA are involved with internationally seem to me to be more established while we are still very much working on these grass-roots levels, which you could say is South African because we are still growing and establishing our contemporary urban cultures.
Who, in your opinion, are the ones to watch?
Man, now that’s a tough question. I’m currently based in Cape Town and am dying to spend more time in Joburg and Durban to see what’s happening there. In Cape Town there are so many creative people, it’s quite phenomenal. Apart from the ANP artists, personally I would say people like Michael Saal, ELLO and a very young artist that goes by the name of Jack Fox. We were just involved in a group photography exhibition called “Tow Aways” which took place at The Pit First Thursdays and the level of work was really amazing, so I’m looking forward to seeing what happens in photography in the future!
How would you describe SA youth culture?
Wild, positive, powerful, conscientious, beautiful.