Whether timeless in its beauty or bold in its modernity, or both, working in black and white is an approach often employed across the fields of photography, fine art, illustration, typography or fashion. Here are 10 artists whose vision of the world in black and white we love.
Michael Taylor is an artist living in Cape Town who works predominantly in painting and drawing. Interested in the idea of selfhood, misrepresentations, possible eccentricities, and what it means to imagine something; the narrative quality of his pieces can be likened to that of short fiction. At times wildly colourful and monochromatic at others, Michael seldom makes preparatory sketches for a final work but instead enjoys the sense of immediacy and spontaneity that come with his chosen mediums. He also creates an electronic zine called The Book of Immediate Nonsense which he describes as “ridiculous, yet unassuming, and off-beat stories about life and death, outlandish characters, contemporary fables, natural disasters, modern behaviour, and visual discovery.”
Looking at his striking images, you wouldn’t say that the photographic journey of East London born Travys Owen began less than two years ago. With a background in design and illustration, Travys is now forging a path for himself as a photographer and filmmaker in Cape Town producing work for the likes of Adidas, ANDPEOPLE, Huff Post Magazine and Machine Agency. Photography-wise he gravitates strongly towards the genre of portraiture saying, “I find people’s faces and characters the most interesting, and I try to bring that character out in an image.”
Rodan Kane Hart:
Rodan Kane Hart is an artist creating experiential structures and sculptures inspired by the architectural forms found in the urban environments of Johannesburg and Cape Town. Influenced by his own experience of the cities in which he has lived, the fabricated and structured aesthetic of his work is an attempt to highlight the constructed and foreign nature of the South African city. With the belief that an audience’s response is a vital component when it comes to making relevant art, Rodan endeavours to elicit an emotional response through the gesture of art.
In his 38 years as a graphic designer, Garth Walker has founded two of SA’s most highly regarded design studios; Orange Juice Design and later, Mister Walker. In 1995 he published the first issue of the experimental design magazine ijusi – a passion project in the truest sense which aims to encourage and promote a visual design language rooted in our own South African experience. Throughout the 29 issues to date the magazine has explored the topics of identity, South African stories, religion and human rights. Published in 2006, issue #22 (South Africa Now: The Black and White Issue) is a sardonic look at the new South Africa years after the introduction of Democracy.
Dale Lawrence is an artist, illustrator and designer based in Cape Town, where he also works as an art director for conceptual design studio CLRS&Co. Guided by the things he is confronted with both internally and externally, his dual careers as a designer/art director and as an artist have influenced the way he thinks about each role quite significantly saying, “I think every subsequent subject in my work might be the result of themes that come out of the duality represented by the two professions.” Drawing has always been Dale’s primary medium and his through his work places a large emphasis on detailed and interesting line work.
Sibs Shongwe-La Mer:
Sibs Shongwe-La Mer is a prolific 22 year old filmmaker, photographer, musician and founder of The Whitman Independent – a youth art retailer, filmhouse, gallery and publisher. He’s currently in the production phase for his first feature length film ‘Terrirotial Pissings’ which, based on a script he first wrote when he was 16 years old, explores the contemporary African identity and speaks to the heart of the universal human desire to feel understood. When it comes to both film and photography, Sibs works predominantly in black and white saying that he is “captivated by the black and white palette and its place in the history of cinema.”
Mieke van der Merwe:
Mieke van der Merwe is an illustrator and artist based in Strand. Fascinated by interesting people, architecture and all the weird and wonderful facets of life, Mieke describes her work as loose and expressive – portraying more the feeling of her surroundings than a perfectly realistic representation. For her, the process of making the picture is very important and she is quick to work mistakes into her images feeling they contribute to the end result.
East London born Lukhanyo Mdingi has been living in Cape Town for the past three years, where he’s currently doing his final year in Fashion Design at CPUT. He first caught our eye after being a finalist in the Elle Rising Star Design Awards for his ‘Basics’ collection of “clean minimalist looks that are not seen as inadequate and bland, but that are distinct, powerful and have a natural flow and relation to one another.” In his second noteworthy collection thus far, ‘Granite’ Lukhanyo was inspired by the “opposing elements of granite, as it is a stone that has both hard and soft properties as well as both sheen and matte.”
Based in Cape Town, Jordan Metcalf is a graphic designer, illustrator and artist who is primarily concerned with custom lettering and typography. Working under the belief that graphic design and art have a symbiotic relationship, Jordan aims to bring the ideologies of both into each project to create valuable work. While he started out doing almost exclusively black and white work he has been exploring colour more often since he began working with clients in the publishing industry. Unlinked to any specific style or aesthetic, Jordan likes his work to look and feel as it though has been made now, in the present time, with a recurring emphasis on geometry and contrast.
Durban based photographer Paulo Menezes is a recent graduate from the Durban University of Technology and is already building a name for himself through his involvement in a series of high profile exhibitions in the city over the last two years. Describing himself as a documentary photographer in essence, Paulo is an observer of people and interested in the ways that humans negotiate their surroundings. “For me, it’s about seeing things that we see every day, in a completely new and unseen way” says Paulo, who works in black and white because it allows him to speak in a simplistic and often geometric style.
Jean de Wet:
Jean de Wet is an illustrator and artist based in Cape Town who graduated with a BA in Information Design from the University of Pretoria in 2007. Often inspired by nature and the “general strangeness of the universe and its fabrications”, recurring elements in his work include abandoned houses, hybrid creatures, monsters, swamps, melting mountains, telecommunication and mutation. While his drawings fluctuate between being quite simple and at other times highly detailed, they always present the viewer with a whimsical and alluring world to get lost inside.