15 Aug Revisiting Show & Tell with Billie Zangewa, Tegan Bristow and Suzaan Heyns
On 13 August we held a special Creative Women edition of Show & Tell in celebration of Women’s Month. Our guest speakers were visual artist Billie Zangewa, fashion designer Suzaan Heyns and interactive media artist Tegan Bristow – here’s a recap of what they shared:
Billie Zangewa | Visual artist working in silk tapestries
Billie Zangewa spoke about the development of her personal narrative as she uses herself as the protagonist in her work. Since she began working in her current medium of silk tapestries, Billie has noticed that her creative output can be broken up into three distinct phases.
The first phase she refers to, naturally, as ‘The Beginning’ and during this time the stories she communicated through her work centered predominantly around personal relationships and all the emotions that arose as a result. Fantango is an example of this, depicting the beginnings of a relationship which can be both exciting and tense. Another early tapestry is Getting Happy and though it does contain a feeling of harmony, Billie notes that at this stage she was still seeking validation through her relationships with men. In The Inquisition, she begins to question whether she really wants to see herself through the eyes of others, and this led to the second of the three phases which she recognizes as ‘The Transition’.
Asking herself the questions of “Who am I?” and “What do I want?”, her work became more introspective and artworks such as Sun Worshipper, The Rebirth of Black Venus and The Future Waits for No-one were created during this time. The latter reexamines the skewed perception that society has of what it means to be successful and as a result, Billie resolved to find her own value going forth. This resolution led to another shift, as she reached a place of being completely comfortable with herself as a human being – needing no external validation.
This time-period also marked a milestone in Billie’s chosen medium, who said that “after 10 years of working with this medium I know what I’m doing. With very little, I can say so much.” Two of her most recent works illustrate this. The first, The Constant Gardener, is a discourse about food supply in the urban setting. And finally, the second and most notable piece titled Exquisite Fantasy shows Billie so at ease in her own skin that she is completely oblivious to the viewer. She calls this ‘The Final Frontier’.
Tegan Bristow | Interactive media artist
After graduating with a BA in Fine Arts (majoring in painting), Tegan Bristow went on to complete a Master’s in digital art at Wits – where she now lectures.
Tegan began her talk by sharing her most recent project Code Lines with us, which she completed during an online residency with Floating Reverie. Inspired by a quote by La Mont Young, “draw a straight line and follow it”, Tegan created little sketches of code every day for two weeks – allowing each piece to lead to the development of the next. An interesting spin-off of this was a collaboration with Joao Orecchia who, for his own Floating Reverie residency, took Tegan’s code sketches and made sound videos for each of them as Floating Processes.
The second part of Tegan’s talk focused on the medium of interactive video art, using her own work to show some of the techniques that can be employed. Using motion detection, she created an artwork called Chalk Vision which takes (and has taken) the form of a small experimental movie and two separate interactive installations.
Born out of her own frustration with her limited ability to make a serious change in the world, Tegan created Leave It Unsaid using the technique of face detection. When a viewer interacts with this work, a black square appears and covers their face and the only way they’re able to affect this is by saying something into the microphone provided. However, instead of taking the black square away, the viewer’s face is then replaced with that of a well-known politician – further adding to the frustration and feeling that their voice is not being heard.
To create her work Dissonance at Six, Tegan used skeletal tracking with the XBOX Kinect Sensor. In this piece, there are trees projected onto a screen which mimic the movements of the people standing in view of the sensor. When six people are in this line of view all at once, the leaves fall off the trees and the scene suddenly becomes incredibly barren – emphasizing that it’s entirely possible to feel alone or isolated even when surrounded by people.
Suzaan Heyns | Fashion Designer
For Suzaan Heyns, it’s not purely about creating garments but also about the process behind them. This process, of course, begins with inspiration. Not a destination that one can arrive at, inspiration is a journey that begins at one point and comes full circle over time.
As an emotive designer Suzaan’s inspiration may be triggered through music, art, a scent, architecture or a conversation – what’s important, she says, is to really be aware of what is happening in the world around you. And because these little points of reference are constantly being gathered, inspiration is also ever-evolving. To illustrate the journey she takes when designing a collection, Suzaan revealed the process behind two projects.
The first was a project for corporate client Disney, who asked her to create a collection inspired by the iconic character Minnie Mouse. Considering Suzaan’s signature structural and classic designs, it was a challenge for her to create a range true to her own aesthetic while at the same time containing elements of Minnie’s light-hearted persona and girly attire. As a springboard for the collection, Suzaan began by dissecting and focusing purely on Minnie’s distinguishing characteristics – her rounded face and ears, her large eyes, bows, gloves, and polka dots – and reinterpreting these.
The other collection Suzaan spoke about was a personal one called Doors of Perception. It started (though she wasn’t aware of it at the time) one December while visiting Stone Town during a trip to Zanzibar. Later on in the following year, when the time came for her to create a collection for fashion week, she began to think back on her trip and found that she was inspired by the labyrinth alleyways, ornate doorframes and mazes of corridors that she had spotted throughout the town. All of these elements found their way into the collection – using old doorknockers as neckpieces, constructing layered garments and even building a set of doorways for the runway to heighten the viewing experience.
Our next Show & Tell on 19 August is an art edition with Nico Krijno, Donna Kukama and Bogosi Sekhukhuni joining us to share some insights around their work. Find out more and RSVP!