Kemang Wa Lehulere is the 2015 recipient of the Standard Bank Young Artist Award for Visual Art. Kemang works across multiple disciplines including performance, video, painting, drawing, text and installation. His work engages with the spaces between personal narrative and collective history. His visual language of monotone lines and forms and graphic imagery creates fictional narratives that reinterpret and reconfigure historical facts. Kemang spoke with us briefly and generally about his work:
How do the diverse mediums that you work in relate to, inspire and compliment one another?
Each medium requires a different thought process and it’s this difference in approach that interests me. I get to be challenged continuously even though it can be exhausting.
What is more important, the conceptual thinking behind a work or the final outcome?
These are both important. But I have often times been less pre occupied with final results.
Please tell us about your interest in the ideas of disintegration and excavation and how this manifests in your work…
The idea of excavation began as a symbolic gesture towards hidden, unwritten and often marginalized narratives and histories. This has manifested in performance based work and text oriented work both fiction and non-fiction.
Can you tell us how narrative and text figure in your work, as well as the interplay between fact and fiction…
Text has featured in my work in many of my drawings including performances. Text has often come through as fiction rather than fact in my work, however, fiction has been my way of dealing with fact.
Your works suggest social-historical narratives yet simultaneously wipe the slate clean (literally in the case of your murals) and refuse any fixed interpretation. Can you tell us a little about your interest in the writing (and consequent erasing) of histories…
I have a great mistrust for most things permanent.
What was your first thought upon learning that you had been awarded The Standard Bank Young Artist Award for Visual Art?
I was excited and humbled at the same time.
Do you have an idea of the work that you’ll create for the exhibition next year?
It’s too soon to say.
Has spending time in foreign cities influenced and impacted on your art? Please tell us a little about this…
I think traveling is bound to impact on anyone’s thinking be they an artist or not. So in that sense it has, in fact, traveling has made me uncertain and it’s been the greatest gift.
All images ©Kemang Wa Lehulere. Courtesy STEVENSON Johannesburg and Cape Town.