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Every mark matters: Young artist Banele Khoza tackles issues of identity

Banele Khoza creates ghostly works in watercolour and sharper, yet still surreal, digital illustrations. The up-and-coming artist originally pursued a path in fashion, studying for one year at LISOF in Pretoria. However, during the illustration classes he realised he’d much prefer to spend his days drawing and went on to study fine art at the Tshwane University of Technology instead.

Having just completed his BTech at TUT, Banele plans to spend 2016 practising as a full time artist while experimenting with style and subject matter. Though his images contain elements of escapism and fantasy, they speak to his own experiences – primarily in relation to identity issues and the way gender is presented and performed.

We spoke to Banele about his creative process, his conceptual use of colour and becoming confident in his artistic expression.

Banele Khoza (10)

Do you have a preference when it comes to creating work digitally versus using traditional media? How does it benefit your art-making process to mix these up?

I honestly enjoy both mediums. My tablet has replaced my notebook and I now use it to doodle on the go. It could be in between trips, while sitting at a restaurant or in bed. My work in traditional media is reserved for when I am at home. I have a working space where I begin most of my drawings and I usually conclude them in bed, haha. The great thing about working digitally is that I can edition the work, and I don’t edit or tweak them as I have learnt that every mark matters.

Are there any other mediums you’ve been experimenting with, or would like to in the future?

I recently acquired a 3D pen and a fine art desktop printer, so I am yet to figure both out. I am looking forward to owning a drone and 3D printer.

Have you always been artistically inclined? When did you realise that you’d like to pursue it as a career?

I have always taken drawing seriously. I can remember when I was 4 years old, I received my first drawing book and I couldn’t stop drawing portraits of people, figures in dresses and houses. Today at 21 years old, I am still invested in these interests.

Banele Khoza (7)

Who are some of your inspirations – past and present?

Yearly, I am inspired by different artists. I think Georgina Gratrix’s works is out of this world and it seems effortless, I am also obsessed with Penny Siopis and seeing her retrospective at the Iziko National Museum was a highlight of my year. One day I hope to see Marlene Dumas’s work in person, as she is the base of my traditional pieces.

Is there a work of yours that stands out as a personal favourite, or has a particularly significant story attached to it?

I must admit that I am crazy about “Glassy”, a comical portrait of me with a cape on. He is anything that I possibly want him to be, he knows no limits while at the same time he is reflective of my own adventures through life. The only time I feel like I think before I draw is when I am busy creating this comic.

Banele Khoza (2)

What influences your use of colour?

My use of colour signifies gender issues and how, from an early age, we’re groomed in a blue or pink sector. Pink, ever since the 1940s has been associated with femininity, and blue has represented masculinity – while there are people, myself included, who enjoy both sides of these spectrums. It’s the immediate associations with these colours that I try to challenge. Many males supress their inner femininity and I find that to be a tragedy, so I try to break that mould with my work.

How has your style or approach evolved since you first started out? What accounts for these changes?

When I started exhibiting three years ago, I placed myself on pause in the public eye and I copied what I thought was “art” – looking at the likes of Diane Victor and WIlliam Kentridge, excluding my own voice. At the same time, I continued to draw in my journal, scribbling my daily ordeals. Being in a varsity environment for the past while has allowed me to express myself completely and without insecurity, because I can handle failure at this point while still studying and being supported by my parents. And through that I’ve learned that being true to myself and my own ideas is where success lies.

Banele Khoza 2

Do you listen to music while you work? Or do you have any habits or rituals that spark your creativity?

I compulsively listen to a few albums for a long time. I have been listening to ‘Ina Ethe’ (Give and Take) by Zonke ever since its release almost 6 years ago. I recently bought Zonke’s new album which I foresee a great future with, haha. I also watch series while working, which tends to be between 12-6am. It keeps me entertained as I progress through large and labour some works.

What sparks my creativity are my relationships, or lack thereof, with people.

What have you been working on or working towards?

Lately I’ve been staring at people hoping for a love connection, haha. I had a duet show with Heidi Fourie which opened on 21 November at Trent Gallery, Pretoria, and I wrote my fourth Art Theory exam paper in early December. I’m currently participating in the group exhibition, ‘Stellar‘ at Salon 91, which is my first showing in Cape Town. In January I’ll be part of another group show in Cape Town with Smith Gallery. Now it’s preparation for sweet 2016 and I have big plans, I’ll certainly keep 10and5 in the loop.

Follow Banele on Facebook, tumblr and Instagram.

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