Recent work exhibited at 1:54 | London by urban artist Kagiso Patrick Mautloa drew inspiration from Johannesburg’s street culture, the dynamics of the changing city, and the people he encounters there. We spoke to the artist about mediums, mask making and more.
What inspired the collection of masks you exhibited at 1:54 | London?
Every day I walk to my studio in Newtown in Joburg city centre from my home in Alexander. On that route, I see plenty of rubble and rubbish. It gets me thinking that much of who we are is what we consume. I notice that what is thrown away on the roadside creates a portrait of the societal uncaring-ness of our city and its inhabitants. All the bottles and debris I use in my masks mirror the behaviour in our town and become a modern portrait of how we live. I wanted to create something that resonates with what’s happening in the city. The masks I make are about the vessel, the substance before, the emptiness after, and reclaiming that emptiness and making matter out of it.
You see faces in what is discarded…
Yes, I reclaim what is discarded and try and exploit objects that can resonate with some aspect of a face. When I make masks the way I do it is to try and be less intelligent, and let the crude form talk to me so that I can respond. I twist, shape, cut and infuse shapes and then get something that assumes the shape of a face.
Tell us about the first mask you made.
My first mask came from a jerry can. I saw a face in it that reminded me of Munch’s drawing of the famous ‘Scream’. I believe simplicity is the ultimate form of sophistication and I respected the shape of the jerry can, and exploit the qualities it has with minimal intervention. I called it ‘The Campaign’. It’s about a guy campaigning for a shack, but this is also a container that would allow a person to take water to a shack. The reading is inexhaustible. The idea is you interpret it with whatever you’re thinking that day.
You use unusual mediums in your art making…
That’s right. At times I put myself into a situation where I think, ‘if there was no art shop, what work would I be making?’. In my masks, you’ll find eyes made from the balls of roll-on deodorant bottles, and if you look at the faces up close, you’ll find all manner of things from empty milk containers, to old washcloths, and roof-patching gauze. Also, I use roof paint to paint my masks. I’ve always used things that I find and roof paint is not conventional, but it’s durable, and the artwork that’s inside is going to live forever! When I paint, it’s like a desert, and the roof paint is the most luxurious of mediums that I enjoy. Making art this way is a cyclical process, and I feel joyous about it. It celebrates my graduation into art, and at the same time, it’s timeless.
Kagiso Patrick Mautloa exhibited at 1:54 Contemporary African Art Fair in London in October 2016.
Since 1982 he has participated in numerous solo exhibitions, group shows and workshops in South Africa, Botswana, Belgium, Germany, France, Holland, Switzerland, the UK, Ireland, the United States, Cuba and India. His work is represented in the Nando’s collection of Contemporary Southern African Art and in public and private collections across South Africa and abroad.
Twenty-three of Patrick’s artworks are included in the Nando’s Collection, 17 of which are in the Nando’s UK collection. Nando’s UK partnered with 1:54 Contemporary African Art Fair, the leading international art fair that’s dedicated to Contemporary African art, to tell the story of four talented artists who feature in the Nando’s Art Collection.