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Grad Guide 2020: Anke-Mari Geldenhuys

A graduate from Stellenbosch Academy, Anke-Mari Geldenhuys tells us about some of her favorite artworks, illustrations and prints, which draw from her childhood experiences and the interconnectedness of humankind and the natural world. In our conversation with Geldenhuys for 10and5’s annual graduate series, she speaks about utilising creativity as a communication tool to bring about transformation.

Anke-Mari Geldenhuys

Where and what did you study?  

I studied BA visual communication design at Stellenbosch Academy of Design and Photography with applied illustration design (AID) as my major. After that, I completed my Honours degree in AID with a specific interest in printmaking. 

What do you love about illustration?  

I love illustration’s limitlessness and ability to project into unknown worlds. When it comes to creating, illustration has no boundaries. There is no wrong or right – just bad and good (and even the bad can be good to someone else). That being said, I do not believe in mistakes, rather they are opportunities for unintended creations to become new  independent ideas. In other words, if the final output is not as expected, instead of disregarding it as a failure, change your perspective and grant it with the authority of  becoming a creation of its own. You must be willing to let go of expectancies and give space for new ideas to breathe.

I also admire how illustration can serve as a portal into imaginative worlds. It opens up the present to the possibility of creative and alternate worlds and futures. Considering the  future to be the realm of hope, illustration creates contemplative spaces advocating critical dialogue and transformation. It provides an opportunity to illuminate new modes of being and belonging in a world characterised by biodiversity, ecological disparity, intelligent  design, technological and global development, and a burgeoning human population. In addition, illustration is an effective communication tool that can be widely accessed and related to by all kinds of humans. 

Tell us about the work you created during your final year. Any projects that stand out for you?  

For my final year, I was required to conceptualise a self-motivated project which would be executed in steps of exploration and experimentation throughout the year. The final  outcome, My Child, What Have You Done? is a story about the relationship between man and nature. Through curious and critical contemplation, it seeks to demolish the borders that have separated humans from the natural world. It proposes the possibility of a world driven by co-existence and respectable, sustainable relations between all species – human and nonhuman.  

The project narrative stems from my salad days. As a child, I grew up near the ocean. My childhood memories are a collection of days spent rock-hopping around the tidal pools and collecting starfish and seagrass. Soon I developed an intimate relationship with nature. Growing older, I gained a particular interest in the conversation between man and nature. Fueled by research conducted during my final year thesis – which studied the role of art in the Anthropocene – and Yuval Harari’s Sapiens: The History of Mankind, this interest has evolved to become the primary subject of my final creative project. 

My Child, What have you done? exists as a body of work consisting of four chronological  chapters. Each chapter reflects a visual exploration and elaboration of a theme extracted from the primary narrative. The chapter is executed as a series of three or four artworks produced through printmaking techniques such as monotyping and collography. The story begins with mapping the origin of life. Genesis embodies three oil monotypes, namely, She is the cradle of pedigree, Mother I am still here, and My knees are open to the sun. Chapter 2 marks the coming of the conscious being. A Poetic Eruption is composed of one oil painting, Birth of a marmalade mess, and three monotypes, Please turn me into a leaf again, My mother’s ghost, and Curious migration. With change came power and with power came no responsibility. Chapter 3, Pandora’s  Garden, speaks to human supremacy and its underlying consequences. It consists of four monotype artworks, Remember when we were one, I do not need you, The last dance and Is this what you wanted?. Fast forward to the twentieth century, an era characterised by vanishing forests, dying seas and disappearing species. The Earth has tumbled into a state of ecological disparity. The way forward is the way inward proposes that humans take a step back to critically reflect on their condition and relationship to the surrounding world. Gram negative, Gram-positive, Anthro-Bacterio Garden and I am because you are are made by combining two printmaking techniques, collography and monotyping.  

Innocent Delirium

How would you describe your style to someone who’d never seen your work before?

Illustrative fine art, somewhere within the liminal space of fiction and reality. I do not see myself as someone with a specific style. In fact, I try to refrain from categorising my  creative work into a singular aesthetic. My interests are constantly changing, and therefore my visual references, colour palettes, subject matters, and mark-making also change. As soon as I become comfortable with something, it becomes mundane. I like to push myself and explore new territories. I want to always remain open to ideas. 

What would you like to be known for in the local creative industry?  

I would like to be known as someone who creates art, not content, and who does not take no for an answer. As a creative I think it is crucial to know what you stand for, to fight for it, to have goals, to believe that you can, and to gun for the things that wake you up at night.  You have to be curious, and you have to take calculated risks. I want my work to ask questions, challenge notions, open up new possibilities and stimulate critical dialogue.  

Cradle of curiosities cure my despair

What are your plans for 2021?  

I have recently returned from a month of touring and have been welcomed back into 2021 as an unemployed graduate. It may sound daunting, but there’s something really exciting about walking into the unknown. In times of uncertainty, we are at our most vulnerable, and due to the external pressure, we tend to become passive. Therefore, we must direct our energy into actively being and utilise pressure as a catalyst for creative and innovative problem solving.

In an attempt to follow my own advice, I have been busy setting myself up for new things. I am currently decluttering my space, cataloguing and making sense of the last four years’ work. Concerning the future, I have no fixed ideas yet and would like to remain open to all opportunities while getting back into the flow of things. However, I have been looking into various creative avenues such as the gallery space, printmaking, surface designing (textiles and wallpaper), and basically anything promising creative well-being.

Lately, I have also spent a lot of time observing the natural world and its relationship with humans. I am keen to get involved with projects surrounding ecology, environmental studies and the conservation of our seas. I have been considering collaborating with organisations and media pages to educate sustainable behaviour, inform the public about the organisms living alongside us and raise environmental awareness.  

What were some personal projects (not necessarily linked to studying), that you’re  passionate about? 

I am fortunate to have a few talented friends in the music industry with whom I share a great love for music. During 2020’s lockdown. I have participated in an exciting online  event where I collaborated with a fellow musician friend. He was playing some of his new material while I was painting. Everything was improvised. It was great fun to participate in an experiment so fitting for the time. 

In my first year at the Academy, I completed a project where I illustrated an alphabet  inspired by ocean conservation. I did some research on pollution and its detrimental  effects on our ocean ecologies. I illustrated the letters by combining pollution elements with the skeletons and anatomies of marine animals to comment on the complex  relationship between them. This project has always been a very special one. It taught me  how to utilise creativity as a communication tool to induce transformation. I have been considering taking it further by starting my own project or collaborating with a media organisation/fellow creative to raise awareness and educate the public sphere about the  detrimental effects of ecological collapse. 

Follow @anke_illustrates on Instagram.

Ocean conservation alphabet
Is this what you wanted?
Mother, I am still here

Grad Guide is an annual series from Between 10and5, profiling some of South Africa’s most exciting creative graduates across the fields of fashion, art, photography and design. Find the full 2020 Grad Guide here

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