Reflections on a Residency: Yolanda Mazwana’s ‘After Midnight’ Series

There are many forms of fear, travelling on a scale from rational and easily comprehensible fears to those which have no clear external source – at least not in the realm of tangible reality as we know it. If you’ve ever woken up with a disquieting, creepy feeling in the early hours of the morning for instance, then you’ll know this firsthand. Yolanda Mazwana‘s new series of paintings, created during her residency at Nirox this past month, is a deep dive into fear – both as it manifests in material reality and, more curiously, in the form of the fears that spring forth from our inner selves and internal worlds. We spoke with Mazwana to explore the process and meanings behind her After Midnight series and recent residency experience.

Yolanda Mazwana

What were your feelings approaching the residency at Nirox?

I felt pretty happy to just have an opportunity to relax and be away from Joburg for a bit. I think the pandemic has been sitting heavy on a lot of us mentally so I was just excited for that firstly. But secondly, I was also excited to start creating again. It had been a while and I needed a new space, a different environment, to start a new body of work. I was a little nervous yet anxious to get started.

At the start did you already know what you intended to explore or did this only come to light along the way?

I had wanted to continue to explore the topics on hypochondria and build from my body of work Symptoms of Nothing, but when I got there I felt that was such a heavy topic to have in a calm space. It just didn’t match the energy. My mindset shifted. Although once I was settled in it started to come together by observation. I started to notice the little insects and creatures that kinda freaked me out, the spiders, bats, grasshoppers, et cetera that would crawl on the walls and fly inside the residency house. It fueled my imagination and I got to explore my irrational and rational fears – between the outside world and “out of touch” with the world. I made playful and experimental use of mediums to create anthropomorphic-like figures inspired by the insects and the human form, blending these irrational and rational aspects of fear.

Tell us about your After Midnight series and what these paintings say to, and through, you?

The purpose of the After Midnight series is to discover the inner thoughts and ideas of how far I can take my creative process of my subconscious at night. I started with these contortionist blob drawings and now they’re evolving into paintings and are starting to take on a surreal, expressionist approach. I’m quite interested to see what more can come out of it moving forward.

What are some of the recurring symbols in your work?

These symbols represent the unnatural yet recognizable juxtaposition between human and insect, rational and irrational. I use these lines, shapes and forms that in the end are one part of the bigger picture, like some of the works that have the intestine pattern/effect that displays this internal look into the figures and what goes on in the inside . 

What is the process of painting like, for you?

It’s different every time. Sometimes I like to play music and be completely free of thought. But I do enjoy quiet open spaces. The environment plays an essential role.

The Blob Organisms, 2021
Mixed media on paper

In your After Midnight series there’s a sense of being turned inside-out. Does this ring true for you and, if so, where do your thoughts go from there?

Yes, there’s so many unexpected layers to the series. It’s about looking at the inside, putting two and two together. There’s a lot of metaphors to the paintings. There’s really nothing to be afraid of but also so many things to be weary of.

Now that your open studio and residency at Nirox has come to a close, what are your reflections on the experience?

I had a lot of time to think about what’s next for me and what I need to do. As silly as it sounds, facing your rational fears made me block out the weariness I have of the world and realise there’s so much beauty and so much to explore and no more time to waste. Nirox is so beautiful and the people there are so peaceful, it’s almost unreal. The whole experience was a game changer.

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The Anatomy Check, 2021
Mixed media on paper

Images courtesy of Yolanda Mazwana and Kalashnikovv Gallery.


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