5 Art Graduates to Watch in 2021

There’s no doubt that 2020 was a uniquely challenging year for those pursuing tertiary studies, with many universities shifting their entire curriculums online – not to mention, the broader mental and emotional strains that come with living through a global pandemic. As is our custom we’ve since explored the work of these resilient recent graduates to share a few of the outstanding new entrants into the fields of art, design, photography, fashion and illustration with you. We’ve published in-depth Q&As with this talented lot as part of 10and5’s annual Grad Guide and, in the list below, you’ll find a summary of the five young South African artists on our radar.

YunYoung Ahn

YunYoung Ahn employs the language of artistic expression to transcend cultural barriers, building what she refers to as the “bridge” between her worlds. In doing so she uncovers threads of connection between seemingly disparate aspects of her heritage. Ahn graduated from the Michaelis School of Fine Art (where she’s pursuing her master’s degree this year). “My body of work rises from a combination of the histories and ceremonies I am sculpted from. Some I embrace, while others I reject and have grown away from. Through my research, I raise questions about metanarratives that are built on the silence of others – questions I never dared to ask or even knew how to ask. I seek to reclaim the silenced voices in myself relating to femininity, spirituality and food politics,” she says of her 2020 graduate exhibition.

Read our conversation with Ahn here.

Pebofatso Mokoena

Pebofatso Mokoena acquired a diploma in visual art at the University of Johannesburg and later went to Wits University to do his honours, which he completed last year. Influenced by his background in printmaking, Mokoena’s paintings are characterised by precise mark making and division of space, while exploring ideas around politics, architecture and the environment. His graduate work looked at the township of Thokoza as a site of historical violence, the nature of which posed a threat to South Africa’s first democratic elections in 1994. “I wanted to understand the intersections of this historical moment, which is still ongoing,” the artists says. “It was important to me, as I was born directly into this moment. Growing older, I wanted to make sense of these happenings as they were extremely close to my consciousness.”

For more, find our full Q&A with Mokoena here.

Mammals and Their Prodigies I

Tasmin Randall

For Tasmin Randall there was never any question that she’d pursue art. Having completed her BFA studies at Makhanda’s Rhodes University, she’s staying on this year to attain her master’s in fine arts. Her 2020 graduate work, shaped both in terms of format and concept by the limitations of lockdown, conveys her struggle adjusting to the “new normal.” of life during the Covid-19 pandemic, with serious restrictions placed on personal freedom. She says, “Mundane Marcadia is an interactive virtual world based on the pandemic and international lockdown. Inspired by classic arcade games, the virtual realm is quite flawed and thus reflects on the dysfunctionality we call 2020. The concept of the virtual realm, conveyed through a suburban home and mundanity of choices, comments on the frustrating loop-like experiences I’ve faced throughout lockdown.”

Read our interview with Randall here.

Mundane Marcadia

Olwethu Mahlathini

Olwethu Mahlathini is of the belief that art has the power to unite people “of different minds, backgrounds and cultures.” Having completed his studies at the Ruth Prowse School of Art, his graduate series of oil paintings depicts a few of the people he’s encountered in his everyday life – speaking to themes of identity, specifically as it relates to culture and heritage, and understanding our role within our immediate environment as well as in society at large. “From a young age I have wanted to communicate my emotion through art and art has been my passion. I just believed that I had to take it further since I realised that it is actually part of who I am, and always has been,” says Mahlathini, reflecting on his artistic journey.

Find our Q&A with Mahlathini here for more.

Motlhoki Nono

There’s a refreshing candour to the way in which Motlhoki Nono speaks about art in general, and her own practice in particular. “I don’t know, but for me, right now, the role of my art is merely to explore my curiosities,” she says in her charming, sincere manner. And where her curiosity currently leads her is to explore the experience of love in all its forms, seen in the video series that began her ongoing project Mma Pelo O Jele Serati. Nono graduated last year with her honours in fine art from Wits University. In our interview she talks about figuring it out, vulnerability vs visibility, memory, and falling in love. Reflecting on her graduate work, she says “My graduate exhibition was a virtual experience of my vernacular encounters with love. It begins with my maternal relationship, and how the exchanges of love between my mother and I, as well as the generation of women in my family and their husbands, has informed the certain approaches that I have to romantic love. I am a hopeless romantic, it’s actually devastating, and in third year I was thinking a lot about my romantic experiences and about how I want to carve out a space for them in my practice because the experience of love, in all its forms, is such a crucial part of my existence.”

Read our conversation with Nono in its entirety here.

Ledombolo For One (still)

Find the full 2020 Grad Guide here.

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