21 Jan Gazelle prepares us for a comeback with his latest art exhibition, Postcards from Paradise
Xander Ferreira, returns! And it is in the form of his largely recognised and eminent act, Gazelle. Opening last night, the versatile artist extended his theatrical persona into the gallery, once again, marking this latest exhibition as his third showcase with a gallery. Previously exhibiting at the Whatiftheworld and Gallery WM, Gazelle is no stranger to institutional spaces of critique and edifying value.
After living in New York for more than a decade, Gazelle travelled back to South Africa in 2020. Ironically and of a similar experience to his conquest in America, having been stranded there initially – he describes 2020 as the year where he found himself stranded in South Africa. Perhaps this could foreshadow the artist’s longer stay in the country…
For Postcards from Paradise, The South African native, worked collaboratively with visual artist Llewellyn van Eeden on a series of illustrations, which are accompanied by a music video directed by Gazelle. The two artists set off on the path to combine comic-style elements from the likes of Hergé’s Tin-Tin with the stylistic approach of Pierneef. Ultimately, they have soulfully created a marriage of characters and landscapes in a uniquely South African experience, titled Postcards from Paradise. Read the interview below:
- In your own words, Who is Gazelle? Gazelle is a character/ persona for myself I have created. Through Gazelle, I can explore my fascination with iconography and the power of strategic implementation which I can maneuver and direct throughout the ages. In a playful way, this persona has become a mask to hide behind. At the same time, it allows for the unraveling of regressive constructs which govern our decision-making. Gazelle is a stage to express myself through any medium. And my hope with this is to create something of value, socially and culturally.
- What drew you to get into art, performance and storytelling? Since I can remember, stories have fueled my lust for life. To name a few personal sentiments from my memories, My grandmother’s bedtime reads, the movies from the video store we were able to get every couple of months since we lived on a remote farm, and my father’s complete collection of National Geographic magazines. These all were an inducement to my dream of creating a cross-examined world through my own storytelling. Immersed in nature, I played away the days in a dream world that has never disappeared from me. 3. What are some of your creative influences, and how this has shaped the type of work you do? Nature is my greatest teacher and main inspiration. There, you can see how everything works. It is the blueprint of how we exist as organisms.
4. Take us deeper into what inspired the work for ‘Postcards from Paradise’?
The incredible natural beauty of the people and places of South Africa I see each year when I do a road trip from Limpopo to the Cape. This land has been through so many cycles of violence for the past thousand years. I long for the day we can be courageous enough to include each part of history in an all-inclusive narrative. I feel this will help us to understand ourselves better. And it would be the most ideal way as a nation to take the right steps forward in a unified way.
5. How did the collaborative process, working with Llewellyn van Eeden, evolve?
Just before the 2020 lockdown, I drove through South Africa and visited the Rupert Museum in Stellenbosch. There, I viewed the Pierneef station panels for the very first time. I was mesmerized, inspired – and right after that experience, I got stranded in South Africa for nearly a year. During this time, I conceptualized a series that I wanted to bring to life. The series started off with pieces that would celebrate each South African province, diving deeper into an array of elements that make up a place and its people. It started with me writing short stories about each province. These stories turned into constructed scenographies. During this time, I connected with Llewellyn who is an incredible illustrator and designer. I approached him with the idea to collaboratively construct these scenes that I had in my head. We went on a nearly two-year journey to bring these pieces to life.
6. Do you have any first memories, relating to creating your first illustrations, drawings, cartoons or any form of art in this category?
Although the works in this series were all done by Llewellyn’s hand, I myself have been doodling away since I can remember. My earliest memories of this start at the age of three. I got caught, lying beneath the bed with some pens drawing a whole world as if it was the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.
7. Why do you feel it is important to have ‘culture’ as the anchoring subject within your work?
Culture is never done. It is a constantly evolving conversation of exchange. I feel it is important to add your life’s energy to an ongoing culture, rather than only wanting to take from it. Usually, the ones that claim ownership are not the people who created it. We can look at any story of food, film, clothing, or even technology, you can then understand that magic happens when we let the beautiful things we create be free to inspire new ideas. The ones that create are inspired by others and end up inspiring others.
8. Walk us through the music video you directed and produced, which is connected to this exhibition.
After Llewellyn and I finalized the illustrations, we realized that there were so many more layers that could come to life in animation. During the process of creating this series, I wrote a song with the same title as this show. We then figured, let us make everything live together as a unified world.
9. What can visitors to the exhibition expect from ‘Postcards from Paradise’?
Through this exhibition, I hope people are reminded of all the beautiful places around South Africa. I hope they feel inspired to go and explore! There are all these spaces that make up this magnificent country. It is time to engage with these spaces. The series comes alive in many forms, sharing its message on the walls of this gallery space. On top of that, we have printed a series of postcards that we hope people can send around the world to share our heritage with others. On each of these cards, there is a QR code which redirects you to the song and video.
10. Do you have any new projects you are currently working on? Or what are your prospects for the next two years in your artistic career?
The work never stops. I have multiple projects always running. All I can say is that Gazelle is back. I hope to reconnect with an audience here in South Africa, to share with them the creations that are coming to life. Gazelle was born before social media, so I missed that boat and am finally plank by plank building my ship.
Opening date: 20 January 2022 Curator: ELMARIE VANSTRATEN Venue: GALLERY ONE11
Song and music video release: 3 February 2022
Click here to view the music video and artwork
Music written and performed by GAZELLE
With backup vocals by DONNY TRUTER
Music Produced by FRED DEN HARTOG & XANDER FERREIRA Music Mixed by TAYLOR SOUNDWORKS
Music Mastering by LURSSEN MASTERING
Produced and Directed by XANDER FERREIRA Illustrated and Animated by LLEWELLYN VAN EEDEN