Absa L’Atelier 2022 | The Curator’s Perspective: with Dr. Paul Bayliss

To delve into the mind of the art curator appointed to this leading Pan-African art competition, the Absa L’Atelier, we sat down with Dr. Paul Bayliss, Senior Specialist Art Curator at Absa Group. He shared with us some of his thoughts on building relationships with artists and helping them to determine the value of their work, and what applicants to this competition should be concerned about when submitting their work. In the hands of an art curator, one cannot separate the captivation art provides to curators such as Dr. Paul Bayliss, who finds beauty in all matters of everyday life and expression.

Read more below to find out the key pointers you need to know about, before the competition’s closing date of 31st May 2022:

Portrait shot of Dr. Paul Bayliss. IMAGE COURTESY OF ABSA L’ATELIER.

What we are really looking at are methods to ensure that by the time the artists come through this, they have been given the necessary and sufficient skills to actually take their career to the next level. ”

An artist’s chosen medium is a catalyst for interpretation. What types of art mediums and subject matter are you particularly on the look out for this year?

”As an art curator what excites me, is seeing what applicant artists enter into the competition. I am curious about this in terms of: what are they facing in society; what are the important issues that they are dealing with and how does that come through the artworks that they are producing. That, I always find incredibly interesting, particularly when you are dealing with artists from across 12 countries where varying cultural backgrounds are involved. So it is very interesting to see what is actually driving each artist and what is important to each of them. I look forward to seeing and exploring through the works.”

Absa L’Atelier 2021 Group C winner, Michael Blebo. IMAGE COURTESY OF ABSA L’ATELIER.
Absa L’Atelier 2021 Gerard Sekoto Award winner, Abongile Sidzumo. IMAGE COURTESY OF ABSA L’ATELIER

How has Absa L’Atelier been an example for progressive and impactful change in an artist’s professional career over the last few years, especially during a period of excessive change, where Covid 19 and the Global pandemic has shifted the world completely? 

”I think in the words of Winston Churchill, he says, ‘don’t let a good crisis go to waste’. There were a lot of negatives around the pandemic. And I think we are all aware of that. But, if there are one or two of the positives that came out of it, that is this new-found technological revolution that we have all seen and experienced.

In light of this, we at Absa L’Atelier started to think: how do we envisage the Absa L’Atelier, in making it a more accessible art competition to artists, using technology. And that is basically what we did. So if we look at 2020, the competition did not take place. We decided to use that time to go back to the drawing board. And in 2021, the competition then took place again. We were able to test certain things. And for the first time last year, the competition end-to-end was completely digital, completely online. That is, from the submission of entries by artists, through to the adjudication, and even the prizes. We held the award ceremony in October – online. 

So, if you are an artist in a remote rural community, if you do not have the necessary money to get your artwork to a collection point, you ultimately can still enter. That is the way we have re-structured the competition. As long as you have a cell phone, or smartphone – as long as you have access to the internet – you are able to enter the Absa L’Atelier competition.”

” In many respects, by going digital, and online, we remove that barrier to entry. With what we have gone through the last two years, with our willingness to work remotely, whilst embracing these advances in technology, we have been able to shift the Absa L’Atelier in making it more accessible to enter. And this adds to the betterment of the artists that ultimately the competition serves. ”



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