Charcoal and Child’s Play with Nelson Makamo

Posted in In the Studio by Aimee Morris on 18th October 2018

You can spot Nelson Makamo’s expressive portraits from a mile away. The Johannesburg-based artist uses printmaking techniques as well as charcoal, acrylics, watercolours and oils to create spontaneous works that capture the characters of his native South Africa.


Nelson working on one of his portraits. 


Nelson is particularly interested in representing children; the artist is drawn to the innocence and eternal joy of childhood and believes that the essence of our former child selves remains within us all. Nelson’s portraits seek to awaken that part of us and to reassume a childlike perspective on the world. Simplicity, joy, curiosity.


One of Nelson's child portraits.


Recently, Nelson has turned his focus to the women of his home country. His latest series of paintings, which he unveiled at this year’s Johannesburg Art Fair, pays homage to South African women and highlights the challenges they face.


A piece from Nelson's recent series of paintings dedicated to South African women.


Nelson trained as a Printmaker at the Artist Proof Studios in Johannesburg, though his practice has evolved over time to incorporate a range of other mediums. Earlier this year the artist won the Rise Art Prize 2018 Drawing Award.


Nelson receiving the Rise Art Prize 2018 Drawing Award, presented by Beatrice Hodgkin, Deputy Editor of FT How to Spend It.  


Nelson has had solo and group exhibitions in South Africa, the US, the UK and across Europe. His works are held in high-profile collections, including that of fashion mogul Georgio Armani and musician Annie Lennox.


A couple of pieces in Nelson's studio.


3 quickfire questions with Nelson MAKAMO


1. Why do you choose to produce some works in colour and others in monochrome?

I don’t plan my work, I always just go with what compels me at the time. The mediums that I use depend on what kind of impact the content of the work will be. It’s always different.


One of Nelson's recent lithographs.


2. What do you like about your studio?

The natural light that pours in for most of the day, even though I prefer to work at night. I also love the space itself, I have enough space to have all my work tools out in the open.


Nelson in his Johannesburg studio.


3, Are there any artists who inspire you?

Not really, I study my own work most of the time to see where I can improve and push myself to try new things.



The Collector Behind Copenhagen Contemporary

Posted in Art Style Files by Aimee Morris on 16th October 2018

Copenhagen-based collector Peter Ibsen has a thing for abstract contemporary pieces, particularly monochrome and minimalist works. His collecting habits changed when he encountered a work by German artist Gregor Hildebrandt made out of cassette tapes (see below). It irked him so much that he bought it.


Untitled, 2009 by Gregor Hildebrandt. 


Peter has collected contemporary art for more than 20 years and runs Copenhagen Contemporary, a blog that supports emerging international artists. His Instagram account is on Christie's list of Top 100 Art World Instagram Accounts. We catch up with Peter to find out more about his sophisticated Scandinavian taste and what he looks for in up and coming talent. We also get a glimpse into his impressive collection.


Peter Ibsen, independent collector and founder of Copenhagen Contemporary.


What makes the Danish contemporary art scene unique?

To be honest it’s not unique. In this globalised world, I think it’s difficult to pin down why a country like Denmark has an unique contemporary art scene. To me it’s more about a specific style of an artist or an art piece that I look for. That’s also one of the reasons why you see so many Danish art collectors looking abroad when it come to new purchases.


Works by Ethan Cook and Samuel Levi Jones in Peter's collection.


What is it about monochrome and minimalist works that appeals to you?

To me it is all about what you don’t see on the canvas. When you look at an abstract monochrome art piece you only see 20%. It forces you to look deeper at the texture, materiality and process. The cleanliness of the surface can seem so simple and uncomplicated but often there can be months of preparation and execution. That’s what really fascinates me.


Works by Landon Metz and Andre Butzer.


Has your taste as a collector evolved over time?

In the beginning I collected figurative art. But I got so easily bored until the day I stumbled over a black art piece of Gregor Hildebrandt made out of cassette tapes on canvas. It irritated me. I thought to myself “how can this be art?”. There was no motif, no subject, no theme. It was annoying. But I bought it because something about it intrigued me. Since then I have not looked back and all figurative pieces are out of my collection.


Works by Gregor Hildebrandt and Samuel Levi Jones.


What qualities do you look for in your hunt for new pieces?

There always needs to be an element that I don’t understand. It also has to be visually minimalistic, abstract and monochrome - lots of process that one can’t figure out by looking at the works. I am also very much drawn to materiality, so works that aren’t painted in a traditional sense appeal to me. I find that I’m drawn to sculptures, objects and very tactile works.


Works by Gregor Hildebrandt.


Which artists do you have your eye on at the moment?

Martha Tuttle, Otis Jones, Luke Diiorio, Ron GorchovDorian Gaudin and Jaymerson Payton.


You've curated CODE Art Fair in Copenhagen. What opportunities do fairs offer artists and collectors and what does the future of art fairs look like in your opinion?

The opportunities art fairs offer collectors are: an overview of well selected galleries (if it’s well curated) representing some of the most interesting contemporary art; to meet gallerists; and to expand your network.


Works by Samuel Levi Jones and Andre Butzer.


Meanwhile it gives artists an opportunity to be promoted to an international band of collectors and galleries. In the future, I hope to see art fairs become smaller, better curated and more targeted when it comes to style. That way you know exactly what to expect beforehand.


Discover Peter's Rise Art Picks >>


Painting and Pyrography with Michelle Loa Kum Cheung

Posted in In the Studio by Teddy Hall on 12th October 2018

Michelle Loa Kum Cheung’s artworks appear as windows onto the surreal; they are portals into imagined landscapes. Mountains, lakes, reflections, clouds & mist characterise these peaceful scenes. Inspired by her own fragmented heritage and Chinese-Mauritian background, Michelle uses the therapeutic process of painting and pyrography to create these beautiful, disjointed scenes. We catch up with the artist to find out more about her process and what art means to her.


Michelle with two of her works at the Rise Art Prize 2018 finalist exhibition.


When did you realise you wanted to become an artist?

I fell into art so long ago I would say that I was just born this way. I think as a child I especially liked activities using my hands and also being very aware and mindful of my surroundings, particularly in nature. As an adult, I've retained these characteristics, preferring traditional and tactile ways of making art...


Penglai by Michelle Loa Kum


... although I am very inspired not only by the natural environment but by new modes of consuming imagery from social media, to Google satellite imagery. Being an Australian artist with Chinese-Mauritian heritage, I am also becoming increasingly interested in my own cultural and temporal dislocation from my family’s culture.


Michelle hard at work. Photo credit: Pablo Melchor.


You use a technique called 'pyrography' to burn designs onto the surface of the wood. How did you discover it and what did you love about it?

After working with the subject of trees and then moving to working on wood as a surface, I wanted to explore combinations of different techniques and discovered pyrography. I love the variation in mark making, gradients and the transition between burning into a surface instead of building upon it with paint. It’s a very tactile method that exploits the natural materiality of the wood as the ground.


Michelle in the process of burning a landscape into her surface.


Tell us a bit about your process and the vision behind your pieces.

Contrary to the “blank canvas”, the visual aesthetic of the wood is extremely important to me even before starting. I like to work with the grain and colour of each panel, shaping the subject and form of the image. After many sketches in my diary, I usually start either with a large section of either pyrography or paint, to build the outline. I tend to use very fine brushes to create a more complex palette and to imitate the grain of the wood in some way and I feel this responds to the pyrography best. 


A Divided Fabrication by Michelle Loa Kum Cheung


I squeeze out about 20 different colours of oil paints, even if the main tone of the work is red – it’s best to have as many options readily available as possible. At some point the separation of working between pyrography and painting disappears and each new burn or brushstroke informs the next step.


Into the Fall by Michelle Loa Kum Cheung


I also use gold leaf in a lot of my work, loose leaf and liquid leaf, both of which require at least a day between applications. Whilst I plan my works in a lot of detail prior to starting, as I actually make the artwork I try to be open to more organic shifts in the form but always have a sort of idea of how I imagine the finished product to look like.


Gold leaf detail on one of Michelle's pieces. Photo via Pablo Melchor.


Why so many circles?

My obsession with the circular form has flowed on naturally from my use of linear divisions within organic forms – in earlier works it was squares and rectangles. I think it is a subtle way of exerting some sort of control upon the uncontrollable, to signify our desire to tame nature and the unchangeable past, whether intentional or not.


Fjord by Michelle Loa Kum Cheung


How would you describe your art in 3 words?

Imaginative, nostalgic and delicate.




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