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 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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Which artists do you have your eye on at the moment?
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.
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.
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.
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...
... 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
How would you describe your art in 3 words?
Imaginative, nostalgic and delicate.
Reed Hearne is an American artist who uses photography to create what he describes as Digital Paintings. These works capture the beauty and visual intrigue of subjects that most people would dismiss as merely mundane, like the criss-cross of shadows on a staircase or the interplay of geometry and light on a stainless steel bridge.
This year, the overarching theme that ties together the David Roberts Art Foundation’s programme of events and exhibitions is the human condition. Two of the Foundation’s current projects, its annual Evening of Performances and the 11th edition of its Curators’ Series, feed into this quest into what makes us human.
We look at the evolution of geometric abstraction and spotlight 5 artists who are taking this style in different directions.
From embroiding the front cover of Bradford's 1989 British Telecom telephone directory to his life as a synesthete, we bring you 5 things you didn't know about David Hockney.
We interview interior design enthusiast and successful blogger Katie Woods about the importance art has played in her renovation of the 'Peach Palace'. She also picks her favourite pieces on Rise Art.
Gina Parr and Ian Hoskin met as Fine Art postgrads at Middlesex Polytechnic in North London. Gina was practising as a Performance Artist, while Ian was focusing on developing his career in Photography. Both artists went on to work in telly, Gina as a Set Designer and Ian as a freelancer for the BBC Picture Publicity Department. Ian continued on his own photographic projects, originally working with film and print in the darkroom before making a move to digital. Gina, meantime, left her Performan
Earlier this year Rise Art held a global competition to uncover exciting contemporary artists working around the world. The winner of the Global Artist of the Year title, South African artist Lebohang Kganye, moved the judges with her theatrical photography. Lebohang’s work, which incorporates sculpture and performance, explores the artist’s family history - and by extension, the history of South Africa.