Black and white has taken over this July, with our #HLBWIssue – now available in stores and online – highlighting homes, artists and designers that make beautiful use of a monochrome colour palette. To further explore this theme, we’ve rounded up a selection of our favourite contemporary pieces by South African artists who are known for their remarkable, thought-provoking works in black and white.
barend de wet
After 40 years in the art industry, Barend de Wet is now described as a conceptual formalist, with artworks that see traditional media, craft skills and fanatical hobbyism manifested as witty sculptures, knitted paintings, performances and productive collaborations. From modelling for Japanese fashion designer Issey Miyake to becoming a beekeeper, world-record holder in yo-yoing and serial tattooist, De Wet is a showman at heart who lives by the motto ‘art is life and life is art’.
Mohau Modisakeng was born in Soweto during the height of apartheid, and it is this which inspired his creation of works that deal predominately with the history of the black body within the African context, focusing especially on the violence of the apartheid era and the early 1990s. Through film, large-scale photographic prints, installations and performances, Modisakeng uses his body to explore how South Africa’s history has influenced the way we currently understand our roles as human beings.
Through architecture, model building, sculpture and installation, Lars Fischedick has conducted a 25-year study on three-dimensional spaces. He’s created a new artistic narrative based on this knowledge that incorporates the principles of mathematics and geometry, giving his audience an experience of space that challenges their perceptual boundaries and makes the invisible visible.
Akhona Lunika is a photographer whose portraits are simultaneously striking and gentle. After taking the time to get to know each of her subjects individually, she works with them to find a way of expressing their inner selves through photography. Her use of black and white brings the focus to emotion rather than aesthetics.
Experimental painter Peter Eastman uses aluminium as his canvas, onto which he ‘paints’ with chrome, enamel oil paint, resin, wax and graphite. Through scraping and engraving, Eastman creates unique paintings that exist somewhere between reality and abstract. He is best known for his Chine series, which feature images of large-scale forests with contrasts heightened by the use of only two colours.
serge alain nitegeka
Gauteng-based artist Serge Alain Nitegeka’s recent solo exhibition at Joburg’s Stevenson gallery was an in-depth exploration of the colour black. ‘Black is a colour reserved unto itself. It is comfortable in its own nature, unruffled and confident. It tries very hard to stay anonymous but inquiring eyes are drawn to it and spectators cannot resist it. It is not popular. It reveals little because it is neither warm nor cold. It is an enigmatic pigment,’ he says. While his artworks do inject vibrant splashes, these hues are only used to complement and emphasise the strength of the colour black.
After spending many years in the Eastern Cape as well as Tanzania and Uganda, Ashleigh Olsen‘s work is profoundly influenced by her experience of living in Africa. The hues of the earth, and particularly the medium of charcoal, have become central to her creation process, and she explores realism and abstract expressionism through a variety of subjects while placing a focus on strong contrasts and the interplay of shadows and light.
From printmaking to painting, David Brits explores what it means to be a young white man living in South Africa today. Working mainly in black and white, his art draws predominantly from archival images sourced from second-hand books and family photographs, and addresses themes that include masculinity, the military and pre-democratic South African history.