News and Trends

Mohau Modisakeng


With this month's April Art issue hitting the shelves, the HL team has been on the lookout for exciting, local creative talent. We asked Joburg curator Kim Stern for her selection of top up-and-coming South African artists. First up, we chat with Soweto-born visual artist Mohau Modisakeng... What art do you produce? I work primarily in sculpture, but also incorporate photography and performance into my practice. Recently I have been drawn to film as a medium and I have a few projects lined up for the year. What and who are your influences? Most of my influences come from my experiences growing up in Soweto during all the political and social changes of the early '90s. Artists such as Jane Alexander, Nicholas Hlobo, Yinka Shonibare, Seydou Keita, Vanessa Beecroft and Matthew Barney inspire my work and ideas. What is the main thrust/ message behind your art? The main message behind my work has to do with the influence of historical violence on how we understand our cultural, political, and social roles as human beings. The hope is to reveal how power is manipulated to change how we relate to our bodies. What is your biggest challenge as an artist, both in terms of logistics and the message you are trying to convey? My biggest challenge as an artist is trying to develop an engaged audience that is interested in understanding the bigger narrative behind some of the work that I make. Access to the international scene is limited to most artists in my position and bypassing the various barriers that prevent a more integrated practice has become a preoccupation of mine. Tell us more about your past and upcoming exhibitions. I have been studying for the last few years and that has limited my involvement in the public scene both in South Africa and abroad, but to date I have had my work featured in a number of local exhibitions as well as some international group shows. I have participated in exhibitions such as the MTN New Contemporaries, Sasol New Signature, Dakart Biennale (Dakar), Out of Focus (Saatchi, London), and Newsfeed (New York). I will also be taking part in VOLTA NY in March 2013 which will make for my first international art fair experience. Otherwise I will be spending most of the year making work for my first solo project scheduled for the latter part of 2013. What do you think of the role of the artist in South Africa today? The role of the artist has always been to engage in social commentary. In the past this restrained South African artists to dealing with themes that concerned the political climate. That has since been changing. Artists are now concerned with more personal self-reflective narratives that aim to reveal the complexities of living as a social being in a changing political, cultural and economic environment. Finally, if you weren’t an artist what would you be? If I wasn’t an artist I would probably have ended up being a filmmaker working for the National Geographic or something along those lines. Keep an eye out for the rest of our artist Q+As coming up in April... For more information about Mohau Modisakeng's work visit brundyngonsalves.com. Interviewed by Kim Grové