Depending on the timing of your visit to the latest Banele Khoza exhibition, 9 – 5. Do artists need structure?, you will be having a unique perspective. DIANE DE BEER speaks to the multi-faceted artist:
“It’s about the process and that’s messy,” says the 25-year-old Banele Khoza whose exhibition is being hosted by the Pretoria Art Museum and the Alliance Française of Pretoria. It also serves as part of Khoza’s prize for winning the 2017 Absa L’Atelier Gerard Sekoto Award which included a three-month residency at the Cite Internationale des Arts in Paris (partly sponsored by the Alliance Française and the French Institute in South Africa).
It’s an annual art competition presented by Absa and the South African National Association for the Visual Arts (SANAVA), focused on artists aged between 21 and 35.
Structure is a word that features strongly in Khoza’s mind at the moment (also pointing to the title of the exhibition) and he is hoping to discover with this present process how it fits into his creative process. At the same time, he is encouraging everyone to share in the journey as he works on many different pieces that have to be completed.
To create 9 – 5, Khoza is hoping to find out what will happen when he structures his creative endeavours to the normalised nine to five schedule for the six weeks of the exhibition which runs until December 7.
The plan is to avoid taking anything home by working in the studio he has re-created on site in the North Gallery of the Pretoria Art Museum. “I want to find out if I would hate it (working this publicly), I want to see if the frustration will translate into my body of work,” explains Khoza.
Even before the official opening when he was setting up the studio which is part of the process and which will be on-going throughout probably changing and growing daily, he was finding it difficult not to keep working beyond the scheduled time. But all of this is an experiment and for this entrepreneurial youngster, it’s excitement on the eve of the exhibition about to unfold.
He is thrilled that the Museum went along with this wild idea of his and that they’re really allowing him to unravel the process, one he isn’t entirely sure of, in his own way. “I know they would have liked more of a studio by the opening, but for me, that’s all part of how this should go,” he says. He is also pleased that his music can be played as part of the show. “It’s about what we listen to and what we get up to,” while creating art.
For Banele, the structure isn’t about doing the work, it’s about taking time-out. “I’ve always been afraid of rest,” he says. “It’s always seemed counterproductive in a world that encourages and praises constant output.” He also knows that while his working hours might pile up, the work isn’t always effective.
That has always been part of his being – output. As someone who describes himself as an entrepreneur, curator, former lecturer and the gallery director of the open studio and gallery space, BKhz in Braamfontein, he dabbles with dexterity in many different mediums. His phone is part of his drawing pad and he always carries a number of notebooks in which he constantly jots down memories, thoughts and most recently, also poetry.
Words have always been part of his process but even more so now. “I am reading a lot of poetry,” he explains. While in residency in Paris he realised that the true benefit was everything he was exposed to – people and different spaces. In that way his art is in constant flux – something that is part of his being.
In the corner of the gallery, he has his desk scattered with notebooks but also reading material. The bookcase that frames the picture also reveals his reading interests.
And now, being this public, is about interrupting his usual process – both for himself and the viewer. Everything he does is being done with intent. The process might be new for the artist but he is attacking it with vigour and expectation. It’s about sharing something that’s private. “Usually people only engage with the finished product as if the process is seamless.”
He hopes to reveal the imperfections, the struggle of making art while reflecting on his life and where he plans to go next. Not that this prolific artist needs any more avenues. In his young career, he has done more than many attempt in a lifetime – much of it publicly. What is extraordinary about this public approach to his work, is Khosa’s shy demeanour while all the time pushing himself to engage. He does this not only in real life but also on social media. He is a millennial who plays the game to perfection.
His art is difficult to describe because he is constantly changing from fine multiplied line drawings to dreamlike figures, usually solo, he says, but these also change in character and intent as he finds new places to explore and new techniques to decipher and develop.
That has always been the excitement about his work. While there is a signature style easily recognised, if you are a collector of his work, the versatility is extraordinary – and he is only 25. That’s also why the present process is such a brave one. Not even the artist knows where this will take him.
In the meantime, the two artists in the gallery next to his makeshift studio have been invited to exhibit their work together with a whole group of trained Educational Assistants from the Pretoria Art Museum in his Braamfontein gallery BKhz. “One of my goals is to encourage and promote emerging artists,” he says fully aware of how helping hands were part of his personal journey. That exhibition will be opened on Saturday morning, November 16.
Speaking to him three days into the exhibition, he is having fun. “When it is quiet, it is a time to be still, something I need,” he says as I catch him on his computer. It’s about dreaming and dabbling in a space that allows him to do just that. “People are still a bit hesitant but as I start working more intently, I think they will engage,” he says.
Personally, I can’t wait to see what is going to emerge at the conclusion. Watch this space…
In the meantime…
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