Meeting Banele Khoza
Smith Gallery in Cape Town presented Banele Khoza’s third solo show – ‘LOVE?’ The show succeeds a very eventful 2017 for the artist – with his work showing at the Investec Cape Town Art Fair, the FNB Joburg Art Fair as well as the Also Known As Africa (AKAA) art fair in Paris.
Khoza is scheduled to present 10 works at Zeitz MOCAA’s Curatorial Lab in Cape Town – the exhibition will run from April 11th 2018.
Banele Khoza, I aint a fuck boy, 2017. Acrylic on canvas, 61x46cm. All images courtesy of the artist & SMITH.
Khoza was born in Hlatikulu, Swaziland and later moved to South Africa where he studied Fine Art at the Tshwane University of Pretoria. He currently lectures Drawing and Art Theory at the University.
Khoza’s buoyant career in fine art saw him awarded the reputable 2017 Barclays L’Atelier Gerard Sekoto Award which presented a three month residency opportunity at the Cité internationale des Arts in Paris.
Khoza’s skillset spans across drawing, digital art and painting. He uses acrylic as a primary medium and intercedes this with text and digital paintings. His work is ebullient and resonant – an expression of his personal experiences with gender, sexuality, masculinity and love. He delves into his own experiences of searching for and waiting for love. And upon finding that love questioning and contemplating what it should look and feel like.
The current series; ‘LOVE?’ was created as a mediation on his search for love. Digging deeper into his current relationship, exploring insecurities and using the canvass to give shape and form to these intimate feelings.
The forty nine works that make up the series are overwhelmingly delicate with a soft palette – bringing to light inner conflicts and presenting the turbulence within, in an elegant and relatable manner. There is an element of abstraction compounded by the way in which he uses acrylic and how it finally presents itself on the canvas as watercolour.
Banele Khoza, Trying to impress, 2017. Acrylic on canvas, 122 x 92cm.
In anticipation of his upcoming show at the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa (Zeitz MOCAA), we interviewed Khoza about his work, his career and his current state of mind amid all the success of his recent shows.
How would you describe your visual language? Specifically why you use acrylic in this way that mimics watercolour? Is there a message within this process?
It has a lot to do with imitation, I work with a lot of other mediums, altering them to perform in this way. It has a lot to do with notions of performance in a society that imposes on individuals and requires them to perform their genders. If you are born with male body parts you have to be a boy, you need to perform your role as a boy. These roles are often impossible to live up to. I want people to be okay with seeing boys cry, expressing their emotions and being vulnerable. To know that it is not a weakness to do so. The same applies for women; my mother wanted to be a soldier, she is a soldier at home — she fought for my individuality and for my siblings. I also address this in the colours that I choose to use — the blue and pink also address these expected gender binaries.
Your most recent show at Smith Gallery is titled “LOVE?”, with the question mark lingering… explain to us why this is?
In the past I have mistaken a lot of relationships, thinking that there was love were none existed. This is an acknowledgement of my uncertainty about whether the current relationship I am in is in fact love or something imitating love.
Once again this is the whole notion of how things present themselves; what is love and what does it look and feel like? At what point do you know that what you’re feeling is real?
Banele Khoza, Over and over again, 2017. Acrylic on canvas, 122 x 92cm.
Going back to the visual aspect; the work has a playfulness about it. If I walk into a room and look at the paintings without knowing the context, it does not feel as heavy….and yet questions of love and the heart are extremely heavy. Do you see this as a contradiction? How do you marry these two aspects of the work?
I love the sense of play my images have, it reveals my process and how I approach my work. When I’m at the studio I play, I also enjoy collaborating with people who believe in this idea of play. Within that play I’m also reflecting and revealing what I would not as easily share with another soul. I confide in my art knowing that there is no judgement. I believe in the idea of creating from a safe space… a truthful place.
How has your relationship to love changed in the process of creating this specific body of work?
During the creation of this work, I was extremely paranoid and full of doubt. Not having a lot of experience in love, not knowing how to behave in a relationship and thinking about whether this measures up to what I thought was the ideal. I was able to slowly work my way through these feelings.
The work is explicit in the fact that it explores romantic love. Are there aspects of the work that deal with different types of love? If so, which pieces?
I have mostly been dealing with unrequited love. My experiences with love from one person’s perspective (me) – a fantasy. With LOVE? there is the presence of someone who is reciprocating and showing me different ways to love. I am questioning whether this is true and pure.
Banele Khoza, Too many voices, 2017. Digital print on Hahnemuhle, 42 x 30cm, Edition 1/3.
Although the work is not literal, it is very direct in dealing with and depicting some actual life events, is this something that you consciously decided on? This sense of openness & “truthfulness”?
I have previously struggled to create art that feels authentic and portray my thoughts as best as I could. I had a revelation when I read Frida Kahlo’s quote: “I paint myself because I am so often alone and because I am the subject I know best.” I was spending a lot of time on my own confessing my thoughts and activities in my diaries… this is the place from which the work was born.
Banele Khoza, Fresh meat, 2017. Acrylic and charcoal on canvas, 150 x 100cm.
Which other artists do you feel are doing interesting work right now?
Bronywn Katz, I find her work brave and daring. I have also followed and love Penny Siopis’ work.
Khoza’s work is beautiful, accessible and honest. It is as much about the concept as it is about material and medium — the tension and relaxation between those aspects. We look forward to his upcoming show at the ZEITZ MOCCA in Cape Town.
Nkgopoleng Moloi is an intern on ART AFRICA‘s editorial team.