Tuesday, August 30, 2016

FREE TO CHOOSE - An Artist Statement


We are living in exciting times. In my opinion, the future of the African continent has never looked brighter than today. We live in an era of relative peace, freedom, ease of communication and travel, better health facilities and education.  

Though this generation has its own unique challenges, they are in sharp contrast to the inequalities and oppression experienced during the eras of slavery, colonialism and apartheid. The ‘born free generation’ can only imagine how harsh life would have been during those times.  Many artists from previous generations had their work dismissed as primitive - only to be exhibited as tribal art. It took many years of struggle, commitment and creativity for visual artists like Thomas Mukarobgwa, George Pemba and El Anatsui, among others, to be recognized by the dominant western art world as true visual artists and for their work to be considered valuable.  Most of these early generation artists on the African continent are only now being recognized as ‘fine artists’ in the narratives of art history.

Visual artists on the African continent are today presented with many opportunities amid the challenges they may still encounter. Artists now have the freedom to choose what style and medium they want to work in – traditional or modern - and how they want their work to be viewed or understood. They do, however, have to understand that they are contributing to the relatively short history of modern visual art in Africa. They are living and working in a pioneering era where they must assert their talents and creativity to produce powerful artworks that not only chronicle the times they live in, but that will also stand the test of time.

As a painter my primary concern is to communicate an idea visually through colour, form and symbols. I realize that, as we are now living in an era where technological innovation has dramatically changed how we communicate and how information is accessed and analysed, it is crucial for an artist to disclose the underlying ideas of his work. It is often said that a powerful work of art speaks for itself, but I have come to realize that when an artist writes a statement about his work, it is not an attempt to instruct the audience what or how to experience, think or feel, but   rather to present the fundamental underpinnings of his work.

This body of work communicates my ideas and reflects my perception of the era we currently live in. In sharp contrast to bygone eras, most Africans are now in a position to freely express their views on how and by whom they want to be governed. We are free to protest, free to choose a traditional or modern lifestyle, free to communicate via handwritten letters, email or Whatsapp, free to travel, and more importantly - free to create.

View the exhibition and download the exhibition catalogue on www.johansborman.co.za


Richard with fellow artists who made a choice to come and support the exhibition.