For the StateoftheART Gallery Award 2021, we asked artists to find ways to engage with the reality of climate crisis and its impact on their own community; to create work to inspire and encourage societal change. The 10 finalists were chosen from more than 600 submissions from across South Africa, with the judges scoring the artists on the creativity, originality, and technical skill of their entries to this year's Award theme ‘On The Brink, Visualising Climate Change’.
The work of the shortlisted artists will go on show in a special exhibition at StateoftheART’s Cape Town gallery from 16 - 30 October 2021, and the winner announced at the Award Ceremony on 16 October 2021. The winner will receive a R40 000 cash prize and a solo exhibition with the gallery in 2022.
We asked the top ten Gallery Award Finalists some questions to help you get to know them before the Finalists Exhibition in October.
Learn more about the StateoftheART Gallery Award here>>
"Rising Times" by Dominic De Villiers. Glass viles, ocean water, sand, wood, video projection, sound, 65 x 65cm.
Dominic De Villiers:
I began making art in early High School. This continued into my two years out of school. In 2019 I enrolled in the Bachelor of Arts in Contemporary Art course at the Cape Town Creative Academy. I am currently in my third and final year at the college. My practice began developing in 2019, as more projects were given to us as open choice projects. Through these projects, I began to look at the environment in new and critical ways. In 2020 I continued to work in this manner as developed my practice further by looking deeper into ecology.
I also love to surf and be in the ocean, thus I began to shape surfboards, and have been doing so since 2020, using new and innovative materials. The surfing aspect of my life has also influenced my current practice as an artist. I am currently finishing my graduate year at the CTCA and preparing for the grad show.
1. Tell us about yourself. Where are you from, and where do you currently live?
I am from Cape Town and currently and am living in Kommetjie, a coastal town in Cape Town.
2. How did you learn about the Award and what made you want to enter?
I am currently studying a BA in Contemporary art at the Cape Town Creative Academy and heard about the award through my school. An email was sent out to enter, and so I did. I wanted to enter because my practice is based pretty much entirely around environmental concerns and ecology, and I try to incorporate sustainability and environmental awareness into all aspects of my life.
3. Tell us about where you make your work.
I make most of my work in the studios provided by my college. When I am not working there, I make do with the space I have at my home. So either in my little house or in the garage, or outside if the work is based outside. If I am making drawings, I set up a clean station for that, and if I making sculptures, it will either be made somewhere on the floor or in the studios at college.
4. What is your key inspiration as an artist?
I love the subtleties of nature, and how deep one can go in terms of meaning-making when making work either about nature or with natural materials. I would say the depth of what nature provides as an artist is my biggest inspiration.
5. Do you have any rituals or habits involving your art-making that you can tell us about?
The artworks I make tend to be quite different in appearance most of the time, so each work requires a different ritual if you will. For drawing, I tend to let the drawing almost complete itself, meaning I try not to hold onto what I want the drawing to look like in the end. For other work, depending on what it is, it requires me to be very present in a certain space, if the work is site-specific, or to sit with the work in front of me for enough time to feel what it is trying to say. In other words, through the making process, I find all the answers to the work.
Dominic De Villiers.
6. How does your work convey the threat that climate change poses to our planet and country?
I tend to look at aspects of nature that fascinates me, interests me or that bothers me. I then research these aspects and draw conclusions from them that can lead me to making an artwork from them. What I attempt to achieve through my work is bringing an awareness to subtle events or spaces that are threatening to our natural environment, and attempt to keep these ways of working and thinking to a local level, allowing the viewer and myself to feel the direct impact of these subtle issues that may not be obvious on the surface. As my degree takes me into conceptual thinking, my work looks into small features of a big picture, and I create conceptual value to these small features, allowing them to speak to the bigger picture.
7. How is your work relevant in a South African context?
As my work often revolves around my lived experience, I draw upon things that are happening around me. I like to make work about things that I physically can see, therefore bringing the work into a South African context quite literally as I am based in South Africa. I also attempt to look into current issues within our context to make work about, such as land ownership and ocean travel; two broad concepts that I feel are relevant to my practice, as well as the South African context,
8. What do you think is the most urgent action required to tackle climate change in South Africa?
It might sound idealist, but to just take a break and pause the constant movement we are in, just for enough time to see what nature will do when we do not do anything for just a little bit. On a more practical level, to slow down our movement in ways that will not stop the flow of the world we have created, but to allow for the Earth to also move at its own pace again. Slowing down, I feel, will allow for Climate Change awareness to be more felt.
9. Which South African artists, organisations or environmental activists do you find inspirational at the moment and why?
Artists that I am currently looking at are Belinda Blignaut, Daniella Mooney, Inga Somdyala, James Webb. These artists work in ways that I feel bring a soft and gentle awareness to issues such as land ownership, the metaphysical world that we often do not notice and the beauty and rawness of our natural landscape. These artists, for me, bring forward the change we are in need of. An organization I am currently involved in is Surf Pop, an NGO based around surfing, nutrition and education. They are not entirely art related, but what they are doing is inspiring for our future generations of South Africa. Another great organization that is also an environmental activist is Neighbourhood Farm, an NPO working with urban organic farming in my local area. Finally, a dear friend of mine, Dylan Mcgarry, is an artist, activist, academic, educator and all-round Earth warrior. He is doing amazing social work as well as environmental work. He is one of the co-founders of the One Ocean Hub.
"Don't touch me, but please hold me" by Dominic De Villiers. Ink on paper, 29.7 x 42 cm each.
10. How do you feel about the upcoming group exhibition and the other shortlisted finalists’ works?
I am very honoured to be a part of something like this as it brings me joy to know the importance of climate change within an art context. It also excited me to know that there are other artists who are focused on these issues. I hope this show and the whole program will bring about a new awareness to the viewers.
11. What do you think of the StateoftheART Gallery Award as a platform for emerging artists in South Africa?
I think it is a great award to be implementing for emerging artists as I feel it caters for almost anyone who is interested in the theme of the award for that year, and it allows for emerging artists to get their foot in the scene and feel excited to make work.
"Lets Get Together and Feel Now" by Dominic De Villiers. Bed sheet, various fabrics dyed with natural dye, cotton thread, 194 x 110cm.
12. If you win the Gallery Award, tell us about what you have in mind for your solo exhibition in 2022?
If I win this award, I would like the solo show to be a mixture of Earth positive works as well as critical and conceptual work around current issues I wish to grapple with. What I mean about Earth positive works, it will be a selection of works that are more about praising Earth, to attempt to show my gratitude to Earth. The combination of this with critical conceptual work will hopefully allow for the viewers, and myself, to not only feel gratitude for being on this planet, but to also realise and take action in order to maintain life on Earth.
13. Finally, tell us something surprising about yourself.
Alongside being an artist, I also make eco surfboards. Using the best sustainable materials, I love to make funky surfboards for myself and my friends.