Q&A with 2019 Award Finalist: CHRISTELLE VIVIERS

After careful consideration of several hundred entries by artists from across South Africa, the judges have shortlisted 10 artists working in a number of mediums including painting, photography, digital art and printmaking.

The work of the shortlisted artists will go on show in a special exhibition at StateoftheART’s Cape Town gallery from 27 August – 14 September 2019 and the winner announced at the Award Ceremony on 05 September. The winner will be awarded a R20 000 cash prize and a solo exhibition with the gallery in 2020.

We asked the Ten Gallery Award Finalists some questions to help you get to know them before the Finalists Exhibition.


Artist Statement:

According to a United Nations report:
The world is witnessing the highest levels of displacement on record. An unprecedented 65.6 million people around the world have been forced from home by conflict and persecution at the end of 2016… There are also 10 million stateless people, who have been denied a nationality… 20 people are forcibly displaced every minute as a result of conflict or persecution… The conflict in Syria, now in its seventh year, was the world’s biggest producer of refugees …

At the heart of conflict and persecution resides division – the inability to accept another’s choice and way of life. I do not discount the value of cultural differences, in fact, it is our differences that establish the vastness and depth of our humanity. But somehow we have lost hUmaNITY. The identity I seek to illustrate through my work is that of our hUmaNITY – a multiplicity of oneness. We emerge from the same void, through the same process, only to then become shaped into belonging to different, unrelated separate parts.

I use photography as a medium to illustrate how the same process and same image render different representations through manipulating outcomes. As for Cultivating Culture, I planted seeds and nurtured and photographed them over a period of a month, illustrating the semiotic layers of labels and the restrictions and illusions accompanying difference. We propagate peace and unity … yet, nationally and internationally, we fuel division, animosity and violence, using identities of separateness.


Tell us about yourself. Where are your from, and where do you currently live? 
Born in Vryburg, Northwest region. Currently living in Johannesburg.

Art school (and if so where) or self-taught?
BA Fine Arts degree – University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa. MA Fine Arts degree – Central Saint Martins, University of Arts London, London, UK.

How did you learn about the Award and what made you want to enter?

VANSA website 
What do you think of the StateoftheART Gallery Award as a platform for emerging artists in South Africa?
Being part of a dynamic platform that has national and international exposure holds great benefits in making work more visible, growing contacts and becoming part of network.

Cult Cult_3

Tell us about where you make your work.

Living space serves as work space.

What is your key inspiration as an artist?

Life’s creative pulse / rhythm, that which exists beyond surface and beauty.

Do you have any rituals or habits involving your art-making that you can tell us about?
Silence and listening support a meditative state that allows me to focus. My work and / process often holds what is perceived as a repetitive pattern. However, ‘repetition’ creates a rhythm that allows process itself to lead me.

Which new trends or South African artists do you find inspiring at the moment?
Silence more often than not provides me with inspiration, thus inspiration generally comes from ‘within’, rather than from ‘without’. Having said that though, I admire the processes and making of the following artists in particular: Nandipha Mntambo, Serge Alain Nitegeka, Agnus Martin, Atsuko Tanaka, Hiroshi Sugimoto, Matthew Barney, Shitao, Pollock. Van Gogh... 
How is your work relevant in a South African context?

My work acknowledges our diversity, but it also seeks to speak of our hUmaNITY. I am of the opinion that nationally and internationally nationalism is on the increase and although I value culture and the cultivation thereof, idealisation of tradition, culture and religion – or any other ‘something’, can birth division / segregation / violence and persecution. I support diversity. I support hUmaNITY. South Africa is part of ‘a whole’ and my work speaks of ‘us’ as ‘ part of the whole’, but it also speaks of the whole’s many parts. When we cultivate culture, I believe we need to cultivate our hUmaNITY at the same time – celebrating our differences, while seeking our shared identity as a hUmaNITY, or else, cultural cultivation holds the potential of becoming exclusively-inclusive, producing a ‘cult-cult-dynamic’. 
What do you think South African artists can contribute to the global art market?

The global / the whole / hUmaNITY consist of many parts. South Africa is a part of the whole. Our voices, perspectives, processes and history are required, like any other nation, to create ‘the globe’. Imagine ‘the global’ to be represented as a tapestry. When nations and cultures are excluded, the weave will be riddled with holes.

StateoftheART is South Africa's leading online gallery. How important do you think it is for an artist's career to market their work online and through social media?
A social platform increases exposure and accessibility of one’s art. Social media / online exposure broadens this platform, bringing art to nationally and internationally audiences that would not have had access to the work otherwise.

How do you feel about the upcoming group exhibition and the other shortlisted finalists’ works?
Participation in an exhibition is a privilege. Having viewed the shortlisted finalists’ work left me thinking about our creative richness – each brining our expression to tell our stories and in doing so, life’s picture becomes bigger. I feel a sense of gratitude and excitement, knowing we are part-of / a-part-of-a-whole. 
Do you have any plans for the coming year?
I initially had a mapped-out-plan for 2019 - 2021, which has changed suddenly a month ago and so the next year will be a continuation of finding opportunities that will support my making, research and work opportunities.
Cult Cult_5

If you win the Gallery Award, tell us about what you have in mind for your solo exhibition in 2020?
The exhibition will be titled: “Let’s play till the world goes round again”. The focus will be on the displaced figure and his / her ability to overcome and adapt to violent / limiting / foreign environments. The displaced figure will be represented by what I title: conjunct_subjects and they emerge from flat, 2 dimensional materials, becoming 3 dimensional reconfigurements. The will evolve through the space – growing and moving daily – commenting on the vulnerability of the displaced figure, but at the same time, highlighting the strength and character of people dreaming, searching, hoping and believing to find a safer future, work, safety and education. Conjunct_subjects further speak of those that have become outcasts – people excluded by cult_cult-ideologies. Humanity is witnessing the greatest percentage of displaced people in history and the reasons are violence and persecution. I like to believe, that if we can become of aware of our identity as a hUmaNITY, diversified cultures and ideologies can co-exist and thrive in peace.

Finally, tell us something surprising about yourself.

Continued changes turned me into a bit of a ‘shapeshifter’.