Q&A with 2019 Award Finalist: NATASHA BROWN

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:

My current practice is informed by my experiences growing up within the white suburbs of South Africa (specifically Cape Town and Johannesburg). It is a study on the absurdity of whiteness within a South Africa that is beginning to seriously grapple with racial politics and decolonisation in a post-rainbow-nation era.

White suburbia is science-plan dog food and deck chairs. It is neatly trimmed hedges in the shape of your disappointed parents. There is a falsehood present in the controlled environment of suburbia that I attempt to communicate through my use of glossy plastic (Perspex) as a canvas.

The suburban individual is constructed through the accumulation of personal micro-narratives – a first pet, the growing bond with a sibling, an Easter egg hunt or a favourite cereal – this intense focus on the individual fosters a willful ignorance of wider social contexts. Political events become polite dinner conversation rather than a lived reality. The self becomes dissociated from any space larger than the backyard or private school classroom. White suburban culture is shallow and surreal, it is a puzzling space I am attempting to explore and expose.


Tell us about yourself. Where are your from, and where do you currently live?

I’m Natasha and I was born in a sardine can. I still live in that very same sardine can.

Art school (and if so where) or self-taught?

I graduated last year from the University of the Witwatersrand (BAFA), but I’d say I learnt far more about art from my mom than a 4 year “art degree”.

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

The State of the Art Award appeared to me in a wet dream on a Tuesday night and I thought hmm I’m not sure what I think of making artists compete but I guess that’s how the art world is and I should get used to it. 


Is There Anything More Beautiful Than Afternoon?
What do you think of the StateoftheART Gallery Award as a platform for emerging artists in South Africa?

Really very good and nice. 10/10.

Tell us about where you make your work.

In my home, the sardine can.

What is your key inspiration as an artist?

The legs of small dogs and the feeling in your mouth after you dry swallow a large pill.

Do you have any rituals or habits involving your art-making that you can tell us about?

When I’m in the mood I’m capable of summoning my dead grandfather, whose hand guides mine across the canvas. I also find that reciting T. S Eliot’s The Wasteland backwards at 3am, while holding a leg of lamb, helps me commit to an idea.

Which new trends or South African artists do you find inspiring at the moment?

Not William Kentridge.

How is your work relevant in a South African context?

My work addresses an area of society, although present throughout the world, is highlighted in South African contexts. The vapid nature of white suburbia is emphasized by the inequality gap present in our country. The home space creates a kind of sheltered, self-involved narrative covered in blind spots. Boom gates and high walls prevent genuine interaction, it turns the outside into an “otherness”. 

What do you think South African artists can contribute to the global art market?

South African artists are well versed in social and political commentary. It is an artist’s duty to bring problematic ideas and actions to the attention of the public, or art becomes self-indulgent.   

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?

I think it’s useless to pretend that an artist’s online role in this Capitalist hellscape is not important. I also think the term “influencer” is quite dangerous. As long as artists use social media to promote their work and not who they are, it can be useful.

How do you feel about the upcoming group exhibition and the other shortlisted finalists’ works?

I hope we’re all very good at pretending to be gracious losers.

Do you have any plans for the coming year?

Maybe shave off my eyebrows. Maybe.
Notes To The Veterinary Clinic

If you win the Gallery Award, tell us about what you have in mind for your solo exhibition in 2020?

Although I know State of the Art does not usual deal with multimedia work, video art is my true true true love. I would like to set up an exibition that combines both paintings and video installation works. The walls will be dripping with plastic and fake grass and the sardine can will be there too. Hopefully by that time, I would have worked up the courage to shave off my eyebrows and tape them to the wall. 

Finally, tell us something surprising about yourself.

My parents aren’t divorced.