artist Tina Teles

Q&A with Gallery Award Finalist: TINA TELES

We asked the Ten Gallery Award Finalists some questions to help you get to know them as we prepare for the special Group Exhibition at StateoftheART’s Cape Town gallery from 6 – 22nd September 2018 and the final round of judging. The winner will be awarded a R10 000 cash prize and a solo exhibition with the gallery in 2019.

See more about the Gallery Award here.


Tell us about yourself. Where are you based and where do you get your inspiration for your work? 
I am a 33 year old self-taught artist currently based in Simon’s Town. I have worked in the hospitality industry for many years and have also worked extensively as a costume fabricator in the film industry. During that time, I concentrated on various crafts and worked along side many creative people from all different walks of life.  Over the past two years my focus has shifted towards becoming a full-time artist. I began with illustrative work but after a while I decided to move closer and deeper into oil painting. I am inspired to one day incorporate my craft skills into my Fine Art Portraiture and excited to see how my art will evolve in time, although it’s the vastness and beauty of nature and the grace and complexity of people that ultimately inspires me. It is exactly this that I would like to research and discover within my work. I feel a deep connection to the dynamic of the working class in South Africa. I noticed many working class similarities when working in England in previous years. The difference in the rights and treatment of employees and people in general was something to consider and therefore my work has always been about people and the uniqueness of each person’s life, concentrating on their sorrows and joys. My message is that of “Sonder”. This describes the realization that each passerby lives a life as vivid and complex as your own.  
Do you have any rituals or habits involving your art-making that you can tell us about? 
Before I start on a new Art Work, I have a need to clean out my studio space and make sure all of the tedious housework is done so that I have a fresh start and clear head to begin my contemplation in silence. There is a lot of research and observing of my references that takes place before I even touch paint onto the canvas.  After my first rough sketch has been placed down onto the canvas, I can put on some music and delve into the flow of my creativity. I take time and consideration to mix my chosen colours. My painting can evolve tremendously into something completely different from initial thought depending on how it makes me feel and what I am trying to express. 
Which new trends or South African artists do you find inspiring at the moment? 
To be honest, I am more inspired by the message, subject matter and technical skill found in the work of the older South African artists such as William Kentridge, Irma Stern, and Jane Alexander, connecting me to feelings and thoughts that were a part of my childhood and development of the person that I am today.  However, I am equally excited about the “trend” or ongoing movement #supportblackart which you can view on Instagram. I am in awe of the strength of people who have been discriminated against for hundreds of years have found a voice through art and the absolute beauty and creativity coming through these artworks are undeniably masterful, unique, and inspiring.  
How is your work relevant in a South African context? And globally? 
As a South African woman, I am a part of a minority that has had to work hard to get recognition, success or to simply survive this economic climate. Being a part of this collective and living my whole life in South Africa already states how my work will be full of the substance that is contextually South African.  My work consists largely of portraits of woman who come from South Africa or are based here due to immigration or the African Diaspora.  The fact that I paint mainly woman, I touch on a subject of the Feminine Devine and Feminism that can be globally recognized by all woman and men who can relate or appreciate. 
What do you think South African artists can contribute to the global art market? 
South Africa has very a unique history, reeling from the effects of apartheid and the great mentors such as Nelson Mandella that has helped create our Rainbow Nation as we know it today.   I believe we have a lot to offer the global art market with our mixed cultural influences that can be effortlessly seen in the art of South Africans 
What do you think of the StateoftheART Gallery Award as a platform for emerging artists in South Africa? 
It is very exciting, encouraging and important for independent Galleries such as the StateoftheArt Gallery to initiate such awards as a platform for emerging artists, specifically because South Africa is a country where many artists have not had the privilege of formal tertiary training in Universities or Art Schools. 
How do you think selling art online and marketing through social media is valuable?  
The perogative of any visual artist is firstly the need to get their story or message into a visual state, and secondly that these artworks and messages are ultimately observed and contemplated by others.  Marketing through social media is very important for such artworks to be seen and allows for the growth of collective thought.  The great thing about selling online is that anybody from around the world is able to purchase the artwork of their desire. The fact that art is no longer limited to one view point or residence or pay point has opened up the art market in a great way. In addition the production of prints and selling online has also made art more affordable and available to a wider market. 
How do you feel about the upcoming group exhibition and the other shortlisted finalists’ works?  
I am absolutely thrilled to be a part of the upcoming group exhibition as it will be a great means of exposure for me and is a unique opportunity to also meet other artists from similar backgrounds.  From what I have seen of the other shortlisted finalists’ works, I am truly in awe and inspired.  I am looking forward to meeting everyone and viewing their artworks. For me, the fact that the finalists are all female artists, the sense of sisterhood is strong.  
Do you have any plans for the coming year? 
I am planning to produce as many artworks as I am capable of, focusing on my chosen themes and thoughts. I would like to get a Professional Portfolio Website and Online shop set up and ready by next year.  I would like to experiment more with different mediums, incorporating craft and thread work into my artwork.  My ultimate goal would be to have a solo exhibition within the year of 2019.  
If you win the Gallery Award, tell us about what you have in mind for your solo exhibition in 2019? 
I have an idea I would like to explore which is based on “Forgotten Treasures.” It describes the nostalgia of the simple toys we used to play with as kids, such as the tiny green plastic toy soldiers, the red view master, the yo yo, the slinky and the list can go on and on.  My vision is to create portraits of children interlinked with these simple toys that were made in China or made in America, long before the invention or mass production of computer games and ipads.  Imagination as a whole has been blunted or augmented by these hi-tech gimmicks that we can no longer live without.  I want to bring the preciousness of this imagination back into the foreground of our consciousness. Forgotten treasures is ultimately about our forgotten imagination.  

As a self taught artist focusing on illustration, Tina has begun painting in oils for the past seven months. Her search for depth and tactile exploration, which is inspired by the masters, has resulted in a serendipitous understanding and mastery of using oil paints as her primary medium. Tina's work is a juxtaposition between the strange, other worldly surrealism and figurative portraiture. Her message is that of "Sonder". This describes the realisation that each passerby lives a life as vivid and complex as your own. Everybody's story is unique and important, more so when observed in an extra ordinary way. Unity in Diversity is therefore the overriding theme in Tina's work. She wholeheartedly portrays the outcasts of society with a sense of grace and beauty as her inspiration.