Explore! Awesome South African Artists

As a complete novice in visual arts, I was thrilled when my eyes rested on Labuscagne’s Explore! Awesome South African Artists at the FNB Art Joburg. It was just what I needed to get me started on this journey. The book profiles 44 South African artists, with two to three pages dedicated to each artist. For a novice like me, it helped that each profile includes a picture of the artist and one or two of her / his major works. Having read the book, I now have a good sense of whose work I am interested to explore on a deeper level.

It is no surprise that a number of artists have been influenced and shaped by the socio-political context in which they grew up. So, their work is about the uncomfortable questions that most would rather leave dormant. Race, identity, loss and abandonment feature prominently in these artists narratives. As such a number of artists see art as a process of healing and an opportunity to dig deep into their own lives and that of society at large.

From the book; I got an appreciation of art as a special language that is very universal in nature. The language of art allows the artist to be freely provocative because art is always open to personal interpretation. In fact, it invites each individual appreciating the piece to dialogue with themselves and draw their own conclusion on its meaning. In a sense being an artist is about securing yourself a privileged voice. It is a much deeper freedom of speech.

The profiles in the book are very brief. So, you will be disappointed if you are looking to understand each artist’s work or how to interpret it. You will also not be any wiser on the different mediums adopted by different artists, and why. The book is really more of a glimpse into where each artist comes from and how they got into art.

Explore! Awesome South African Artists is written by Cobi Labuscagne and illustrated by Lauren Mulligan. The layout is easy and welcoming to non-artists. I recommend the book to anyone, like me, who is on the starting blocks of their journey with visual arts.