Featured Standard Bank Young Artist Award Winner 2018
Gabriel Clark-Brown interviews
Art Times Editor, Gabriel Clark-Brown, in conversation with Igshaan Adams, Standard Bank Young Artist for Visual Art 2018, ahead of his launch exhibition at the National Arts Festival 2018.
AT: It’s a great honour for us at the Art Times to be able to interview you. Thank you for your time, especially in light of this being your SBYA year and that you are incredibly busy. To me you are the archetypal iconoclastic artist, the quiet storm, the one artist that institutions just can’t label. Every year large University art departments grind out art graduates. You graduated from a small art school in Woodstock (Ruth Prowse); You were born in the late Apartheid days and would have been classified as “Coloured; Your Parents are Muslim, but you were raised by your Christian Grandparents and the list goes on. It’s refreshing that one of your choice mediums is fabric. An endless medium, rich in meaning and expression that has gone back to Biblical days. Whether it be weaving, shredding, reconstruction, you have turned it into a mirror or a skin filter for your art study and expression. When did you consciously start using fiber in your expression? As children growing up we were all surrounded by different fabrics. Was it a conscious choice or experience that led you on this path with your art?
IA: I have this strong memory of realising that I didn’t love painting as much as I loved making those first thread-based works during my time at Ruth Prowse School of Art. I think my sensual nature responded strongly to the tactility of embroidering with cotton onto the felt blanket. Physically I somehow felt more involved in the process and I could fully immerse myself in it, while the fabrics themselves felt imbued
Top Image: Al Latîf, 2018, Installation view at Blank Projects, Cape Town
Above: Bent, 2018, mild steel, wire, rope, cotton offcuts, twine, beads approx. 247 x 185 cm (detail )
AT: In a recent interview with a local art magazine you mentioned that (as a young artist) winning the SBYAA was the most unachievable award you could think of. Now that this is a pinnacle year of sorts, having won such a prize, I am sure doors open and collectors interest increased. At this point in having made a huge body of work, does a big award and having to make a large body of work affect you in any way? Does the award liberate you in terms of being a recognized artist, but take away from your creativity, as to keep a similar exploration of the style that you are known for.
IA: Firstly, I would say my recent exhibition at blank projects, Al Latif, was a considerable body of work – consisting of 25 works as well as a performance – so it’s not my first time working on a large scale, but I am more concerned with added pressure of the “spotlight” that the award brings. While an award of this nature certainly gains recognition for the artist, you cannot rely on this recognition alone, and I wouldn’t underestimate curators or collectors and their ability to see through it. As an artist, you can’t make work to get rich or famous. I make what I feel compelled to make, for me creativity remains a sacred force that responds to honesty.
AT: Where would you like to go with your work? Would you further explore sculpture and performance art? A past interview stated that you may contemplate using scent and smell as a starting point to your next work?
IA: I’m very comfortable working in 3D, the physicality of sculpture is fantastic and I feel its the part of my practice that I am most confident in. Performance on the other hand makes me feel very uncomfortable and exposed and yet I love the immediacy of it, to reach the viewer so directly. In the past I have worked with scents and smell as part of installations to help create the environment, and for my upcoming exhibition I considered using scent as a starting point for the sculptures but I soon realised that I needed more time to fully develop this idea.
AT: As a South African artist, or more specifically having being born in the Cape – do you feel that you are more of a Cape artist and that you draw more from your roots as a Cape Muslim? Do you think that your work is more understood and appreciated by a local audience, or that the world art, art fairs and museums are just as open to your work?
IA: I think it’s both – the cultural nuances and references are perhaps better and more immediately understood by local audiences, but I find that international audiences are just as receptive to the work and considerate of
AT: Perhaps its too premature to ask, but at what point or time in your life do you feel that you have grown the most and have experienced the most sensitivity in your soul and creativity. Do you think that in this day and age, only when a big prize comes along and the artist is taken out of their environment and put in the spotlight, do they then realise how special they are. Or does the platform assist to forge one’s career further using trusted creative expression.
IA: In early 2013 I spent three wintery months in Basel, Switzerland on a residency awarded by Pro Helvetia. Toward the end of the residency, with an exhibition looming, I began to create abstract sculpture for the first time, using string curtains and fabric hardener. There was no-one to reassure me that what I was making was “good”, I only had my own abilities to rely on. It was at that point that I had to grow up. The Standard Bank award has certainly prompted a period of stocktaking – I have had to absorb everything that I have created up until this point, my entire contribution as an artist, and this process has left me feeling at ease and positive about the future.