The Melrose Gallery in Johannesburg recently held a solo-exhibition by South African artist Mbogeni Buthelezi, showcasing the plastic painter’s ‘Sugar Tax’ collection.

‘Sugar Tax’ questioned the prevalence of branded soft drinks that litter the environment and have been blamed for various health problems.

By manipulating pieces of recycled plastic with a heat gun and infusing his canvas with water colors, Buthelezi brings portraits and abstract compositions to life in a style that gives the illusion of an oil painting.

“To put up this exhibition is just a way of saying to people — let’s talk about this, let’s have a dialogue around all these issues that the government is coming out with, because you know, with my work, it’s not only you know the “sugar tax” that one is trying to bring up, but also you know, the environment element you know, and how my work contributes towards recycling and all these things, I mean the whole idea is about recycling. But now if these two things are not properly managed, you know, they might be problematic you know, to us as the society you know, because sugar, part of it if it is not enough or if it is not controlled, properly controlled, it is problematic and yet my body needs it,” said Buthelezi.

Buthelezi says growing up in a poor background, plastic was readily available and he could easily collect and play around with it.

He then discovered his rare technique in his last year of art school in the 90s as he tried to move away from traditional mediums.

Buthelezi can use about 5,000 pieces of plastic for a single piece of artwork. read more