APP: Have you always wanted to be an artist?
FBT: No. After getting my grade 12, I didn’t know what to study. I didn’t know I can create artworks. In 2017, I applied to study BCom in Finance at the University of Johannesburg. Due to my lack of patience, I did a late application for Bachelor of Art in Visual Art got admitted. After I registered for Visual Art, I got admitted to study BCom in Finance. That’s when I had to weight my options. To me it’s was a huge moment of my life. In primary and high school, I didn’t do art as a subject. So choosing to study art was a critical moment ever.
APP: How did art become such an important part in your life?
FBT: Art became part of my life after I have realized that there’s no turning back. In 2016, I nearly lost my right eye. So people around me (high school peers) always ask me “What happened to your eye?” Because I have an eye misalignment called exotropia. [Exotropia is a type of eye misalignment whereby one or both eyes turn outwards.] Whenever they ask the question, I get voices from the past which lead to my depression and anxiety. So art helps me find comfort, appreciate my past and face my fears. That is one of the reasons I turn to be expressive in my artworks. One of the artworks that fight for my well-being is “Am eye dirty?”
APP: did you plan for it?
FBT: At first, I didn’t plan for art because I didn’t know anything about it. In 2017, I didn’t know what I was doing it for. In 2017, I used to ask myself questions such as “What is the purpose of what I am doing?” On the first of June 2018, I had to sit down and listen to my inner self. I realized I am nothing without art.
APP: was it an accident?
FBT: I can say art is a beautiful accident. Regardless of it being an accident, at some point, one has to take responsibilities that come with the decision made. I believe everyone can be anything they want to be. It is all about taking all responsibilities and believing in yourself.
APP: what are the main features of the various art traditions in South Africa and did they influence your work?
Most African or South African artists deal with the concept of violence, gender, politics, economy, sacrifices, war, myths and et cetera.
My great-grandmother, who is older than Nelson Mandela and still here with us, always teaches us about respect. Where I live, a struggle is a song we sing every day; Africa is the Third World. That influences the art I create. For instance, the eye condition comes a long way.
Most of our artist make “beautiful pictures” not art. The reason may be the social media. It seems like everyone wants to be “famous”. I am not saying that I am against what they do. However, they should remember the importance of art. Art is not about “beautiful pictures”.
APP: Is South Africa doing enough to promote creativity in the arts?
FBT: South Africa is doing well for its artists. We have art competitions. Another thing is, it is not about the country only but also the artist. If one is hungry for greatness, he or she will do researches to understand and know what is happening around.
APP: what does inspire you? And how does your creative process work?
FBT: I am interested in the concept of the Third World struggle. The reason is I feel like not many of us say a word about the Third World condition. Children sleep on empty stomach and suffer from malnutrition. The rich are not giving a helping hand. A small percentage of them give a hand. There is a lot of heartbreaking things happening out here.
I came up with the idea of using a prison blanket as my canvas. I call it the Third World canvas. I use different mediums from inks, paints. I start by applying a layer of a base extender to make the blanket smooth. Then use any medium to create the form of what I want to portray.
I think the use of blanket as a canvas is something visually interesting and powerful. I haven’t seen it somewhere else. I can say I am the father of the Third World canvas.
I make sure everything I portray is something people never seen before.
I moved from being realistic to being expressive. And I enjoy expressing myself.
APP: how do you think your style may evolve?
FBT: I can’t say my style won’t evolve because life comes with different experiences and might find a new way to express myself. However, I won’t stop using a blanket as my canvas.
There are a lot of things happening around us. I have styles people never seen before. Now, I am focusing on the blanket idea then I might reveal those styles later.
I spend most of my time enhancing whatever I want to portray so that my final idea does not become a beautiful picture. I visualise, develop and practice a concept. To me, planning is everything. If an artwork does not have a concept it is not an artwork but a beautiful picture.
APP: do you have your own studio? Do you work in an art center?
I don’t have an art studio. I work in my bedroom in Johannesburg, at University of Johannesburg studios and washing line. I always carry a visual diary with me because ideas come at any moment. A visual diary is my best friend. I don’t work with any art centre. I would love to work with one.
APP: How do you promote your work?
FBT: I promote my work on social media; Facebook and Instagram. I share my works in Facebook groups that have too many members. That is one of my favourite promotional strategies.
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On Instagram: @mcbadact