Zyma Amien, Paying homage, Mixed media installation (250 cm x 250 cm x 40 cm)
While we go about our everyday activities, it's easy to overlook the simple everyday objects we use: clothing, socks, washing machines... But this year's winners of the Sasol New Signatures art competition have taken these mundane things out of their usual context and created artworks that deal with relevant issues.
Cape Town-based artist, 54-year-old, Zyma Amien, has been announced as the winner of the 2016 Sasol New Signatures Art Competition for her mixed media artwork titled Paying Homage, which addresses labour issues particularly within the garment and textile industry. "I am highlighting pertinent issues that I feel strongly about," states Amien. "I am using art as a voice and attest to the power of what art can do." As the winner of the competition, Amien walks away with a cash prize of R100 000 and the opportunity to have her first solo exhibition in 2017.
The title Paying Homage speaks to the public recognition Amien aims to bring to issues such as feminism, explotation, and globalisation. The work is inspired by her mother and grandmother, who worked as seamstresses and could never wear the products of their work due to political and/or economical reasons. The work consists of three overalls made of gauze suspended above forcing the viewer to look up. The gauze metaphorically puts a 'bandage' over the scars of physical, structural, emotional pain the workers have experienced.
On the floor, three discarded outdated sewing machines 'pin' the overalls down. Amien states that this references to how the factory worker is pinned down by the system and once they have outlived their purpose, gets dumped. "Even after 21 years of democracy, workers are still living in dire conditions," states Amien. "Workers lack the skills to empower themselves to do better. I want to make silent voices heard."
The Sasol New Signatures Art Competition is presented annually in collaboration with the Association of Arts Pretoria. As the longest running art competition in South Africa, the Sasol New Signatures Art Competition - now in its 27th year - has been a platform for promoting emerging artists and their work.
Paul Andries Marais, Delicates, Digital video (201 seconds)
Runner-up for 2016, Paul Andries Marais from Stellenbosch scooped the second place prize of R25 000 for his digital video titled Delicates. Marais creates a playful and bitter-sweet allegory using every-day objects as characters referencing issues within the contemporary post-apartheid South African landscape, which the artist feels is still rife with discrimination, communication challenges and inequality.
The work consists of two-dimensional chalk drawing elements, three-dimensional objects and sound recordings creating a fictional 'childlike tragedy'. In the visual narrative, the glove, which is the antagonist in the piece, represents the systems and ideologies responsible for separating people from one another. The socks and the washing machine function in harmony if all parties involved are considered as 'delicates'. Eventually, the intolerant glove destroys the entire environment when the rebellion of the other characters challenges it.
Marais brings attention to the delicate socio-political situation in South Africa. The work aims to be playful and approachable but deals with important underlying issues.
Merit awards went to Matilda Engelblik (Pretoria); Shaun James Francis (Johannesburg); Mosa Anita Kaiser (Grahamstown); Zane Wesley Lange (Port Elizabeth); and Aneesa Loonat (Port Elizabeth). Each Merit Award winner received a R10 000 cash prize.
Exhibiting alongside the winning works at the Pretoria Art Museum is 2015 Sasol New Signatures winner Nelmarie Du Preez with her solo exhibition entitled Loops of Relation... a Continuation. Du Preez's works explore the love-hate relationship between humans and technology. She explores ideas regarding automation, surveillance, virtual reality, interactivity, social media, entertainment and ultimately the relation between trust and violence.
All 100 shortlisted artworks will be exhibited alongside the winners at the Pretoria Art Museum from 8 September - 9 October 2016.