Award winning artist Patrick Lurole finds humour in darkness of load shedding

By Edward Tsumele, CITYLIFE/ARTS Editor

When artist Patrick Lurole won the Sasol New Signatures Award a few year ago, at the Pretoria Arts Museum where his triumph was announced, where the following year he also had a solo exhibition he impressed many in the art world. Many of us who attended the event were struck by how he took a crisis afflicting the country then, and is still, today, to create a visual representation of the  event. Not in the way that you might be thinking right now.

Of course load shedding is a serious matter, and soon President Cyril Ramaphosa  will  announce his pick for Minister of Electricity to join his cabinet in the impending Cabinet Reshuffle. This is in fact how serious the issue of electricity cuts has become in South Africa.  And just to illustrate how bad it has become, It has almost become normalised, in what psychologists call habituation, normalising a bad situation by people after a while. But Lurole then had a different idea of looking at this crisis. He found humour in it. Light moments that seemingly make light of the crisis.

The Hammanskraal born artist ever since, he wisely  has stuck with this idea, making the crisis a sort of comic relief to many who view his art works through the exhibitions he has since held.  He now has a a captive following in art circles.

Patrick Lurole

These are art lovers, collectors and art enthusiasts  who find his works  to  achieve the same of comic relief as you would find in stand- up comedy for example. It really takes an imaginative mind, a mind that sees beyond a prevailing menace to people’s daily experiences, such as load shedding  in South Africa, to  represent the problem not only in a way that you can easily connect with, but also find the humour in it.

One of the people impressed by his art practice since then is well known Johannesburg based art consultant Makgati Molebatsi.

“When I saw his works then, I was impressed. Not only because of the fine details in his paintings, such as the sensitive use of light and the fact that he is a skilled painter, but also how he interpreted people’s daily experiences of load shedding ,” Makgati told CITYLIFE/ARTS on Thursday, March 2, 2023, in an exclusive preview of the exhibition, before it officially opens on Saturday March, 2023 at the Bag Factory in Johannesburg. Makgati is the curator of this show together with the team at Bag Factory, and of course the artist.

During this preview I was impressed by a number of works that were being prepared to go up, ready for Saturday’s official opening. A father in a dark lit room in close  conversation with his son, most probably telling him traditional stories, fairy tales he himself might have been remembered from his grandmother. A married woman  offering his seemingly tired husband form a day’s job, water while a child looks on. Most probably their impressed daughter. 

P Rulore, Ba ga Mashaba

A group of boys huddled around fire that seemingly is taking place in an environment of darkness in the streets around them due to load shedding.  A group of young people huddled in a dark room watching a game on an only  cell phone whose battery has not yet gone flat due to load shedding. The list goes on and on.

“The people I have painted are people in my neighbourhood in Hammanskral . What you see here is a visual representation of their daily existence in the context of a  crisis of power in the country. But here I am not moaning, but looking at the positive aspects of people’s daily existence despite the challenges. As human beings we cannot always be serious. We need to find light moments in a crisis,” he explained to CITYLIFE/ARTS as he took us through his works that were being prepared to be hung, ready for Saturday’s opening.

The reality is Lurole finds his inspiration from his immediate environment around his streets,  among his neighbours,  re-imagining their daily experiences into a visual language that touches viewers in a special way. Already the results are pleasing. He however does not completely ignore the social ills around his immediate society, such as the scourge of crime.

P Rulore, One device left

For example his art work, titled Mob Justice (not part of the exhibition) has been snatched by an international collector. It is a representation of the culture of mob justice that sometimes takes place when communities scarred by crime take the law into their own hands sometimes, and met out immediate street justice to those they claim are terrorising them.

Of course ,not a wise thing to do. But reality is, when communities do that it is often when they feel that justice is failing them and therefore the only option left to them is to take the law into their own hands.

I had the privilege of seeing the picture of the work. A helpless victim of mob justice. Left wheel chair bound. Eyes sunken and reduced to being ordinary after the community had decided enough was enough. He had terrorised them enough and he deserved this. But the same community decided after the punishment that he at least deserved  a make-shift wheel chair to assist him with movement. Hopefully lesson learned that crime does not pay.

“The Bag Factory in association with Makgati Molebatsi Art Consulting, are delighted to announce the public opening of Patrick Rulore’s solo exhibition, entitled: 635 Suurman, Section 6, Hammanskraal.

P Rulore, Subway Surfer

In this body of work, Rulore explores the depiction of intimate human moments that co-exists alongside socio-economic challenges, aspirational goals, and technological advancement. Through a series of 16 oil paintings, the artist sheds light on various ways members of his community in  Hammanskraal have circumvented the nationwide energy crisis, dubbed as “load shedding”, a curatorial statement reads.

.635 Suurman, Section 6, Hammanskraal. Opens at 11am on Saturday, March 4, 2023, at Fordsburg Artists’ Studios (trading as Bag Factory Artists’ Studios) | 10 Mahlathini Street, Newtown, Johannesburg.

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