By Edward Tsumele, CITYLIFE/ARTS Editor
The arrival of the coronavirus to our shores with the country going into lockdown in March 2020, affected many people in different ways, including creatives.
One such group of creatives are the students at Artist Proof Studio in Johannesburg, whose learning schedule was not only disrupted as they had to work on their own, instead of attending classes physically as is normally the norm, but they also had to reflect on their own lives in their creative practices..
I mean here in the air was an existential threat that threatened our very own existence.
Many people started to ask hard question about their issues of mortality and what their purpose on earth could be.
The Artist Proof studio students did not sit back and wonder what tomorrow held for them and their very existence. Instead they created individually a body of work that is deeply introspective in relation and in the context of working under a certain lingering threat from a tiny, invisible, but dangerous virus.
This body of work is therefore important in the lives of these students as they looked within themselves to create work that speaks to the current situation.
Now this body of work is available for viewing and buying by collectors as a joint presentation by Absa and Artist Proof Studio being hosted virtually. The students were also beneficiaries of master classes led by experienced artists.
This latest virtual exhibition opened on 4 November 202 and will run until the end of this year.
“With this collaboration, Absa seeks to continue playing a shaping role in society by nurturing and supporting fledgling artists from the APS. Twelve final year students will also be awarded bursaries to the value of R580 000.
“Business Practice Masterclasses will be led by leading personalities in the arts such as Banele Khoza, Kim Siew and Sarah McGee. The masterclasses will equip the APS students with the necessary business acumen to better manage their business as they launch their careers and also how to market their artwork.
The virtual exhibition will see 22 artists from the innovative and engaged APS community showcasing their artwork on the Absa Art Hot Spot platform,’” the two partners joint statement following the launch bof the exhibition.
“We recognise that the growth we want to achieve is inextricably linked to our firm commitment to be an active force for good in the communities where we operate. The partnership with APS will allow us to continue showcasing our advanced online capabilities and will also help us to meaningfully impact the development of young artists,” says Absa Senior Specialist Art Curator, Dr Paul Bayliss.
“We have used the restrictions brought about by the pandemic to entrench ourselves as a leader in showcasing art digitally. This ranges from launching the Absa Art Hot Spot webinar series, to hosting several online art exhibitions, masterclasses, and the Absa L’Atelier Awards virtually as well as migrating certain elements of our art-related sponsorships and partnerships to this innovative online platforms,” he adds.
APS Managing Director for Marketing and Business Development, Nathi Simelane, says this partnership with Absa will allow them to showcase some of their growth in an exciting way since students have had to adapt to a hybrid communication learning process over the past 18 months.
“This exhibition will allow our more senior students to re-examine their own identities, through an investigation of their cultural ideologies, practices, personal and collective histories,” he says.
“Some will celebrate and honour fundamental aspects of their cultural identities whilst others question prevailing patriarchal traditions. In many of the pieces, the ‘personal’ is laid bare. This is sometimes explored through representations of the body or a particular place and space. The notion of ‘home’ as a state of mind, or something less representative and tangible, emerges in the senior student’s work. It marks and narrates a journey experienced by many through lockdown and beyond introspection, probing and reconciliation,” he adds.
The Masterclass series kicked-off on 29 September when renowned artist, gallerist and curator, Banele Khoza, hosted a session that focused on developing, identifying, maintaining, and making the most of opportunities in developing an artist’s career.
The next session was hosted by Kim Siew on 27 October and dealt with maintaining and growing relationships with peers, gallerists, curators, donors, buyers, and industry
Sarah McGee will host the final session in the series on 10 November when she will take a closer look at galleries, teaching students how to engage with galleries, the pricing of artwork, contracts and issues around consignment.
All the masterclass sessions can be viewed on the Absa Art Hot Spot
Artist Proof Studio (APS) was founded in 1991 by Kim Berman and Nhlanhla Xaba as a community printmaking centre that reflected the spirit of a healthy democracy and the ideals expressed in the new South African constitution.
As printmaking was seen as a democratic medium and a counterforce to the suspicion and division left from the apartheid years, it was considered to be fitting approach to building a true egalitarian society. The country was on the brink of real change and in many ways, it was artists that led the rethinking of how the future could look for all South Africans.
Embodying this movement, APS became one of the pioneering community art centres in what would eventually become the cultural hub for the city of Johannesburg: Newtown. During the last 30 years, APS has grown from a small, rudimentarily equipped printmaking studio to one of the largest and most vibrant community and professional printmaking facilities in Southern Africa, accommodating up to 80 students per year and also hosting, publishing, and providing print edition facilities and collaborative project opportunities for many artists each year.
The studio is accredited with the Culture, Art, Tourism, Hospitality, and Sport Sector Education and Training Authority (CATHSSETA) and is offering a 4-year qualification. Absa is supporting 12 students to the value of R580 000 – 00 (Seven  students in 3rd year and five  students in their final year of study). Business Practice Masterclasses are being offered to these students with the aim of these masterclasses to equip these students with business acumen to manage their potential businesses and marketing their artwork.
Banele Khoza (b.1994) is a Pretoria based artist, curator, and gallerist, originally from Hlatikulu, Swaziland. In 2011 he enrolled at the London International School of Fashion (LISOF) where he studied Fashion Design for one year before making the decision to study Fine Art at Tshwane University of Technology (TUT). After his tenure as a student, Khoza lectured Drawing and Art Theory at TUT.
Khoza has had multiple solo and group presentations at museums and galleries in South Africa and abroad; these include: the Pretoria Art Museum (Pretoria), Zeitz MOCAA (Cape Town), Lizamore & Associates (Johannesburg),and Bode Projects (Hamburg and Berlin). His work has garnered him special recognition through being the recipient of awards such as the South African Taxi Foundation Art Award (2016), Absa L’Atelier Gerard Sekoto Foundation Award (2017), and 200 Young South Africans – Mail & Guardian (2020).
In 2018, Khoza opened BKhz Studio where he embarked on numerous curatorial projects. BKhz has since become a gallery which keeps to the premise of the studio and curates exhibitions that largely include emerging artists
Kim Siew is an artist, founder and director of Lakaz d’Art, a Mauritian creative platform. He has developed a strong network of Mauritian emerging talents, as well as African artists across the continent.
His innovative platform collaborates with local businesses to translate branding and company culture into artworks. A pacerel that stimulates the art sector while connecting artists with businesses.
With a Bachelor’s degree in economics and Arts history, he strongly believes that Art and creativity can build solutions of the future and foster personal growth. As a wish to strengthen the importance of Art in our society, he regularly designs and facilitates workshops with artists to diffuse creative knowledge and to develop creative confidence.
Sarah McGee is the founder and director of M Studio Community, a platform that provides emerging South African artists with opportunities and a support system as they advance their careers.
Sarah is a curator and artist in her own right, curating exhibitions for a variety of arenas including corporate and private gallery spaces, art fairs, and festivals. She has received her honours in fine arti from the University of Pretoria, majoring in video installation, which examined human relations and their social context within South Africa.