I have decided that it might be a good idea to introduce one of my older artworks to the public every now and again.
What better day to do it than #throwbackthursdays!
Please keep a look out for these posts on Thursdays every week.
The artwork I chose to introduce is one where I changed my name legally to that of a very well known South African artist.
Just after graduating university with an Honours BA Fine Arts degree (I have to say Honours- cause I absolutely hated studying, and would never have done an honours degree if it was not part of the degree).
I studied at WITS University.
Under #tbt, there will be quite a few works made during my studies.
I mentioned that I hated studying, I think this says quite a lot about my character.
I am someone that does not like to be told what to do, when and in what order.
As a result, quite a bit of art was made to ‘rebel’ against the system, regime or institution.
Photo: Merwelene v.d Merwe For De Kat:
The idea of changing my name came in my 3rd year of study.
All of a sudden students started worrying about what they were going to do with their degrees.
Names of artists that have ”made” it was often spoken of with great admiration, and a hope of achieving the same success.
Strangely mostly the names of local artists.
Almost as to make the ‘dream’ more reachable.
It struck me that the class was mostly woman, the same as at school, yet in society I found that men artists are more dominant and there seems to be more men artists that has ”made” it than woman artists.
After becoming a mother myself, I can clearly see why. #feministstatements.
The students were getting anxious.. it was almost time to cut the umbilical cords.
Males particularly worried about earnings.
Some saw the only way out, a future in lecturing.
Gone were the dreams of making endless art, in big open studios, travelling the globe.
Students were talking about who will be doing which masters programme.
A few even changed direction to major in other BA subjects.
Dreaming of a studio like….
Check out https://blog.lonewolfmag.com/beautiful-artists-studios-planet/
A few reasons I have not given up on my art dreams!
For me, well I could not wait to get out of University.
Right throughout my studies I tried to familiarise myself with other artists including artists older than me.
I knew their studios and often went to studio parties and always went to exhibitions.
I would lie if I say that I had no fear at all.
Of course I also worried about what the future holds, but I definitely was not going to change direction.
It was more a fear that challenged.
Something I want to prove.
Something I guess I will forever try prove to myself.
I really appreciated one of the lecturers, David Andrew.. I really valued David’s insight.. He interviewed me the day I applied at WITS.
He told me that day to never ever lose the passion I have for art. He told me that it was rare, and sacred and should be valued.
His words stuck.
Btw.. I have short and very academic like writing about older works, but that defeats the purpose of this blog.. I want to share something more personal here. For my own record too. I would not want to lose the reasons I have made an artwork to how it is interpreted.
That is the beauty of art.
In some ways an artworkit is made, then dissected, and then made into many different artworks once out there.
I also find that the older I get the more honest I become about why I created particular things.
Instead of all the meaning an artwork has and to all the ways it relates to the world around it, I find that there is always a very personal reason too.. the real reason one created an artwork.
I believe great artworks are born from personal experiences and relate to the world in more ways than one.
So back to why I changed my name when I did.
All the talk of rich and famous artworks and art school kids worrying over how they will make names like the already established art gods we were told about at school annoyed me (even made me feel angry in ways).
It was like these students came to art school after high school with a plan.
That plan was to go to school and be taught how to finish it a William Kentridge.
Kentridge’s name kept coming up.. We were taught everything about the man from High School.
I sat and pondered why his art has made him so famous.
Was it really his art.
He started out drawing charcoal flowers.. beautifully, but then I can also draw beautifully..
I wondered if my drawings would ever earn me ”William Kentridge” status.
If it was really about the art, then I feel like my art is just as good.
It was in ways better- anyway to me- cause it was personal.
If I had my very first solo exhibition, why won’t all his followers come view it.
How could I get them to view my exhibition..
That was when it struck me..
Change your name!
Now the fine tuning started.
If I choose the name of an artist, should it be a man or a woman?
I decided on male, because of the woman/man divide I found there is within the ‘artworld’ (haha my favourite term.. not!).
If I prove I am a good artist, I might just as well prove I am just as good as a male artist.
Secondly, was I going to choose a local or international artist.
Here I decided on local, and William Kentridge specifically as we were force fed with his art. We were taught he embodied what it means to be a ‘successful’ artist.
Don’t get me wrong.
I have no problem with Kentridge or his art.
I think he is a great artist, and good at what he does.
My comment and aim was never to target his work.
Rather I wanted to challenge stereotypes around art/artist.
The value of an artwork.
How meaning of a work is lost in translation.
The role of the man/woman artist.
Artist as celebrity.
An insert out an old catalogue:
”The artist formerly known as Roelien Brink legally changed her name to that of the acclaimed male artist William Kentridge.
Through her name change the artist raised issues around fame, and cultural capital generally, particularly exploring the ‘value’ which attaches to symbols (abstract, i.e. names, brands) inflated by ideas of fame and celebrity, but as mere symbols really the value conferral becomes void and unsubstantiated.
Therefore the artist explores issues such as art and the value of art. The idea of artist as brand is explored and issues such as originality and authenticity is challenged.
Furthermore the artist also explores identity and gender issues.
The male vs. female role is explored both in art as well as capitalist society.”
This artwork challenged me in every way.
In some ways it really made me mature as an artist. It was like challenging my own Identity.
Fresh out of art school, thinking I will go to London and conquer.. I was bombarded with interviews.
I lived in London for a very short time..
I changed my name just before, and my I.D document was ready only just before I left.
Upon fetching it from home affairs my surname was changed, but not my first name.
I had interviews scheduled already, and had to make a plan.
The very first few interviews that was done all required a picture of my I.D document.
I had to take my very Afrikaans uncle named William’s I.D and copy and paste William onto a fake document next to the very English surname Kentridge..
On my return back to South Africa they corrected the mistake, as I was already William on the system.
I got given VIP tickets to the London Art Fair through Deutche Bank during my time there.. Some fancy car picked me up from wherever in London and dropped me back wherever I wanted to be (every day!).. There were free champagne and a 3 course breakfast/lunch/dinner every day. (Back in the day when free wine made all the difference to going to an exhibition or not-the day before Art Fairs in SA ;). Needless to say.. I felt like I was royalty.. (on that note our cab driver apparently choppered the Royal Family around..) #longlivethequeen ????
London was big! It made me realise I am a 21 year old in a very large world, and that I have to start where everyone else starts from.
The interviews were nothing short of intimidating.
I even had one or two live radio interviews whilst in London.
With a bottle of red wine, kicking all the commune guys out, I ground through the interviews.
I shudder if I think about how my Afrikaans upbringing combined with my 21 year old ass and my bad writing and wording must have gone down..
I have the recordings, but will never ever listen to them (as mentioned before).
You are welcome to Google some articles.
This artwork taught me that every artwork will always be both liked and disliked, loved and hated.
This made it clear to me that it is important art comes from personal place.. That if anything it is the most important to be connected to your artworks. That they should come from within.
It forced me to choose to always stay true to my art.
I am glad I made this artwork so early on in my career.
It shaped me in a big way.