Yannis Generalis


Artist and creative, Yannis Generalis, is the product of many countries. Born in Africa to Greek immigrant parents, he grew up between Zimbabwe, Botswana, Greece, and South Africa. He arrived in Johannesburg in 1983 and it has been his home ever since. Witness to profound socio-political events in these four countries during his formative years, and having absorbed the rich cultural diversity on offer, has brought a multi-layered perspective to his work.

His parents were economic migrants, who left severe economic hardships behind, seeking a better life abroad. Generalis was born in 1967 in the small town of Bulawayo, in present day Zimbabwe. Later his parents moved to Francistown in Botswana.

In 1986 Generalis was accepted to study at the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits). His Bachelor of Arts degree, with majors in the fields of Modern Greek literature, psychology, and international relations, has influenced his outlook, artmaking voice and creative storytelling. During his time at Wits University, Generalis was actively involved in student politics. After graduation, in 1990, Generalis joined the Johannesburg Art Foundation, a ground-breaking art school at the time, established by the late Bill Ainslie.

From 2010 until 2015, Generalis served on the board of directors of project Rendezvous, a multicultural arts exchange initiative, between South African art institutions and France, under the auspices of the French Embassy.

Beyond his commercial design career, Generalis’ art career has seen his work exhibited extensively both locally and internationally and is represented in both private and public collections. Other than 7 solo exhibitions at commercial galleries (2013-2020), Generalis has participated in a multitude of group exhibitions, in South Africa, Greece and the United States.

In the past decade, Generalis has also curated many successful group art shows and collaborated with several galleries and academic institutions throughout South Africa. He has also curated exhibitions for Northwest University, University of Johannesburg, as well as the inaugural annual art exhibition for the Aardklop Arts festival.

In 2017 Generalis returned to academia, completing his MTech Fine Arts at the University of Johannesburg, which he received cum laude in 2019. In 2020, he received the Chancellor’s Gold Medal, an annual award of excellence, for outstanding research for his dissertation and critically acclaimed solo exhibition entitled Hybrid Vigour: Ecce Homo.

His work is often layered creating visual, as well as contextual, palimpsests realised in various media. He often draws from his Hellenic roots, which he combines with his life in Africa, to weave a unique narrative of his own diasporic experience. The creative dialogue which is generated in this process challenges universally accepted archetypes of gender and identity within transient socio-political landscapes. In this context, the multiple layers of signification that drive the work, become evidence of what the artist describes as hybrid vigour.

Generalis’ oeuvre is diverse, strategically combining both traditional and experimental approaches to artmaking. The works range from traditional oil painting, to rust drawings, sculpture, embroidery, and installation. 

1967 -
Nationality: South African
Residence: Johannesburg
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