Q&A Session with Artists Blooming in the Dark

Published 03 August 2022 in Exhibition Blogs

Cellphone conversations

Our theme for this exhibition was brainstormed by Sammy Müller, relating to the frustrations of loadshedding, and the adaptations and alterations we need to make to keep creating our art. Some artists have given us works they have created during the loadshedding periods, and others have created works with more layers of meaning relating to the dark and blooming.

So, we asked some questions about their productivity, their creativity, sales, processes, and even their opinion of the theme and loadshedding. Something that is quite universally experienced is the frustrations, and having to plan our productivity, work, and lives according to some schedule that changes the same day its announced. Working around the unnecessary and changing complications instead of being able to have a standard and consistent timeframe, even if it carries on year-round. Come on: I’m sure we can all agree that staying in an unchanging Stage 2 – missing 2 hours of electricity at specific, unchanging times, for a year, is better than changing times and durations for various months over the years.

And these emotions and changes are sure to impact any living or working we do. Speaking to Thelma van Rensburg she mentions how its kind of depressing, with the pressure to keep creating and having to find solutions and alternatives to your processes or even art form. Martini Coetzee was once a glass artist, however with expensive and unreliable electricity supply, her current art form of light painting allows for far more adaptability and resilience against the everchanging schedules. And both Thelma and Martini experience these frustrations, Thelma at the social and economic situation, and Martini at the lack of control it gives her concerning her life and craft.

And of course, productivity and creativity have to be affected. Martini pointed out that to maintain her productivity and creativity she’s had to change her mindset, as have we all. To work around someone else’s timetable and schedule. And more so, we really have to prepare for our ‘productive time slots’ so that we can make the most out of it. In terms of ‘creative spirit’, Martini noticed how loadshedding gave her opportunities to discover more and do other activities when she can’t work. And these experiences and discoveries contribute to her creativity – giving her more and different things to think about and enjoy, more to influence what she produces and how. Thelma also talks about her new creative spirit, how her works have become more playful and conceptual, distracting herself from tough times and frustrations, working with her inner child.

And obviously, how your productivity and creativity is affected also depends on what art you create and with what media. For instance, Jason Brits is a glass blower, but with the power interruptions, he cannot actually create his glass works, so he has returned to drawings. Where loadshedding crippled his one form of art, he was able to turn to another. The same for Martini, who began also began as a glass artist. Eskom made that art too expensive and unfeasible, and she ended up getting involved in light painting. And luckily for her: she needs to the dark spaces and canvases! So, some expenses may have changed, and others simply increased: from furnaces to a camera, and one torch to three more.

So, the impact of loadshedding can be seen in the making of art, but also on the artists themselves – sometimes killing their spirit, demotivating them, or even provoking emotions that can impact their creative output.

To finish off, this theme relates to the works created during loadshedding, and then with the layered interpretations of blooming – shining – in the dark – through troubles or literal darkness. Thelma relates to the theme through her creations during the stages, and how her works bloomed and become more playful because of it. Martini has a rather literal relation to the theme – the fact that she works in the dark, with light painting. She is a “painter of light”, creating light through art and art through light. And Jason was rather intrigued by the concept, how he was almost ‘forced’ to ‘bloom’ because loadshedding meant he couldn’t do anything but create some form of art. And it provoked emotions that he needed a creative outlet for, to make something of the emotions and time.

There are so many ways we all find an outlet for our frustrations, or a way to keep busy when we cannot do our usual tasks, changing how we think and work around the periods of light and dark.

- Cassandra Comins

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