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The Odds of the 2014 Absa L’Atelier Awards

by Marilyn de Freitas posted on July 17, 2014.

Liberty Battson, Odds of an artist like me (detail), 2013, 2K automotive paint on canvas

The winner of the 2014 Absa L’Atelier award has been announced. Pretoria artist Liberty Battson emerged as the winner for her work, Odds of an artist like me, which explores and critiques the socio-economic dilemmas faced by artists. Absa, partnered with the South African National Association for the Visual Arts (SANAVA), the French Embassy and the Alliance Francaise, presents the Absa L’Atelier Art Competition which is one of the country’s most prestigious art contests, offering the winners exceptional exposure, outstanding growth opportunities and once-in-a-lifetime international art residency prizes. It is regarded as Africa’s pre-eminent annual art competition and the longest running event of its kind on the continent and is currently in its 28th year.

A local panel of selectors, guided by Colbert Mashile, selected works from all over the country to become part of the top 100 artworks. Mashile, national adjudicator and selector for the competition, stated that he was surprised at the number of works that deal with issues prevalent in South Africa today. He commended the young artists who come from poorer backgrounds that strive through their art. Dirkie Offringa, national president of SANAVA, concurred Mashile’s comments, stating that young South African artists blend tradtional and contemporary mediums and engage in current affairs and social discourse in South Africa. The Absa L’Atelier Art Competition finalists were announced at the Gala event on 16 July 2014 at the Absa Art Gallery in Johannesburg.

Liberty Battson, Odds of an artist like me, 2013, 2K automotive paint on canvas, 50cm x 180cm

The overall winner is Liberty Battson for her work, Odd of an artist like me, consisting of horizontal automotive paint lines on two vertical canvases. She is awarded with a six-month residency at the Cite Internationale des Arts in Paris, including return airfare, R150 000 cash for the residency and the coveted solo exhibition at the Absa Gallery upon her return. The winning work acts as a bar graph with each line representing a statistic relating to artists, more specifically the odds of an artist like Battson. With the top of the canvas representing 0% and the bottom 100%, the viewer is able to decode the artwork through a booklet supplied to gallery visitors. The artwork trans-mediates from traditional painting into an interactive work where gallery visitors can interact personally with the art work as they explore each of the statistics and their corresponding colours and position on the canvas. Battson depicts various statistics such as 5% of painters will get a hernia from lifting heavy painting materials or 8% is the job growth rate in fine art from 2010 to 2020. Intrigued by the chances, the artist aim is to represent statistics in a novel way by juxtaposing trivial, humorous statistics with those that are more serious.

Battson was born in 1990. She studied BA (FA) at the University of Pretoria, graduating in 2013. She completed an airbrushing course and had several years of training with artist, Rose Dairy. She has participated in a number of exhibitions. She has been a finalist in the Sasol New Signatures art competition in 2011, 2012 and 2013 where she was a merit award winner. She was also awarded the Fans Favourite winner at the 2012 PPC Cement Young Concrete Sculptor Awards. Battson’s work is also represented in a number of corporate and private collections, including Telkom, Sasol and Ellerman House.

Mbavhalelo Nekhavhambe, Press Accident, video

The Gerard Sekoto Award winner is Mbavhalelo Nekhavhambe for his video work, Press Accident. The work explores the ability to communicate in a language other than your own and how this can influence one reputation. Nekhavhambe was born in 1981. He holds a B. Tech (FA) and has participated in a number of curated exhibitions, including the Absa L'Atelier Exhibition in 2012 and 2013. He was a top 10 finalist in 2012. The video depicts Nekhavhambe as a Muvenda president reading a speech in English despite not being able to communicate well in the language and without confidence. Nekhavhambe explores how the media can play an important role in making our breaking someone’s reputation or confidence. He receives a three-month residency at the Cite Internationale des Arts in Paris, including return airfare, a stipend during their stay and a travelling exhibition in South Africa upon their return.

Bevan de Wet received a merit award for his work, Decorus in Gryphus II, winning a two-month residency at the Kuns-Sylt Foundation on the Ilse of Sylt. Luyanda Zindela also wona merit award for Umkhumbi wakaMedusa and receives a one-month residency with the Ambersand Foundation in New York. He will also become a Fellow of the Ampersand Foundation.

The top works are exhibited at the Absa Gallery in Johannesburg from 16 July - 21 August 2014.


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