Anything can be Art, but Art can not be anything
My studio is the only place where I feel at home
My work becomes a series of questions such as
“What material is this?’ and “How did you make this?”
Thonton Kabeya was born in 1983, in the D.R.C. He presently lives and works in Johannesburg, South Africa.
He is a graduate from the Institute of Fine Arts of Lubumbashi. In 2006 he won two awards: the UNAIDS AWARD and the BELGIUM COUNCIL AWARD. He is part of many collections around the world such as the Contemporary Art Museum of Vitoria (ARTIUM) in Spain, Unisa Art Collection (South Africa). George Forest in D.R.C. Erick Vellard in Paris (France).
I’m trying to push the limit and the boundary that exist between painting and sculpture, I want to change the way people look at Painting, I sculpt the canvas and create my artistic language. I’m not trying to make a sculpture or a painting or mixed media technique, but find my own way to express myself and to connect with myself.
‘How would African classic art have developed organically, if there had been no interference or influence of colonialism and Western society?
I’m not asking this question in order to get a response, but to explore what remains of ‘original’ African art within a contemporary context. I attempt to create a visual solution through my cultural understanding and artistic skills. The main focus lies on the process and technical perfection. My work becomes a never ending series of questions such as:
“What material is this?’ and “How did you make this?”.
These are unusual questions in the world of fine art today. However, when looking at African classic art, these are questions that arise naturally.
Don’t not look for a message in my work, but the deep power that my art projects.’
Posted from Changing Facets
Between Now and Then
“I believe that a canvas is not just a white surface but more of a medium.”
Thonton Kabeya is a Congolese artist who found his love for art at the age of 17 years while doing art in high school. He decided not to further his studies because he felt that art cannot necessarily be taught but is a talent one is born with. His work captures the innocence of children without seeking to give a recognisable identification to his figures.
My work is in between portrait and mask with no distinct identification of who the portrayed figure is, a balance between the past and the present in order to achieve a different perspective on African art. When you look at African art there is something missing, we just moved from mask figurine to contemporary with no gradual transition. As a result, my work is a different approach to the norm, which deliberately focuses on addressing the gap I speak of says Thonton.
Notions of how African art would have been interpreted today had it not been for influences of colonialism, build a framework for how he positions his work in the arts. He believes art should convey messages that raise questions and create a mystery for the audience, allowing people to engage with his work. The artistic process is also enigmatic with the intention of not giving away too much of his technique, making it more unique. A fusion of modern materials and classic techniques ensures that his art captures both the essence of his culture and heritage while communicating ideas of untold African stories. His current collection called “Sculpt in Canvas” is one that he has been working on for the past three years which has gradually moved into a more spiritual element that avoids showing eyes and full body depictions. An approach that allows the viewers to start seeing the work as an object and start looking beyond what is in front of them.
As an artist Thonton allows his work to direct his next move, which is a more fluid approach where the art becomes the dictator of his next move. From showcasing in Spain two months ago, Johannesburg in July/August and in a month’s time going to Congo for another exhibition it seems evident that Thonton’s work really dictates his schedule and how he positions himself in the world. We do hope to see what he achieves in the future and have confidence that there will be a lot more to look out for from this artist.