While Johannes Phokela’s work is, at first glance, an irreverent representation of Western art history, it is the cultural and political consumption of pictures that interests him most. He is a voracious consumer of imagery, drawing not only on the iconic works of the European Masters – Rubens, Van Dyck, Caravaggio – but also on newspapers, magazines and the Internet. His is an ambitious exploration of the import of received art history on the one hand and the seemingly endless proliferation of images in popular culture on the other.
Phokela’s art – including oil paintings, oil sketches and sculptures – is animated by a wicked sense of humour, technical virtuosity and an ability to draw together a number of associations in the frame of a single work. He is fascinated by our capacity to connect images to meaning, and his new work in particular makes reference to the myriad visual representations of current events. He walks a tightrope between a fascination with aesthetics and an instinct for satire and social commentary, and the results are both visually stirring and intellectually satisfying.
Johannes Phokela was born in Soweto in 1966 and lives and works in Johannesburg and London. He studied art at the Royal College of Art, Camberwell College of Art, St. Martin’s College of Art, England and the FUBA Art Centre in South Africa.
Phokela has exhibited his work extensively in South Africa and abroad. He has participated in a number of artists’ workshops and is the recipient of several prestigious awards. His artistic practice includes printmaking, sculpture, drawing and painting.