The Quadrille of Torture, Pain, Steel and Paint
14 May 2016
Pretoria Art Museum
I spoke to Ilandi Barkhuizen on the morning of 14 May ahead of a group exhibition that will feature her work at the St. Lorient Fashion and Art Gallery on 15 May 2016 until 4 June 2016.
Mmutle Arthur Kgokong. Good morning Ilanda Barkhizen, I hope I am pronouncing your name correctly there
Ilandi Barkhuizen. Oh its fine I heard worse (Laughs)
Mmutle AK. yes, so my pronunciation is on spot?
Ilandi barkhuizen. Yes!
MAK. Thank you, welcome to Intraparadox a platform for interviewing artists of all calibers it really does not matter whether the artist sees themselves as a fully practicing artist or whether as a beginner. The idea of the platform is to try and reveal the person, the artist, the person behind the work and …at the moment I hope you are excited with the exhibition
MAK. …that’s coming, you know
IB. very excited
What went through your mind when it was confirmed that you were gonna have the exhibition at the St. Lorient Fashion and Art Gallery?
Excitement and dread. They notified me, I think, a month and half before the actual date and I was not ready with all the paintings and I had to rush, I am a very fast worker so I accepted the challenge and its fun and exciting and it’s a way to get into the world so, its, I am honored basically to be asked to have an exhibition there so… happy
so, uhm, in your memory was there any people that you know that had their exhibition at the space?
No I did not even know that it was an art gallery. I was once there in my matric to buy a dress for my matric farewell. I did not know about the art stuff I wasn’t concentrating there and this was basically the first time that I heard that they have a gallery there so uhm but I have seen their work there and now I now that Diane Victor and everyone have their work there in the space. I am a little bit more familiar with the space
Yes I suppose it must be exciting to exhibit at a space where some of your heroes in the art world have exhibited
Yah very, I’m just like, when I saw Diane Victor’s work I was like…YES! This is amazing
and tell me Ilandi as far as your training is concerned and your school is concerned ehh you are from Pretoria,…
Were you born here?
Born and raised
And your high school and your primary schooling you did them in Pretoria?
Yes! All of them was in Pretoria, never moved around really
And your interest in the visual art did you pick it up while you were, you know in high school or this is something that you decided when you finished your high school that you were going to study art?
Oh no definitely primary school I was always drawing. To draw was my hobby and to pass time and it made me the happiest to draw every day ehh in high school I decided why not take it as a subject and it just kinda of led to me studying as in …studying it! (laughs)
So it is basically a passion of mine and something that I enjoy doing and I think I have been put on this path to do art and I love it.
Yes. In your high school uhm was art a subject there?
Definitely we, they had visual art and also design as a subject but you can only choose one of them. I think these days you can do both but it is extra work
So yes they have the arts as a subject there and exams. It was kinda of… it was serious so…
What is the name of your high school that you went to
I think you were very fortunate to have art as a subject because I have met people who have never studied art until they get to tertiary and it’s a bit of a challenge for them you know when they get to tertiary to study art formally, although just like you they have been drawing throughout their lives
But the formal education of art…
Uhm its very different
Yah, Wonderboom, they are actually into the arts, dancing, drama and visual art. They are very,…they love their art and sport that’s very important to that school so, basically, so yah
So it’s actually a wonderful school because it sets you up, you know
it gives you the opportunity to uhm to really, ehh huh, have a glance at what you can do with the rest of your life
If you think about other, it’s a public school?
If you think about other public schools which do not have the facilities that your school might have had while you were there you know obviously still has them
think about how these guys…when they get to tertiary
it might be an overwhelming feeling you know.
I… can… imagine. I mean even for me having been to high school and going to college, university, uhm it was different, I did not expect everything that I had to do and it’s a challenge and I can imagine people who hasn’t had it in high school it’s a challenge and I think if you follow it as a passion
you will be fine. You will do good
So as long as it comes from the heart and it is not ehh it’s not…forced
Uhum. If you have the will to create you will be fine.
You know when I looked at the invitation to your work and the information that was sent to me prior to the preparation of this interview I see that you have also ventured into book illustration. Am I correct because I saw somewhere that you were associated with a project ehh called ‘Colouring Books for Grown Ups’.
You know uhm, can you talk a little bit about that experience? …please
Uhm, how did I get the email? Some how I got the email about….Oh one of my lecturers sent me an email about colouring book uhm
Competition and I am very good with CorelDraw and I have done digital paintings for a hobby just to pass the time and I am just like, it is a good opportunity to get my name also out there and its easy enough for me to do it so I just entered and got accepted and there was a little exhibition and I got a few books
and I actually feel very happy about it something to put on my cv
and, uhm, you know working on this project the experience of it I mean this was, it sounds like it was an online
…when you entered it. But was there any physical interaction as you worked through the project itself?
N-no, they just basically ask someone, ask the people to enter anything related to South Africa and that was that, you can enter anything. I haven’t met the woman until the exhibition
Oh yes, the other woman, I am wondering is this Fearika Heyns?
Yes! That’s the curator for the exhibition, she made the book and everything
So in other words she was the one who initiated the project itself
in terms of it being a competition and sourcing works from the entrants. Ehh, you know this is in 2015 which is quite recently
and when I look at your achievements and your exhibitions, you are relatively emerging at the moment I mean I am thinking of 2015 here and also there is a lot of activity this year already because you now have an exhibition at,…obviously there was that exhibition at the Fried Contemporary Art Gallery…
we will come to that just now but there is also this year already two exhibitions that you did and I find it quite fascinating because you credit both of them, the one at Freedom Park and the one at TUT Art Gallery you know …my interest the two parallel exhibitions is ….What was your experience of exhibiting if that was the case simultaneously, at the two spaces, you know, how did the people receive your work at Freedom Park and how did they receive the work at TUT?
I think at Freedom Park we got a lot more people there, more viewers, more people out of galleries and important places, uhm, TUT mostly had the students that would go and have a look I don’t think many people new about the TUT exhibition…? Uhm it was people mostly were interested in the Freedom Park Exhibition. It was a bigger deal, at the TUT they did not have an opening, they did not have wine nothing like that so…uhm
It was a dry opening
Basically. Nothing really happened, I mean I had to sit one whole day there just to look at everyone walk in there and look at the paintings and the artworks and that’s that! it wasn’t very exciting ehh whereas Feedom Park there was food and wine and people and opening speeches and uhm it was better exposure I think there… with the gallery I think it was lacking
I think the advertising for that was not that well done
The marketing and advertising was very weak
Yah. ‘’cause they have had previous exhibitions there in that gallery and that was very successful. This was basically to… an extra space for extra paintings basically, its…
It was a storage
Basically! Just hung there… and its like portally …and like just look at it and hopefully someone will walk in and was not really much feet and its just like …it was bit boring
What is your honest feeling with regard to the experiences of these parallel exhibitions, talking about the Freedom Park version TUT fourth years version exhibition compared to the exhibition that you had at Fried Contemporary Art Gallery last year in 2015? The exhibition was curated by Simon Radebe if I am correct?
When, if you compare the two, you know, you were in a commercial gallery and Freedom Park is a heritage space
ehh with a different market and you have TUT which does not have a market really
as far as this experience is concerned can you compare the two… I mean these two experiences for us?
Uhm comparing Freedom Park to Friedn Contemporary, it had about the same vibe I think, Freedom Park was a little bit informal and Fried was a little bit formal and, uhm, and I think at Fried it was overwhelming, I think ehh-uhm I think there because its such a famous gallery already.
Fried Contemporary Art Gallery that is
I don’t know uhm,… I cant remember if there was any opening speech there as well. I don’t know, I am very… I like opening speeches. I want people to be introduced uhm I think one is seen a little bit more as classy as the other, so Fried is a little bit more classy than Freedom Park, uhm, it was at night well I think going at night is very, at Fried Contemporary, is very formal and you know…intense
It has prestige
Yes! You feel very good to exhibit there and I felt very honored to exhibit there uhm and that’s about that (laughs) I felt great about exhibiting at both places
One was a little bit more extravagant the other was not so. But with the TUT gallery compared to Fried it had nothing
So in other words the TUT Art Gallery it needs marketing
I think it was a little bit lacking because they got someone new to take over the gallery for that time, so uhm previously there was marketing I mean huh who was that one glass blower King, huh…
I know he was a glass blower by… I think George King or some thing like that …anyway when he was there, there was a lot of people I mean Dian Victor showed up, so that was under someone else’s…
it was a different manager who was managing the gallery
Yah different manager managing that. So,… but I think the person that’s managing that will obviously get like more…
Visitors and marketing
Visitors but marketing experience. He will pick up more experience and then will be better equipped to marketing the next exhibition there
Thank you, we can just move on a little bit here and look at your experiences especially as far as creativity is concerned ehh I see that you have done a lot of commissioned work as far as designed is concerned, that you are very busy and I am assuming that this is quite recent
In the light of what you’ve just told me now uhm especially if we talk about the ‘Colouring Books for Grown ups’ project that you did, can you tell us a little bit about the commissioned work?
It was friends or family, never work with family, not good uhm one I did pro bono it wasn’t that bigger deal so and its not that I am making career out of it, one design I did for my cousin uhm well that was not the best experience
Like I said do not work with family, I did it and it was done. I do enjoy designing, it is fun, I do enjoy my computer programs. I do Photoshop, CorelDraw and sculptures all that
It is fun but I haven’t been doing it lately because I’ve been busy with digital media. I don’t know I have always wanted to go into digital area of doing concept art for games but I was not good enough but I really enjoy this path
So you are doing it on your spare time
its basically just the obvious, someone…my sister would, last year she was head of one of the,…I don’t know, uhm… to organize like things
a coordinator, events manager?
…a social event. Basically she was part of … and I had to create posters for her because everyone in the group was not into deign
was not into poster design?
yah and I did all that and it was also pro bono and it was fun and very quick it wasn’t hard labor
and you obviously did it for the experience
Yes! Obviously it’s something to also put on my cv. I also did one commission where I had to paint a wall for a child’s room so… that’s the other commission
Alright. Well I am glad that you are trying to get as much experience as much as possible as you build your profile
I like to use different art medium so, I mean I have done painting, drawing, ceramics, sculpture, printmaking, digital stuff …so I like to experience everything.
Lets move a little bit further uhm you know there is ….on the one hand there is also your experience at the Art Lovers
Mhum, there is the experience at the Art Lovers and you know I want us to get to the St. Lorient Fashion and Art Gallery but we will just take a long road to get there. I would like us to talk a little bit about your experience at the Art Lovers space which is in the
… by the way this space is somewhere not far from the Brooklyn Circle
Where you have the St. Lorient Fashion and Art Gallery, is it?
Actually it is past Waterkloof, it is in Long Street
What was your experience there?
It was actually quite nice, uhm I sold a painting …yeah!
So that was basically my first painting being sold in that exhibition and I felt…it was amazing! Uhm, I love that space it’s comfy and chilled and everyone is just very casual there uhm its not like Fried very extrav…
Uhm but its nice I like it everyone is friends there and it’s a good time
It’s a relaxed space
and you know, this is a space I think its one of the most important spaces in Pretoria in terms of how it involves artists from all walks of life, young, old, experienced, new comers. It’s a very relevant space.
IB. Mhum, they are very, …they like to introduce new students very often. They do a lot of new exhibitions for new people to get their foot into the art world
MAK. Yah uhm, who did you exhibit with in that exhibition?
Ilandi B: uhm there are few names I cannot remember. Cara-Jo Tredoux…
Mmutle AK: …
…yes…and then the other person
Ilandi B: (laughs)…ok it was Mbali I think she was there, Lena was there but she wasn’t part of the exhibition but her work was exhibited for her solo exhibition but you could obviously go and have a look
Mmutle Arthur Kgokong: mhum?
Ilandi Barkhuizen: …who else was there I think Evan I saw some of Johan Nortje; the sculptor – his work was there. Some of Nalize Venter’s work was there.
Mmutle AK. So it was quite ehh young and experienced artists who were there even though some of them might’ve been students but they have been exposed to the art world and the art market at the same time and for you to be able to sell an artwork there in that space its an achievement. Uhm, I mean somebody was able to see there that you have something to say and you know this leads me now to your exhibition, the one that you are having at the St. Lorient Fashion and Art Gallery. Lets talk about your art making in terms of the process of making the work because when I saw your cv I was fascinated by the fact that you are painting on steel. How do you prepare the surface, the steel itself before you paint on it?
Ilandi B. well basically some of the steel I rust before hand some I don’t just to give a little bit of a contrast. Uhm the steel is, I want to, obviously start painting, I will wash it off make sure it is clean and then I will apply a clear spray. It’s like a metal cleaner, I buy it at Chaberlain. You wait until that dries and you just, I just paint on it
And after the painting is done and dry I will spray it again just to make sure that the paint won’t get damaged or anything, just to seal it again yes
MAK. In other words you will spray on the painting itself?
So that you’re able to preserve the painting
It’s quite a remarkable art making process. Ehh have you…did you see this elsewehere before? How arrive at this process making work?
Uhm my… my father basically told me to seal it uhm he is very handy with this type of things. Uhm also just experience in the world obviously if you do a painting as well you have to do it as well, prime it uhm that is an important process. the priming is actually the spraying of it, I mean you can paint over it and spray it…
Yes. Let me rephrase the question again…
I am in a very very weird place now
(laughs) yes. Obviously you know you just told me about the process that the work is in three layers. It is the priming and it is the painting itself
– the painting process of whatever subject matter that you are dealing with and afterwards you seal the work again, you prime the work again, you know, it will be as if you are glossing it over so that everything remains intact
I am particularly interested in ‘how did you arrive at deciding to approach your art making process this way?’ seeing that you are a trained painter you’ve majored in painting?
Yes I did major in painting
Painting and?…only painting
Uhm in my final year yes but I did printmaking until my third year
Mhum and when you did printmaking you were also majoring in painting at the same time… simultaneously
And, uhm, you know it is a very important question that you tell us how arrive there because this makes you stand out you know there are lots of painters out there but you paint on steel, you are not painting on canvas. The question is, the golden question that someone looking at your work will be: how did you arrive at deciding that you are not gonna paint on canvas? Did you get bored with canvas or did you,… you know, and I don’t wanna lead you here or did you feel that steel is robust. Because steel is very robust, its… and if you think about gender in particular you know steel is very muscular in terms of the fact that it is robust and it can withstand the ravages of time even though it would corrode over time but it can withstand. How did you arrive at steel?
I wanted a surface to have a connection with my paintings my subject matter is torture devices basically most of them are made of metal, steel or bronze and to paint that subject matter the surface is of the same making basically of torture devices
I enjoy the connection between that also at the same time there is a contrast. Most, some of the devices are made out of leather or wood and I enjoy the contrast of something that is made out of wood on steel as well. I mean the whole concept is about the beauty, craftsmanship and destruction that it causes to a human body
Yah the fact that the torture device somebody has to sit and conceive them, design them and then manufacture them you know they are a thing of beauty yah like you say they cause…
Destruction and damage, I enjoy the contrast as well as connection between …I don’t know…
The connection between uhm the surface area of the painting
And the subject matter of your work which means the content of your work. So the dominant medium here in terms of your paintings would you say it is the steel itself in terms of your painting or the two complement each other – the paint and the steel surface?
I think in a way steel is very dominant but with the paint applied to it – the two work well together. in some paintings I will take away the paint and bring the steel through
Oh you will scrub it away
Yes just to give it a little bit more of a connection. They work well together.
Yes, so in other words uhm while you are producing this work you have also found other ways of revealing… of bringing up balance of the painting and the steel
So here we can arrive at a conclusion that, you can correct me if I am mistaken here, uhm that the vehicle to bring across your ideas of torture as far as the body of your work that you are going to show at St. Lorient …the devices of the painting as well as the surface on which the painting is done…
Basically yes. I don’t know I think it’s a beautiful thing to connect these two things in such a weird way. It’s a subtle way to paint torture devices that look metallic – the painting looks metallic but also the surface is metallic you can feel it, its nice.
So you are actually an artist who is more inclined to concentrate on the process of producing work than to be more preoccupied with the subject matter that. Are we correct to make that assumption that the processes of making an artwork it’s something that you pay particular attention to?
Yes, I very much enjoy the process the painting, it make any day just to apply the paint to the surface, uhm, the subject matter is very important to me and
I believe in it but I think creating a painting it’s just…my love, it’s my passion. I love the process of applying the paint, making sure it blends well, making sure it is realistic enough… so that the contrast is there making sure it looks good
So maybe that’s why when I look at the work uhm that I got from your digital portfolio, I see that instead of showing people wearing these torture devices or devices of torture being applied on
…lets just say on human bodies you’re only just concentrating on the objects themselves and it’s like as if you are zooming in on the shapes of these objects. Tell me did you buy these objects or you came up with them through imagination?
Because someone may ask a question and say ‘Oh I see there is a mask of torture there’. Do you have these masks in your studio or…?
Oh I wish I had, I really want to go to an exhibition where they have the actual torture devices. I think it would be amazing to just see them in real life but no I don’t have them maybe if I was a sculptor I would make them but I am not that good.
I am a 2D person uhm most my references are from the internet and they are references and I do change things as I continue,… small things
How did you arrive at the subject matter?
In my second year I …I was inspired by American Horror Story the series basically. It has a personal connection because I have a fear of being tortured. I do not do physical pain uhm I cant even watch the Saw Series, It’s not my personal thing. In second year I started with this whole theme where I zoomed in on wounds, which has a connection with being wounded mentally and physically…
Was this a way for you to deal with your fear of pain?
At the subconscious level
Yes I explored it, explored my fear, uhm, and then it just kinda of, I thin I got bored with the wounds and I think I just wanted to take it a step further to look at the devices
The cause of the wounds
What creates the wounds, but I will obviously move from this as well but I just love the theme, I love this theme – ‘humanity Inhumaity’, I love it I probably continue with it and just change the subject matter
When you were focusing on the wounds
What was your art making process then, were you still using this method that you are using now… paint on steel? Or you were using a different vehicle?
I was painting on wooden canvas, but then I wasn’t really too interested in changing my surface or being as daring as the painting on steel uhm I did small little paintings they were very small,15 by 15 centimeters, but I did a lot of them – basically Jan van Der Merwe mentored me in it. So I just did little paintings, my references I got them from friends who would cut themselves or something. My one friend did glass blowing and she would constantly cut herself and it was very good reference for my painting and stuff.
You took photos of the cuts
Yes. Most of the paintings that I did was from my friends and family and I think I got like three images from the internet but the rest was from…everything from my friends and family and people from campus
Yah, as we come to the closure of our interview, because we covered a lot, we covered your ideas in terms of the content of your work. We covered, uhm, your art making process
…would you say uhm Mr. Jan van Der Merwe had anything to do with you moving into steel …as your surface!
Unfortunately no because he wasn’t my lecture last year we had a panel of lecturers, Pfunzo was there and Ariana was there and I don’t remember…
Ariana van Heerden and Pfunzo Sidogi
Yes basically and there was another sculptor …what’s his name…Caaa, I cant remember. I am sorry I really can’t remember
I think I am blocking that out here…
No-no-no its fine you’re
Basically they suggested… one woman was basically a sculpture lecture and she suggested that to work on metal and basically, she wanted me to attack the metal with the hammer and everything and I was like ‘oh no I like it clean and
Straight forward and yes delicate so mostly they were a reason for it
So you were basically encouraged to work on the possibility of metal
On steel uhm tell me you know last two questions. Your exhibition at St. Lorient you are exhibiting with other artists. Have you met these artists before?
No the one artist, …its so strange… its actually one of my friends’ from one of my primary school step father I just picked that up last week. But I haven’t met Sybrand Wiechers I haven’t met him yet so but I think Andre Prinsloo won’t be attending tomorrow so I won’t be meeting him I will think of something and I will tell my friend that I would like to meet him
I think that it would be great that you meet with these guys because you are sharing an exhibition space but on the other hand I think that also it is a good thing that you did not meet them prior ,you know, that you were involved in this exhibition you did not know who you were going to exhibit with, that you carried on to make your work the way you see it fit, you were not influence to say ‘you were gonna be exhibiting with somebody who is the father of someone you went to primary school with…
you just produced your work naturally. Ehh, tell me now the overriding message for the body of work selected for the exhibition, I know that you said you are looking at devices of torture and we’ve just spoken about how you zoom in on certain characteristics of these devices to highlight their aesthetics
You know, uhm, but in a nut shell what is the overriding message of the work that you’ve selected for this exhibition, what did you want to communicate to the viewer?
Basically I am very fascinated and I explore how humanity will just use violence to just,… as a resort to hurting people, uhm, I’m fascinated by how humanity destroys itself just to get what it wants for personal gain, violence is the go to method basically and a lot of people like to ignore it if does not affect them personally they just ignore it and be like ‘it’s someone else’s problem’. I am inspired by Goya, Francisco Goya…
Francisco Goya yes
And his ‘disaster war etchings’ where he also shows the destruction war causes and how people are dismembered and mutilated and wants people to question their own morals when they are watching, when they see …this etching basically
I want people to be more aware and just know that violence… why? I mean it is the destruction of humanity. I mean war would never change. It continues, violence just continues and people ignore it they accept it as part of life
As a given
Yes, like why not, I can do this. What’s the consequences? And there is very, there is lots of consequences but it won’t affect that person there as long as they just get what they want in the process. So basically I just want people to be aware, I know that people are not going to ‘stop violence’, it will never stop, …it’s just to make the people a little bit more aware about it, I think it is something that I can do at least
It’s your contribution to make people be conscious and mindful of the effects of causing pain, inflicting pain on other people
But there is always consequences
Mhum. Well I wish you all the best with your exhibition at the St. Lorient Art Gallery, I think there is still a lot that would come out of you
Yes, I hope so
It’s a question of knowing where will you take us because we as the viewers when we look at the work of an artist. We’re on a journey with the artist. The artist decides where they can take us, it will be interesting to see by the closure of the second decade of the new century where will you be taking us? And I think there will be some interesting journeys that you will take us as people
Oh yes I have a lot of ideas I just keep making notes on my phone like every week and its like ‘I can do this, I can do this, I can focus on this. So I have a lot of ideas
Well congratulations on your up coming exhibition
MAK. And all for the best with the opening
Ilandi B. Thank you very much
Mmutle AK. And thanks for agreeing to see me for this interview
Ilandi Barkhuizen. Thank you for having me it was nice I enjoyed it
Mmutle Arthur Kgokong: Thank you
© Mmutle Arthur Kgokong 2016
© St. Lorient Fashion and Art Gallery, Lucy Anastasiadis 2016
This work was commissioned by Lucy Anastasiadis of the St. Lorient Fashion and Art Gallery, Tshwane. Pretoria
This work’s written format, dialogue, together with its audio version is a shared copyright work of the aforementioned persons herein, it cannot be reproduced in any form without consent of the copyright holders.