More than just an artist by Sebastian Gelderbloem

Self-portrait by Clarence R Gelderbloem

I wrote several iterations of this “blog” starting with my Father, Clarence Reginald Gelderbloem, who used his life to impact young peoples’ lives and who was passionate about art, to

Amos Langdown who trained my dad in art at Dower Training College in Port Elizabeth. In my first draft I also included Daniel Rozin who crosses borders between art, engineering and coding by constructing mirrors out of almost any material. He displays the art to reflect the shape of the object placed in front of it. Through his work he shows how people can ‘cross proverbial borders’ in terms of their own skills.

Two factors shifted the direction of my blog. First I saw a quote by Amos Langdown which reads“As I dip my brush into paint, I dip it into my soul and he who cannot appreciate this, does not have a soul.”  The second was AfrA’s Ground ZEROCultureCLUB’s First Thursday exhibition on 6 February 2020. It was then that I realized the true message of what I wanted to bring across in this blog.

I realized that in contemporary South Africa there is so much more to say and that I really wanted to ensure that we see the people behind the art work. Don’t get me wrong. I find it fascinating that today’s artists are engineers, innovators and so much more. For this piece however I hope we recognize the human factor behind the artists. Coincidentally the GroundZEROCultureCLUB’s exhibition on 6 February 2020 was called, “More than just Artists”.

GroundZEROCultureCLUB is a platform AfrA uses to showcase the work of talented young and emerging artists mostly from previously disadvantaged communities and broader Africa.

Emerging artists, particularly those from previously disadvantaged communities in Cape Town South Africa, are not easily gaining access to mainstream galleries and it is with this in mind that GroundZEROCultureCLUB was established. The majority of artists exhibiting with GroundZEROCultureCLUB come from black communities (Coloured, Xhosa, Zulu, etc.) but not all are South African. Many of these artists are self-taught and they come from various backgrounds. They are security guards who have no physical space to paint. They are IT specialists with a passion for art. They are young business owners eking out a living to sustain their passion.

Painting by Micaelyn Truat

Like entrepreneurs they have decided to follow a path that is often seen by others as high risk, not income generating, not a real job. Yet the combination of life skills and knowledge about art allows them to tell, and bring to life, many stories. As they dip their brushes they bare their souls.

We see the end product and we marvel at what they have produced but do we engage with them to understand where, particularly where emerging artists come from, and who they are. They are creators, they are bread winners, they are story tellers and expressionists unfolding their mix of acquired skills like a tapestry.  Next time you visit an Art exhibition make a point to engage with the Artist. They are truly more than just artists.

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