An al­ter­na­tive form of art

The im­agery ex­hib­ited by Mammes is heav­ily laden with his­tor­i­cal ref­er­ences, as well as ref­er­ences to un­usual im­agery.

Finweek English Edition - - ENTREPRENEUR - BY JO­HAN MY­BURG

As­mall cof­fee bar, sit­u­ated on Jan Smuts Av­enue, is stop­ping passers- by i n their tracks. With edit­ing and pro­duc­tion works at the back, a strik i ng mu­ral i n t he cof­fee bar is drawing im­mense in­ter­est: a blackand- white paint­ing with def i nite tat­too qual­i­ties that’s vis­i­ble through the large win­dow.

Vini Reyes, the Chilean barista, i s clearly i n his el­e­ment with t his work. “I a m mad about t he old­school feel­ing of t he paint­ing,” he says and i mme­di­ately refers to t he po­lit­i­cal con­no­ta­tion in the work, its di­rect­ness and above all, the tal­ent demon­strated by Peter Mammes, the artist who cre­ated it.

It ’s prob­a­bly t he s a me f eel i ng that Ifthakaar Shaik, a share­holder i n Ngamla’s, t he cafe­te­ria next to t he Lin­der au­di­to­rium on Wits’s ed­u­ca­tion cam­pus in Park­town, felt.

At t he re c om­men­da­tion of a friend, and af­ter he saw Mammes’s work, he got t he ar t i s t to pa i nt mu­rals in this eatery.

“His work has an au­then­tic­ity that I have not seen be­fore,” says Shaik. “It lies some­where be­tween sim­plic­ity and com­plex­ity. Ev­ery time you look at it, you see some­thing new.”

I n t he ev e n i ng t he ca f e t e r i a , whic h is a ga t her i ng pl ac e f or s t udents du r i ng t he day, of fe r s l i quid ref resh­ments for au­di­ences who at­tend orches­tral per­for­mances or smaller mu­si­cal con­certs at t he Lin­der.

Mammes, 2 9, di d not st u d y ar t af ter school, but fol l owed his de­sire to paint af­ter com­plet­ing his school­ing at t he Na­tional School of Arts ( NSA) i n Jo­han­nes­burg i n 2004.

He did not com­plete his f irst year at uni­ver­sity be­cause “I did not have enough time to paint be­cause of the time taken up by my stud­ies”.

Paint­ing i s what he does most days, at home in Jo­han­nes­burg and when he trav­els. In fact, travel means he gets an op­por­tu­nit y to go and

paint some­where else, such as In­dia and Rus­sia.

At the end of last year, Mammes e x hi­b­ite d s ome of his works i n

Tri­umph Pros­thet­ics for the Peo­ple in the Nirox Project Space in Arts on Main in Jo­han­nes­burg. It was an ex­hi­bi­tion of works where he freely refers to his re­cent vis­its to th­ese two coun­tries.

The im­agery ex­hib­ited by Mammes i s heav il y la den wit h his­tor ic a l ref­er­ences, as well as ref­er­ences to un­usua l i mager y : pic tu r e s f r om med­i­cal l i braries i n In­dia, li v i ng fos­sils such as coela­canths, crea­tures such as horse­shoe crabs.

And to­gether with th­ese bizarre fi g u r e s , t he r e ar e a l way s lu s h pat­terns in the back­ground. Pat­terns that he bor­rows from In­dian f ili­gree and tra­di­tional Rus­sian de­signs.

He says that pat­terns are im­por­tant to him be­cause t hey en­cap­su­late a whole cul­ture. “I do not be­lieve there is some­thing like an orig­i­nal pat­tern. Ev­ery per­son who paints a pat­tern builds on an ex­ist­ing pat­tern. It grows all the time.”

Mammes looks back on this lat­est ex­hi­bi­tion, which was quite suc­cess­ful, f illed with peace. He f inds it strange, he says, that peo­ple eas­ily fail to see a paint­ing with all its small in­tri­ca­cies just to be highly en­thralled by t he same paint­ing when it is en­larged as a mu­ral.

“My paint­ings i n In­dian i nk on ar­chi­tec­tural pa­per and t he mu­rals in black PVA are one and the same thing. Yet peo­ple f ind the larger scale more ex­cit­ing. Per­son­ally, I be­lieve mu­rals sac­rif ice con­trol. This is why I al­ways make a com­plete paint­ing on pa­per of each mu­ral. The rea l McCoy.”

There i s un­doubt­edly ap­peal i n Mammes’s mu­rals. He sim­ply has the power to cap­ti­vate the eye.

But do not con­fuse his work with graf­fiti.

“I do not do graf­fiti. I do not like graff it i . It ’s i mpor­tant for me to de­liver the work peo­ple have asked for,” he says.

Yet he was i mpressed with t he street art he saw on his vis­its to In­dia. They of­ten have re­li­gious t hemes, some­times quite con­tem­po­rary, but a l ways beau­tif ul, as he found i n Jod­pur, Jaipur, Bikaner and Varanasi.

In I ndia , he got peo­ple wit h de­for­mi­ties to pose for him. “In­dia in all prob­a­bil­ity does not have a higher per­cent­age of peo­ple with de­for­mi­ties than we do, but they are not hid­den away.

“I’m cap­ti­vated by the con­tra­dic­tions in our think­ing. Our hypocrisy forces us to have room for only our own views, and we are blind to the par­a­digms around us. It is those very par­a­digms that I’m look­ing for: they are the source of the macabre art that I paint.”

When you are com­mis­sioned to do work – and this Mammes re­alises fully – the client can ei­ther ac­cept or re­ject your pro­pos­als. Maybe this is why the Priest mu­ral is such a lovely ex­pe­ri­ence.

“Man, his work is ul­ti­mately ‘so in your face’,” says Reyes.

And this is pre­cisely the vibe that Mammes wished to con­vey.

Says Reyes: “I can­not begin to tell you what fan­tas­tic pub­lic­ity this man’s work is for our shop. And in turn, we be­lieve we are pro­mot­ing an al­ter­na­tive form of art.”

Vi si t Mammes’s we bs i t e a t www.pat­terndis­

Two draw­ings that Peter Mammes made for Ngamla’s, the cafe­te­ria next to the Lin­der Au­di­to­rium on Wits Uni­ver­sity’s ed­u­ca­tion cam­pus in Park­town, Jo­han­nes­burg

In­di­vis­i­ble Con­di­tion of Be­ing (2014), a drawing of 385 x 470mm done with a brush and ink on ar­chi­tec­tural pa­per that Mammes en­larged for the wall mu­ral in Priest Es­pres­so­bar in Park­wood, Jo­han­nes­burg

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