I had no point of

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - FRONT PAGE -

public col­lec­tions around the globe.

Most re­cently, Buthelezi was in Saudi Ara­bia to re­ceive an award from the King Ab­dul­lah Uni­ver­sity of Sci­ence and Tech­nol­ogy as a pioneer in his medium.

Buthelezi is now in Joburg to show off his lat­est solo col­lec­tion at the Mel­rose Gallery, Su­gar Tax, which takes on the ubiq­ui­tous brand­ing of soft drinks as a theme.

But his lat­est col­lec­tion isn’t a de­bate about the su­gar tax. “I’m not try­ing to cor­rect any­thing re­gard­ing tax or no tax. My idea was to dis­play these beau­ti­ful ma­te­ri­als that have be­come very much part of us as hu­man be­ings daily.

“We see these brands be­ing ad­ver­tised ev­ery­where. These brands are part of us. I’ve used the la­bels and bar­codes of pop­u­lar soft drinks to build up im­ages and that’s ba­si­cally it.”

Buthelezi de­scribed his adop­tion of an art tech­nique that had rarely been ex­plored be­fore as long and re­ward­ing.

“I started this in 1991, when I was still a stu­dent. The whole idea was for me to try and move away from the tra­di­tional ways of mak­ing art, be­cause I couldn’t af­ford the ma­te­ri­als.

“It was pure strug­gle that pushed me to­wards this. I was poor. I thought to my­self, what can I do with these colours and the ma­te­rial I have at hand?

“I couldn’t come up with the an­swer im­me­di­ately. It took me a long time. It’s a process that was very daunt­ing and painful and still is.”

Be­cause Buthelezi is the one of a few artists in the world who use plas­tic waste to cre­ate art­work, learn­ing about the tech­nique was a chal­lenge, he said.

“I had no point of ref­er­ence. I couldn’t go to a li­brary and ac­cess ma­te­rial that would al­low me to move for­ward in this art tech­nique.

“So I had to learn from each and ev­ery plas­tic that I put on can­vas. It’s been in­ter­est­ing but chal­leng­ing at the same time.”

Once the plas­tic is heated, he ma­nip­u­lates the hot molten ma­te­rial to cre­ate large ab­stract pieces and por­traits.

To com­plete his por­traits, he at­taches hot pieces of plas­tic waste to each other and the can­vas, cre­at­ing the il­lu­sion of brush strokes or carv­ings.

Some­times he uses as many as 5 000 pieces of plas­tic to com­plete a sin­gle work.

“I con­sider colour. I con­sider the text some­times that I get from these ma­te­ri­als, be­cause in a sense it brings a very in­ter­est­ing de­sign el­e­ment into my work. I play around with it to come up with what­ever mes­sage I want to bring for­ward.”

Ini­tially, his tech­nique was ques­tioned by many. “I kept on get­ting asked by my col­leagues whether I thought there was any fu­ture in the tech­nique I was us­ing.

“I never doubted my­self, though. I in­sisted on push­ing it and mak­ing sure what­ever chal­lenges I get faced with, I will ma­noeu­vre my way around.

“My fam­ily also kept ask­ing me how I planned on mak­ing a liv­ing with an art tech­nique that was non-ex­is­tent. To­day I look back and I’m re­ally glad I stuck to my guns.”

Not only is Buthelezi’s art novel, but it also helps pro­tect the en­vi­ron­ment. “At first, I didn’t even think that by us­ing waste plas­tic I would be con­tribut­ing in help­ing the en­vi­ron­ment.

“Peo­ple kept telling me that you are do­ing so much of good for the en­vi­ron­ment by putting good use to waste plas­tic. I’m thrilled.”

These days he no longer needs to sift through rub­bish.

“Com­pa­nies like Coca-Cola set aside plas­tic for me to use. I go there once a week and fill an en­tire van with plas­tic. I’m very grate­ful to these com­pa­nies for al­low­ing me to put the plas­tic to good use.”

Buthelezi hopes his art­work will serve as in­spi­ra­tion.

“I want peo­ple to re­spect this form. In a way, my art­work is like a mes­sage that I’m try­ing to con­vey to my fel­low hu­man be­ings,to say I’m try­ing to give hope to those that are hope­less.

Buthelezi is ex­hibit­ing 19 pieces of his lat­est art­work at the gallery in Mel­rose Arch, open to the public un­til May 21.


Artist Mbon­geni Buthelezi, whose pre­ferred medium is waste plas­tic with one of his works. His ex­hi­bi­tion ti­tled Su­gar Tax is at the Mel­rose Gallery in Joburg.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from South Africa

© PressReader. All rights reserved.