Finweek English Edition

An alternativ­e form of art

The imagery exhibited by Mammes is heavily laden with historical references, as well as references to unusual imagery.

- 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.patterndis­cord.com.

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 ??  ?? 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
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
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 ??  ?? 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
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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