Brent Manikam’s drawings are expressions of emotions ripening into visual stories

A hand holds out a sprig of flowers. A firm grip, a sad expression, a floral offering… the story of heartbreak told through the prism of a drawing. Illustrated figures in conversation with melancholy.

With drawing, Manikam runs towards heartbreak —a response to relationships and past experiences. His work is characterised by soft palettes, subtle hues and gentle lines following the curvature of human bodies.

Brent Manikam is a 19-year-old Communication Design student at the Cape Town Creative Academy; focusing on illustration, photography and design. He creates small moments through illustrations —often combining these with handwritten texts.

The digital drawings that I make are a visual response to the emotions I experience — a creative outlet for inspiration around me. My work is largely inspired by the unique culture I feel Cape Town radiates.

Manikam has found a way to narrate deeply personal and evolving stories; though his characters often lack facial features they remain acute and expressive. His work is largely comprised of small, everyday moments; a man at the gym, a woman lounging in a pool, a lover bemoaning loneliness. Each character has its own space to breathe.

The illustrations I make are an extension of myself. My style is open to change and therefore forever changing. I try to capture the characters I draw to the fullest, depicting what I see to the rest of the world. Sometimes I have an interesting image in my head; I sketch it out and illustrate it the next day.

Drawing from his own personal stories, Manikam offers an intimate and credible voice. Harnessing the delicate power of lines, tonal areas, washes and non-linear marks, he articulates loose and seductive narratives causing the mind to wander and drift slowly towards pensive sadness. The rough-edged brush strokes become a means of production as well as a theme; emulating the grainy overlays that often result from film photography.

Before I started illustrating, I was obsessed with photography, specifically film photography. This has influenced my style of illustrating.

The blurred contours of repeated ideas in Manikam’s drawings allow a form of consolation. A presentation of personal stories become a way to validate our experiences and to signify our existence. This permits the discovery of new languages to express joy, pain and personal struggles.

Original photograph by Matilda WB for Amy Ayanda Studios

Original photograph by Katya Abedian

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