Lerato Motaung is an artist whose work is created in his processes of evolution and experimentation. His desire to form intimate understandings of materials and methods of practice have led him to frame himself within the porous sphere of mixed media. While studying for his National Diploma in Fine Art from Tshwane University of Technology (TUT), Lerato moved away from painting and drawing out of frustration and discovered the formative possibilities of sculpture. In the time since then, he has challenged himself to work with these materials again — while still holding on to aesthetic and textural sensibilities groomed through sculptural work. This oscillation over time and between specific artistic periods in his journey so far has allowed him to interrogate the behaviour of these mediums. In this way he is able to articulate the strengths of the mediums he utilises in conjunction with his thematic explorations.
Describing his work as surreal, Lerato configures unsettling portraits and figures through distortion and his distinct use of faces with multiple eyes. Each eye indicates its own expression, pulling the viewer across a variation of emotional states in one face, leading to feelings of discomfort. The mouths on each face portray particular expressions too — pulling the viewer deeper into this emotional psychological whirlwind. And yet, each work has elements that soften this dizzying emotive spin. Sometimes its bright colours, as seen in Life is what happens or the scattering of daisies as seen in Day’s Eye. Lerato was born in Katlehong. He, however, spent most of his childhood in Rustenburg and was raised by his paternal grandmother and now currently lives and works in Johannesburg. All of these experiences at different moments in his life — including his time at TUT — lead him to explore his own memories. He thinks through these memories within the larger thematic frames of masculinity and patriarchy, trying to unpack how these terms have been defined and portrayed to him in different moments and places.
Lerato who was recently announced as the 2020 Emergence Art Prize winner, is also creating work that will be shown as part of two other group shows; an exhibition focusing on Black Lives Matter with Black Block and a show exploring “the aesthetic of contemporary dystopia through Afro surrealism” with Re-curators Curatorial Collective. Check out Lerato’s Instagram to keep up with his work and to find out more details on his upcoming shows.
Singing the Old Song
Portrait of Lerato Motaung