Artists We Love: Banele Khoza

WORDS Amelia Brown

Since his first solo exhibition (Temporary Feelings) in 2016, visual artist Banele Khoza has been blazing a stellar trail. In 2018 he opened his studio and gallery BKhz in Braamfontein, a space to both create and display his art but also a platform for emerging artists and curators. This year he’s embarked on a travelling solo show that explores the complex nature of love. 

How did you develop your style?

It’s been developing over the years; all my practice since I was a child has led me to where I am. I feel creativity is a muscle that you constantly have to exercise. It gets better as you use it on a daily basis.

You work mostly with acrylic. Talk us through your medium of choice. Do you see it changing?

When it comes to painting, no. I love all the qualities about acrylic. It is fast drying, so in a few minutes the mark is dry or it can also be tampered with to dry over a period of two days. Also having water as a collaborator in this process is special to me.

Behind closed doors, 2019.

You were born in Swaziland, but came to South Africa at 14 years old for school. How much has the South African context influenced your work? 

I am free to create here, especially with topics around love and its challenges. Although they’re not visible enough, queer narratives are supported and encouraged. I do not live in fear – we are lucky to have a sense of freedom of expression.

You won the Absa L’Atelier Gerard Sekoto Award for your series Note Making. Tell us more about the accolade and what it meant to you, as well as the three-month residency at the Cité Internationale des Arts in Paris.

It was a dream come true to have the opportunity to wake up in Paris for a couple of months. Living in Le Marais was a treat; the history and future of the city can be best witnessed there. The experience gave me the courage to pursue my dreams after the residency ended, and I will be forever grateful for the accolade.

Your current body of work is entitled Seeking Love. How did you choose the title?

It came to me after a long (around seven hours!) conversation with [artist] Sandile Mhlongo. I knew what I was looking for and what the body of work would embody. Right before he left my brain, Seeking Love (God) came into the conscious part of the brain.

I thought I had met my soulmate, 2019.

Seeking Love has been in Joburg and Durban and is travelling to PE, Bloem, Stellenbosch and Pretoria. Tell us more about the itinerary and what goes in to putting something like this together? 

I’m lucky to be working with Alliance Française. They handle all the administration associated with a travelling exhibition. I take on marketing the show further by sharing details on my platforms.

If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be? 

I’m content with where I live right now. I am curious, however, to experience Japan, Cambodia and the Seychelles. I am drawn to water, so I’ll probably end up by the ocean with my imaginary dog.

What, or who, inspires you?

Conversations with people inspire me. Friends, Uber drivers, couples, the whispers of the city – I am always listening.

Are there any artists that have influenced you?

Moshekwa Langa, Penny Siopis and Zanele Muholi.

Describe where you create your pieces. 

My studio is quite spacious. I’m very lucky in that regard. It’s located on Juta Street and overlooks Braamfontein. There is great light that floods the space, and it makes me happy to work from there.

Image credit: Bernard Brand.

What time of day do you prefer to work? 

All day. There’s not enough time for me in the day.

If you could collaborate with a South African artist who would it be?

Marlene Dumas.

What are you reading at the moment? 

Women Who Love Too Much by Robin Norwood. I relate.

If you weren’t an artist, what would you be? 

A chef or a psychologist.

Do you have a career highlight?

Opening BKhz in 2018. I am so grateful for all that I have learnt and been exposed to since its opening.

Where was the last place you travelled and what did you buy? 

Bloemfontein. I bought Andrew Tshabangu’s book Footprints.

Tell us about your home. 

I live in Queenswood, Joburg. My home is the one place in this world that feels like my corner. It is perfect in all elements. Interestingly, my office is my favourite spot. It used to be a sunroom, so now I work in generous amounts of light and sun in winter.

What is the last piece of art you purchased? 

A piece called Nothing is possible by Matthew Hazell. It’s an incredible impasto painting made over a four-year period.

What are you working on at the moment?

I’m touring with Seeking Love, which will be in Port Elizabeth at the Bird Street Gallery (20 Bird Street, Port Elizabeth Central) from 1 – 21 August 2019.

On currently at the BKhz Studio and Gallery is an exhibition I curated entitled The Zeitgeist, which looks at fashion – which forms soft sculptures in the gallery – as commentary on the current state of affairs.

I’m co-curating a new section with Nicole Siegenthaler called Gallery Lab for FNB Art Joburg (formally known as FNB Joburg Art Fair), on from 13 – 15 September 2019. Lastly, I’m in the process of creating a new body of work for the Berlin Art Fair, on from 12 – 15 September 2019.

Follow Banele (@banelekhoza) and BKhz Studio and Gallery (@bkhz) on Instagram to keep up to date.