Michelle Czarnecki (39) - Cape Town Merit Winner

Congratulations on being announced as one of the 7 winners in the Sasol New Signatures Competition 2023.

Tell us what your reaction was when you received the news


It came as a complete surprise and I’m still shocked. Honestly, I didn’t even think I would make it past the first round.

Is this the first time you have entered the competition? If so why and if not how many times and why is this competition an important one for you?

Yes, this is the first time I’ve entered the competition and the first time I’m really showing my work to anyone. Without formal education in the field, I lacked the confidence and it took me some time to find my own artistic voice.

Tell us a little about your artistic journey up until the point of entering Sasol New Signatures 2023?

I’ve been an undercover artist for as long as I can remember and any free time I had was always dedicated to some kind of creative project. I never considered art as a career because of my own preconceived ideas and a lack of traditional artistic talent, mostly viewing my work as a personal outlet. Only after I had the unfulfilling career and life, I finally allowed myself to explore other options, dappling in floral and installation design and most recently textile art. At age 39, I can confidently say that art is my language.

Who has had the biggest influence on your career as an artist to date? 

I think it would have to be my late grandmother who fearlessly created throughout her life even after losing her vision. Painting, ceramics and glasswork is what I remember most. I was too young and ignorant at the time to really appreciate or learn from her but I definitely inherited her absolute need to create. Finding her work in forgotten corners now inspires me immensely.

Tell us a little about why you created the piece you submitted? 

This piece addresses the topic of perspective, passing time, the inability to go back and the power of being really present even in the mundane, everyday moments. For me, this is where we really connect with one another, where change can happen. It’s a hopeful reminder that there is still time both personally and as a society.

Tell us about your preferred medium/s ...and why? 

My preferred medium is textiles and fibres. I’m really drawn to interesting textures, detail and layers and find endless possibilities in the way these can be manipulated. My technique is slow and rhythmic allowing for both deep focus and tapping into subconscious thought.

When people view your work – what reaction/response are you hoping to create? 

I hope to draw people in out of curiosity, to have a closer look. I hope they find it interesting and that it evokes / inspires a moment of contemplation and reflection.

Why do you think your work was chosen as a top 7?

This is a difficult question. I hope it is because my work is a little different and that they enjoyed/ could relate to the message behind it. I’ve entered this competition to challenge myself, formalise my practice and for some kind of validation so just being part of the top 7 is already more than I could have hoped for.

Which South African artists do you admire and why?

I’m slightly obsessed with Galia Gluckman. Her work with paper, inks and acrylics is mesmerising. The texture and detail and overall feel of her pieces is something to behold.

Anything else you would like to add?

This is such an incredible platform and I’m tremendously grateful for the opportunity to be part of it.