Planning a Successful Solo Exhibition | Sasol New Signatures

Planning a Successful Solo Exhibition

Q & A with past Sasol New Signatures winners, Nelmarie du Preez, Zyma Amien & Ingrid Bolton

As past winners of the prestigious Sasol New Signatures competition, Nelmarie du Preez, Zyma Amien and Ingrid Bolton have all been through the experience leading up to their first solo exhibition. Lebohang Kgange as the 2017 recipient is starting the same journey. We caught up with our trio of previous winners and posed some questions, giving an insight into the process leading up to a debut solo exhibition.

A year sounds like a long time but how do you plan your time carefully to meet the all-important deadline? As creative beings, schedules and time frames might not be second nature. Do you have any useful tools, tips or strategies to keep on track?

Nelmarie du Preez:
My advice is to keep in constant communication with a confidant or teacher who knows you and your practice.  Feedback throughout the process will help you eliminate unnecessary clutter in your mind and in the work.

Ingrid Bolton:
Scheduling is a very important part of the process for me. If I do not have deadlines to work towards it could all fall apart so I imagine the final outcomes but leave plenty of space for play.

Zyma Amien:
A year is a long time, but the planning and research takes a considerable length of time.
The work is one part of it. Once the artwork is made remember it needs to be photographed, packaged and then transported to Pretoria.

How do you alleviate a creative block?

I try to be constantly engaged with larger society through the use of various platforms. I often resort to watching movies, reading books or especially listening to podcasts about strange topics while in my car or in the studio.  Most of all I keep up with the news, which more often than not has bizarre moments. Great potential to inspire my creative juices.  

I try to keep the end goal in mind, I have learnt over time to embrace a creative block. The good thing about a ‘down’ period is that you know an ‘up’ period will follow. You are forced to review your work when you are unsure or in a negative space. I always find from reflection, there is a positive outcome.

Once I hit a creative block, I work more.  I also look through art books and chat to other artists. Sometimes, visiting exhibitions helps me to unblock. Picasso said, “ inspiration exists, but it's got to find you working”.

Every artist has their own process - share some of you own methods - for example do you work consistently / intensely / sporadically?

I consistently engage with the world at large, intensely experiment in my medium of choice at that time and sporadically make final decisions.

I try to go to the studio every day, it is away from my home life and when I am in a work space I am able to focus on work. I find that the routine of working stimulates the making process. Through working, ideas are formed, they do not materialise out of thin air.

I work from a concept, then a mind map, research and then start making. After I have made, I select and think of what goes on the floor and the wall. Once in the gallery, I edit the work within the space. Things change as I go along.

How important is it to take breaks - to refuel yourself and to gain a bit of perspective? Or is the work all-consuming?

Re-fueling is pertinent for any creative person, but personally I tend to neglect this, especially if there is a big deadline looming. I usually only refuel after the deadline is over and I have crashed, which is something I want to change in my way of working.

Breaks are always good. Even better is to get another artist to give you feedback, someone you respect and that you work well with. When you discuss your art with a sounding board, you inevitably find new ideas follow.

It is very important to take breaks, but sometimes that is a luxury. I have had a particularly busy year, but the exhibition took preference. I was very lucky to be part of a group of artists who met on a monthly basis. These colleagues helped refuel me by making suggestions and inspired me with their work.
Are you able to lead a relatively “normal” life whilst working on such a project? Or does the concept of a residency, where you are away from everything, have a strong appeal?

It depends how close I am to a deadline. In the month preceding a big deadline I might end up becoming a recluse in the studio.  Residencies are excellent spaces to  solidify concepts as this is the foundation for any artwork but working with your art in relationship to ‘normal’ life is more often than not more valuable. Life offers particular moments and rhythms that will assist you in intensifying, culling and finalizing your work before the dreaded deadline.

I had a normal life whilst working on the project and thoroughly enjoyed the process. If you plan well and not leave things to the last minute, it's not difficult. The concept of a residency sounds great. Maybe the three of us can do a residency together sometime and have a group show!

For me a variation is useful. You can’t only work when doing a residency, it must fit in with daily life. I recently completed a residency in Paris and there I received a very different kind of stimulation. I find that when I am outside of my comfort zone I am pushed to think with a fresh approach and this leads to new creative ideas.