Understanding different art media | Sasol New Signatures

Understanding different art media

Entries for Sasol New Signatures 2019 are open and entrants will be submitting their works at the designated collection points on Tuesday, 18 June 2019 and Wednesday, 19 June 2019. We are looking for submissions from all categories of the visual arts.  Take time to go through the detailed entry form in order to familiarise yourself with all the entry rules and requirements. 

The word “medium” refers to the type of art as well as the materials it is made of and sometimes multiple media are combined. To make things easier we’ve decided to break down the different types of visual art and some of the terminology associated.

Drawing and Painting

These are images created on a two dimensional surface by the human hand using either traditional or non-traditional materials. Artists can draw with a pencil or use charcoal, chalk, crayon, coloured pencil, ink or marker. Traditional paint media include acrylics, oil paints, enamel, fresco and watercolour, while non-traditional mediums such as household cleaners, bleach, organic pigments etc may also be used.  Works are created on a variety of surfaces such as the traditional canvas, paper, wood, metal, glass or cloth, and non-traditional surfaces such as found objects.  Cara-Jo Tredoux’s 2017 Merit Award work is a good example of traditional oil painting on a traditional surface, while Peter Mikael Campbell’s 2018 work is an excellent example of outstanding draughtsmanship using the very traditional medium of pencil on paper.


These are three-dimensional works that can stand on their own. Sculptures are created by using either additive techniques such as clay modelling and casting, or reductive techniques such as carving, or a combination of the two techniques.  The artist may use any materials, such as the traditional materials like wood or stone, or non-traditional materials and found objects such as recycled materials. The work by the 2018 Merit Award Winner Mulatedzi Simon Moshapo is an example of a carved wooden sculpture, while the work by the 2017 Merit Award Winner, Carol Anne Preston is an example of a non-traditional sculptural installation using recycled materials and digital technology.


These works are normally produced by creating an image on a matrix such as engravings on metal plates, carving into wooden blocks or linocuts, after which an impression is taken by inking up the matrix and transferring the final image onto paper.  Screenprinting is a technique were paints or inks are pushed through a stencil to create a printed image on paper or fabrics.

Performance Art

This category can be confusing. It may also be easier to understand performance art by stating what it is not. Performance art is not traditional theatre based performances, song, dance or poetry recitals.

Rather, Performance art is closely related to Conceptual art and is a non-traditional way of creating visual art. The artist in a way becomes the “medium” for exploring ideas and posing questions. The artist may include the use of technology or other art media in their performances. The 2015 Sasol New Signatures Winner, Nelmarie du Preez’s work is a good example of Performance art.  Performances are often documented using film, video and photography. Performance art entries can only be submitted in one of these formats. 



These are three-dimensional works that are designed to transform the perception of a space, often incorporating individual sculptural elements, or even two dimensional works. The viewer often has to walk through or around in order to engage fully with the work of art. Installation art should provide a multi-sensory experience for an audience, and could include elements of sound, touch, smell, and even taste over and above the visual aspects. The works by winners Zyma Amien (2016) and Jessica Kapp (2018) are good examples of installations.

Digital Art

This is art is either made by using digital technology, such as digital collages, or is  presented using digital technology such as computer screen or other device. There are various terms associated with this category, including computer art and multimedia art.  Multimedia art implies the use of various digital technologies. Digital art is often interactive, allowing the audience a certain amount of influence over the final image.   The 2017 Winner, Lebohang Khayne, not only uses digital technology to create her animations, but often uses digital technology to present the works as well.

Ceramic Art

This form of visual art makes objects from ceramic material like clay which has been baked until it is hard. This category includes artistic pottery, tableware, tiles, figurines and sculpture. 2017 Merit Award Winner, Francke Gretchen Crots used the medium of ceramics to create her unconventional ‘book’.


This is a tricky one. As with other media used in visual art, photography must have a primary sense of creative expression for it to have aesthetic value. Fine art photography is made with a creative vision, not for journalistic or record-keeping purposes. Again, the conceptual underpinning of the work is an important consideration. 2011 Winner, Mohau Modisakeng uses photography to explore concepts relating to culture and identity, while Goitseone Moerane uses photography to comment on how we engage with memories and photographic images. 

To download the entry form: