Artistic mediums and current trends | Sasol New Signatures

Artistic mediums and current trends

Thursday, September 1, 2016

The annual Sasol New Signatures Art Competition has become an integral part of the visual arts community. But a lot has changed over the 27 years that it has been running, particularly in terms of the mediums, which were as varied as they were complex.

National Chairman of Sasol New Signatures, Pieter Binsbergen, thinks that in 2016 there was a good balance between ‘traditional’ and ‘contemporary’ mediums. Instead of mediums, he like to think of modes, where any resource, from a toothpick to plastic, was used by the artist and given meaning. Whatever the mode, all of the entrants had something in common: they combined their materials with innovative ideas to transform the ordinary into something extraordinary.

“A lot of the entrants used arbitrary and mundane materials, such as coins and waste materials, and transformed them into artworks with a strong message and concept,” explained, artist, art educator and judge at this year’s Sasol New Signatures Art Competition, Emma Willemse. What impressed Binsbergen the most about this year’s entrants? “The ‘makeshift-ness’ and artfulness from the entrants really gave flight to their concepts.”

One of the biggest trends globally is that art is becoming a pointer for creative enterprises. “There was a study done among CEOs of corporates and the outcome was that a Masters in Fine Art (MFA) is being viewed as the new MBA and that creativity has become one of the most important attributes in the working world.” This has filtered down to a local level as “taking existing norms and principles and thinking out of the box is a huge part of this competition,” explained Willemse.

Although there were various mediums – everything from sculpture to digital art and more − the judges were asked to concentrate on three different criteria when judging, namely: concept, technique and presentation. Technique and presentation often went hand in hand to strengthen the concept, which is why such different mediums could be judged fairly.

Having been a judge in previous years, a point of difference for Binsbergen was the revival of ceramics and clay work and how they were elevated much further than simple functionality. Plus the resourcefulness of the entrants – both financially with inexpensive materials and strategically in terms of thinking on their feet.

As an artist herself, the thing that stuck out for Willemse was the way the winner captured emotion so well; the presentation and concept managed to completely overwhelm the viewer. “That is the strength of the visual language – it goes beyond words and descriptions and the winning piece is of the strongest works that I’ve seen in a long time,” concluded Willemse.

The winners of 27th Sasol New Signatures will be announced on 7th September at the Pretoria Art Museum.