Street art is often associated with rebellion and destruction. It’s also often overlooked by society and not considered a “real” art form. However, street art today has become more than spraying your name or “tag”. It has become a movement. South African street art veterans like Falko One and Faith47 are testament to this. Street art now plays a pivotal role in making people aware of socio-economic, political and environmental issues that affect us. It doesn’t only entertain, but educates and informs.
Below is a list of six young, up and coming South African street artists who are defying everything we think we know about street art.
1 Jack Fox
Jack Fox is a 17-year-old street artist based in Cape Town. He has already produced murals and participated in gallery projects in Paris, Berlin, Madagascar, New York, Switzerland and Cape Town. Besides street art, he’s also involved in comic book art and music production. His murals can be seen in the suburbs of Woodstock and Salt River in Cape Town.
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2 Mr. Migo
Mr. Migo’s involvement in graffiti started when he was still in high school in 2002. He studied graphic design for three years at the Ruth Prowse School of Art in Woodstock. He quit his nine-to-five job over a year and a half ago to pursue his career as a street artist and do more freelance and design work. In 2014 he started the Crate Collective with fellow street artists Skubalisto and Chris Auret. “We realised that individually we were all busy pushing our own styles and as a collective we could grow and learn from each other,” he says. Together they took part in the Flatlands Tour exhibition (with other street artists) in Kgubetswana, a township near Clarens in Free State. It was held at Clarens art gallery, Ism Skism, and besides the exhibition the collective painted walls, water tanks, tuck shops, houses and more in the township.
28-year-old NardStar is the first lady of young, up and coming female street artists in Cape Town, and arguably in South Africa. In this male dominated industry – where very few females “make it” or even get involved – Nard has chucked every single stereotype and misconception about female street artists out the door. She’s known for her signature bright, bold colour schemes, and mainly painting animals. She has painted from Cape Town to New York. Nard was also featured in Huffington Post’s 2014 article, ‘25 Women Pushing Street Art Limits Around the World,’ and in January this year she was listed by Okayafrica as one of nine female artists in South Africa to watch out for.
Sonny is a Johannesburg-based British-born street artist who started four years ago. He’s done murals in Woodstock, Braamfontein and Transkei. Some of his most notable work is his mural of David Ogilvy at the Johannesburg Ogilvy offices, his majestic golden eagle outside a building in Woodstock and his leaping leopard called “The Leap” outside a building in Braamfontein. He’s known for painting wild animals and using bright colours to do so. In an interview with Times Live, he said “I like to paint animals and see them break out of clouds with element of light.” In another interview with 10and5 in 2014, he said he first started drawing with pencil, but felt the need for colour. “I used to only do the odd pencil drawing and then got an urge for colour so I just tried to figure it all out”. His first solo exhibition is due to take place this year, with exhibitions of painted sculptures and canvas pieces held in Cape Town, London and New York.
5 Mook Lion
The creator of the mural, “Durban’s Elephants” also known as Mook Lion (real name Daniel Chapman) is a 27-year-old street artist and surfer from Durban. He comes from a family of artists and is widely known for his murals of elephants around the inner-city of Durban. He tries to ensure that his street art is relevant. In an interview with Zigzag (a surfing magazine) he said, “I think art should perform a function, it should be useful.” Mook, along with his team, won the Back to the City graffiti contest in 2013, and he came second in the World Graffiti Contest in 2010. He was also a participant in the Flatlands Tours project and Ism Skism exhibition in Clarens last year. Armed with a B.Tech in fine art, Mook’s versatility seems to be key to his success. Commercially he has worked for Blackberry and Verimark, to name a few.
6 Chris Auret
Chris Auret is a 27-year-old Cape Town-based artist and visual communication graduate. Before becoming a full-time artist, he worked as an art director in the advertising industry. On his website, he describes an emergency stomach operation as the turning point to deciding to become an artist full time. “It was during my time in hospital that I decided to leave my “real” job and “risk” pouring my creative energy into my own projects, thus starting a career as an artist.” He’s been a full-time artist since 2012, and had his first solo exhibition last year named You Have My Word. His “In Memory” mural of the late Cape Town rapper Bonzaya in Woodstock is one of his most recognised pieces.
All images supplied by artists.