In 2012, beneath the shade of a tree alongside the main road, Patrick Rulore began to explore the art of paint on canvas. A few years later, while he was busy completing a National Diploma in Fine Arts at the Tshwane University of Technology in 2019, Rulore was announced as the winner of the Sasol New Signatures Art Competition.
His winning work, a striking painting titled Stage 4 moments, captured the typical behaviour of his family during load shedding, celebrating the fact that all electrical devices are set aside during these blackouts, allowing the family to interact with each other, face-to-face, to talk, laugh and play games.
Now, as entries have opened up for the 2021 Sasol New Signatures competition, and Rulore prepares for his solo exhibition (delayed by a year due to the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020), Rulore’s winning work continues to speak to themes of connectivity and the human condition in a time where load shedding is once again a daily reality, and the country continues to navigate the varying levels of loss and isolation brought on by the pandemic.
Ahead of his solo exhibition, titled Life in Darkness, we caught up with the painter to discuss his earliest memories of artmaking, how his life has changed since winning the Sasol New Signatures competition, and what advice he has for emerging artists looking to kickstart their careers.
First off, can you tell us about your history as a painter? What are some of your earliest memories of art, and have they shaped your journey as an artist at all?
I was introduced to painting by an old man called Solly Munyaku, who specialises in wildlife and landscape paintings, back in 2012 when I was in 11th grade. It was amazing seeing this new medium as I was only familiar with pencil and paper. So, each and every weekend I would go to this man to teach me how to paint and surprisingly I grasped the techniques very quickly.
I was taught under a tree right on the main road so that any customer who might be interested in buying some artworks could do so. From there I started my own workshop, and I was ready to paint on my own.
It has shaped my journey very well since I was taught patience, focus, and commitment in what you do. Most importantly, I was taught toughness and resilience since we were painting outdoor as sometimes rain and wind caused problems for us with everything scattering around.
It’s been two years since you were announced as the winner of the 2019 Sasol New Signatures competition in 2019. What’s happened since then? Can you catch us up?
Beautiful things happened! After winning this competition I suddenly became a role model around my school and art community as a whole. I have been greatly favoured by gallery owners and they are still willing to work with me to develop my career further.
Your winning artwork was Stage 4 moments. Reflecting on the artwork now, does the painting still celebrate those ‘dark moments’ you spoke of?
Yes, it does. Since load shedding is forever an ongoing crisis in this country, the stage 4 moment repeats itself now and then. Also, the very same behaviour within the family setup still continues as we always gather around and have some quality family conversations.
Tell us about your upcoming solo exhibition Life in Darkness.
In this solo exhibition, what is most important and what I want every viewer to pick up is the dominance of darkness that engulfs the whole body of work.
In this body of work, different light sources are being used like lamps, candles, fire and the natural sun light. This body of work does not only focus on my family but my community as well. ‘Life in darkness’ simply means I personally find more quality times, love, and laughter in the brief moments of darkness.
Can you let us in on the process of producing the works for this exhibition? How long have you been working on this show?
Well, I have been working since the moment after I was announced the winner, and since this body of work doesn’t only focus on my family, my community is also involved. The process is very nice. I first make an appointment with a specific family. I stand as a photographer, and I capture those original moments in those brief moments of darkness. After many photographs, I choose the best photograph that has the following qualities: originality, good composition, and colour balance. It takes 60 days to finish one painting and I paint two to three paintings at the same time.
How has winning the 2019 Sasol New Signatures competition changed your career as an artist so far?
Winning this competition has brought so much respect and self-belief. Many artists look up to me and I have suddenly become an inspiration to many.
What was your experience of creating work during the first hard lockdown of 2020? Has it shifted anything in relation to your practice?
Working during the Covid-19 pandemic has brought some delays in my progress. Because this body of work invades the privacy of other families, I had to wait for better times to take the photographs.
There was also a time when my art materials were running out and I had no choice but to wait since most of the stores were closed, including art shops. But the moment they opened I made an opportunity to collect as much as possible in case another total lockdown happens.
Any advice for artists hoping to apply to this year’s Sasol New Signatures competition?
Be yourself and do what you know instead of trying to explore new mediums or concepts. And most importantly, if not chosen among winners, there’s always another chance for next year which is backed up by experience and knowledge of what is expected of you.
Find out all of the details about the 2021 Sasol New Signatures art competition as well as submission guidelines for the competition here.