The gallery is filled with things forgotten, or left behind – the former presence in the landscape, the detritus of existence. In Absa Gallery’s Remnant exhibition, the artists Asanda Kupa and Kirsten Eksteen come together to produce a cohesive show that speculates on the residual remnants of human existence.
The joint exhibition sees Kupa’s abstract and immersive painted works sitting alongside Eksteen’s photographic works and installations to develop a space where the absence of human presence is strongly felt. The exhibition invites the viewer to puzzle over the human condition, to make sense of humanity through what it leaves behind.
In light of this striking and immersive new exhibition, Creative Feel reached out to Eksteen and Kupa for a Q&A around their practices, their journeys as artists, exhibiting in a virtual format, and the process of putting together Remnant.
First off, can you tell us a bit about yourselves and your journeys as artists so far?
Asanda Kupa: I was born in Molteno and raised predominantly by my mother and extended family. Growing up with an interest in creative processes, I found myself drawn to painting. I attended school in Molteno until I was a teenager. I then began my adventure from rural landscapes to the big city life. Whilst moving from Bloemfontein to East London and finally Johannesburg, the only constant was my frequent returns to my hometown. I furthered my studies with an NDip in Fine Art from Walter Sisulu University and a BTech degree from Tshwane University of Technology. Between 2009 and 2011, I helped resurrect the Molteno Museum. Between the years of 2014 and 2021, I have had four Solo Showcases, one at Art Afrique, one at Guns and Rain, and two with Eclectca Contemporary. My group exhibitions include The Absa Art Gallery, Turbine Art Fair through M Studio Community, AKAA and Joburg Art Fair. My artwork sits in a number of important South African collections; the Absa Art Collection, the South African Art Bank, the Southern African Foundation for Contemporary Art, and Nando’s. I was the recipient of both the Ann Bryant Young Artist of the Year Award in 2010, and the Reinhold Cassirer Award in 2013. I have attended two residency programmes; the Kooshk Residency in Iran and a residency hosted by the Matress Factory Museum in the USA. I currently work from a private studio at my home in Johannesburg and Molteno.
Kirsten Eksteen: I am a Cape Town-based artist who started practicing art at a very young age. I was the first student to pursue art as a subject at Grassdale Secondary School. I attended the Peter Clark Art Centre between the years 2011 and 2014 and achieved BA Honours in Fine Art at Michaelis School of Fine Art. In 2018, I became the first artist to have two bodies of work in the Absa L’Atelier top 10. I was the recipient of the New York Ampersand residency and designed the Absa L’Atelier trophy for the 2019 winners. My journey to becoming an artist has been a learning curve, there is no definitive point where I can say that is when I became an artist. I interact with and learn from the world around me with a conscious and subconscious connection. Art for me, is tapping into your younger self and seeing the world the way you did, before you were taught how to view it.
You’ve both been the recipients of art awards that have allowed for residencies, opportunities to travel, and the production of new work over the years. How have these awards influenced your work?
Asanda Kupa: These awards have boosted my confidence in my capabilities as an artist. This has aided in the growth of my work both in technical quality and conceptual development. It also evolved my understanding of the responsibilities of an artist. It is within my control to ensure I produce, submit, and provide art of a high standard.
Kirsten Eksteen: The Ampersand residency played a pivotal role in my realisation that art is an extension of the self. I learnt how to absorb the culture and new experiences I came across every day. I came back to produce work that had been influenced by international contemporary art. I had seen more than what I could imagine art could be.
Tell us a bit about the work you’ll have on show at this exhibition. What are some of the themes being grappled with and how long have these works been in progress?
Asanda Kupa: My art has taken a new road in this body of work. I am known for my energetic figures and vibrant colour palette. I have, in the past, focused on the dynamic of collective thinking and the movement of crowds. In this exhibition I have removed all physical representation of figures and replaced these with objects and landscapes that speak to the existence of humans and the impact their presence leaves on the atmosphere and environment. Personally, this series is a reminder of my childhood in Molteno, with open land and discarded objects. The exhibition has been in the planning for more than a year – myself, Sarah McGee, and Kirsten Eksteen have maintained close communication to develop the exhibitions concept and execution.
Kirsten Eksteen: Remnant has been in the works for some time now. The art on display explores a narrative that investigates marks made and left behind. It’s the aftermath of moments. There is poetic play of perception present with mundane objects being elevated and repurposed to present a state of rebirth.
You’ll be exhibiting alongside one another in Remnant. How do you think the joint exhibition might prompt further readings of each other’s work?
Asanda Kupa: Eksteen and I come from different backgrounds and generations. Even though our works discuss the same topic, we have handled the concept in our unique styles. I think this creates an honest, complimentary exhibition. Exhibiting together will open both our artworks up to a new audience, we each bring with us a different clientele who can now view work of a contrasting medium, background, and influence.
Kirsten Eksteen: The artworks are in conversation with one another. I think it is a visual symphony. Our works emphasise the positive attributes in the others art. You have a diversity of mediums and experiences present to the viewer.
The exhibition is hosted on the Absa Art Hot Spot. How do you find this virtual mode of exhibiting influences the work itself?
Asanda Kupa: I think that online platforms will form a big part of future exhibitions. I feel like the work receives an added layer, or dimension, as the art is transformed from a very traditional medium and approach to a translation in a contemporary digital space. All of a sudden, painting and technology are one.
Kirsten Eksteen: Allowing the exhibition to be held in a virtual space speaks of adaptability of the times we are living in. Virtual exhibitions have changed the industry’s landscape and the possibilities that can be achieved. I think this platform creates a new way to engage with art.
Lastly, where can our readers find more of your work?
Asanda Kupa: My work can be found at M Studio Community and on my social media page @asandakupa.
Kirsten Eksteen: More of my art will be on display with M Studio Community at Turbine Art Fair this year.