StateoftheART has announced the winner of this year’s StateoftheART Gallery Award. The 2021 Award recipient is Zanoxolo Sylvester Mqeku, who is currently studying towards his Masters in Design and Studio Art degree at the Central University of Technology in Bloemfontein.
Working primarily with ceramics as a medium, Mqeku was born in Mount Fletcher, a small town on the edges of the Eastern Cape. In April 2013 he moved to the city of Bloemfontein where he joined the Oliewenhuis Art Museum as an intern, becoming a full-time employee in 2014. Mqeku enrolled at the Tshwane University of Technology in Pretoria in 2016 and graduated with a B-Tech in Fine Art, majoring in sand-cast ceramics. In 2018, he was invited to participate in the exclusive ceramic artist residency in Vallauris, France. Later that year he was commissioned by the Goethe Institut Johannesburg to develop his research into his innovative practice of sand-cast ceramics as part of Goethe Project Space (GPS), and went on to host Earthen, the first ever public workshop on sand-cast ceramics at the Central University of Technology, Bloemfontein.
Mqeku is due to graduate with his Masters in Design and Studio Art, having researched the use of sand-casting as a ceramic studio technique and demonstrating how it can be adapted to public creative practice.
About the StateoftheART Gallery Award
The Award aims to champion contemporary art by emerging artists resident in South Africa, increasing exposure for their work, and encouraging further professional development opportunities. Entrants were asked to submit work to the theme ‘On The Brink: Visualising Climate Change’ and were challenged to engage with the reality of climate crisis and its impact within a South African context.
The ten shortlisted finalists were selected from hundreds of entries by artists from across South Africa. Two works by each of the finalists went on show earlier this month for the final round of judging in a group exhibition. This year’s panel of esteemed judges are Ashraf Jamal, writer and art critic; Strijdom van der Merwe, Africa’s foremost land artist; Nadja Daehnke, Director of the Irma Stern Museum; Lucinda Jolly, arts lecturer, writer and academic; and Jennifer Reynolds, owner of StateoftheART.
The Award Finalists exhibition reflects a broad range of media. As well as sand-cast ceramics by Mqeku, the show features the work of: Janet Ormond, Theophelus Rikhotsu, Rozelle Greyling, Tumelo Mphela, Kristen McClarty, Given Muronga , Mfundo Sizwe Ziphozonke Mngomezulu, Liesl Roos, and Dominic de Villiers.
The judges highly commended Janet Ormond and Theophelus Rikhotso whose artworks highlight the talent, variety of mediums, and ideas in contemporary art practice.
As the winner of the 2021 Award, Mqeku receives a cash prize of R40 000 to support the development of new work, and a solo exhibition with StateoftheART Gallery in 2022.
Gallery owner Jennifer Reynolds says, ‘In its third year, the Gallery Award continues to raise the profile of contemporary artists working at the vanguard of their discipline. As the only artist in Africa with a ceramic studio dedicated to the use of sand casting, Mqeku fully embodies the spirit of the Award.’
The Award Finalists exhibition concludes Saturday 30 October 2021.