Having been a judge for 2020’s Emerging Artist Development Programme, was again a privilege and tremendously rewarding. Participating digitally, as this year’s entrants were expected to, was also in itself a very interesting experience – although I will always prefer the physical engagement process. The global and local arts community have witnessed an exponential increase in the engagement with online platforms and the utilisation of digital technologies to survive and navigate the sudden and severe socio-economic restrictions of national lockdowns. Participants of this year’s Emerging Artist Development Programme have excelled; not only in creating increasingly fascinating work of high standard, but have also stepped up to the challenge of this new way of participating in the Programme. Engaging with, and responding to, the legacies and oeuvre of Willem Boshoff’s concepts and methodologies can be daunting, although also enormously rewarding, and our top ten finalists have taken to this task with noticeable enthusiasm and expert artistic skill. The MTN Foundation and UJ Art Gallery partnership values the energy and originality that our country’s emerging young artists will contribute to the future of our industry.
The Emerging Artists Development Programme has been an important component of the collaboration between the UJ Art Gallery and the MTN SA Foundation affording young artists the opportunity to showcase their talents and interpretations of a given theme with that of established South African artists. The resulting entries since the programme was launched, was heartening – confirming the depth of quality work that emerged from the cadres of often unknown artists.
Following on the successful Shifting Conversations exhibition (2017) that engaged with colonial and post-colonial narratives; an exhibition of portraits entitled Continuing Conversations (2018) addressing various forms of identity through portraiture and Conversing the Land (2019) on depictions of landscape in all its manifestations, artists were confronted in 2020 with Willem Boshoff’s Blind Alphabet – Letter B: Barbery to Bigeminate, a complex body of work that seemed to bring out the best of abstract and conceptual thinking from the entrants.
The panel of judges was astounded by the sophisticated and innovative responses to Boshoff’s philosophies and physical renderings while simultaneously staying true to an own artistic identity and language.
It’s interesting to see what young artists are producing and how they respond to given themes; the impressive number of entries, the quality of craftsmanship and commitment evident in the artworks is personally reassuring. In my view merit and observation of the theme determined the chosen entries and I believe will provide fresh and informed viewing or engagement.
Mia van Schalkwyk
Being part of the judging panel for this year’s Emerging Artists’ Development Programme was an enriching experience. The exceptional entries received made the judges’ decision a difficult one and each of the top ten artists selected truly deserve their spot and the prizes received. The entries received spoke to Willem Boshoff’s work specifically and it was wonderful to see the high level of sculptural entries specifically. To adapt this programme to suit a digital space has created many opportunities and has improved the programme too. I am proud to have been part of this year’s project, and thankful for colleagues that were able to easily adapt and navigate unknown territories. I look forward to seeing how future collaborations will be influenced by the new knowledge and skills gained this year.
Forming part of the 2020 Willem Boshoff Alphabet Letter B competition judging panel was an honor and privilege. The caliber of artworks submitted by the participants was of great quality, giving clear consideration towards the brief. I found the deliberation process to selecting the top 10 and overall winners to be unbiased, fair and valid. Emphasis was placed on the quality of the work and not in accordance to particular identities. The use of the point system assisted in the selection of the winners and allowed us to deliberate in an informed manner. As a mentee and artist, I found the process educational and eye opening. It allowed me to understand how competitions select winners form a stream of immense talent.
Ndaya Kim Ilunga
I found the process very insightful and am honored to have been a part of the panel of judges. I enjoyed being able to briefly discuss our chosen contestants and felt like everyone had a say and could justify their Top 10. When looking at the contestants, I paid close attention to those who followed the brief, for sculptures and an artist statement that connected their work to Willem Boshoffs’ Blind Alphabet Letter B exhibition. I was looking for quality work and a bold take on the visually impaired experience. I did not have any prejudices or judge any contestants based on any bias. I believe the winners deserved their position and I was impressed with the submissions overall. I am happy with Selwyn Steyn being the winner.
My experience with the judging process and being a part of the judging panel was very interesting and exciting. Sitting and discussing art in the group and choosing artists’ fairly. Reading the names, we didn’t know who was who and we looked strictly at the art. What the art communicated, who their intended audience are. In my experience the winners were chosen without any malice or prejudice based on appearance. Everything was completely fair and I felt like everyone’s art had an opportunity to truly be examined and sympathized with their concepts, challenges and themes.