Alumni student Sylvester Zanoxolo Mqeku (34) is the overall winner of the StateoftheART Gallery Award 2021.
Sylvester bagged a R40 000 cash prize and a solo exhibition with the gallery in 2022. His winning works are entitled Carbon Generations and Manganese Particles.
Asked what the recognition means to him, he says: “It takes a lot of sacrifices to be an artist. This Award makes these sacrifices worthwhile and teaches me to stay strong in pursuing my journey as an artist.”
Sylvester was born in Mount Fletcher in the Eastern Cape.
In 2016, he graduated with a B Tech: Fine Art from TUT, majoring in Art Theory and Research Methodology, whilst exploring sand-cast ceramics.
Working primarily with ceramics as a medium, his talent soon got noticed and he hosted Earthen, the first-ever public workshop on sand-cast ceramics at the Central University of Technology (CUT), Bloemfontein before being invited to participate in the exclusive ceramic artist residency in Vallauris, France in 2019. He was also commissioned by the Goethe Institute Johannesburg to develop his research into his innovative practice of sand-cast ceramics as part of Goethe Project Space (GPS).
The StateoftheART Gallery Award, which was started in 2018, aims to champion contemporary art by emerging artists resident in South Africa, increasing exposure for their work, and encouraging further professional development opportunities.
This year, entrants were asked to submit work to the theme On The Brink: Visualising Climate Change and were challenged to engage with the reality of the climate crisis and its impact within a South African context.
Describing his winning works, which combinedly won the Award, Sylvester says it is symbolic of the effects of something dehydrated by extreme heat. “It is, in fact, a trigger, not in a scary way, to visualise what a dead world would look like, almost like props in an apocalypse movie,” he adds.