Azael Langa is a final year student in Fine and Applied arts at the Tshwane University of Technology. He grew up in an artistic family and was mostly inspired by his dad to pursue arts. At first he did not adhere to being an artist until he won his first art competition in grade 6. After his primary years he went to an art High school and it was there where he realized that, that was exactly what he wanted to be – an artist.

Artists’ statement:

To me art is not a day job or career, but it is a lifestyle. My art is about socio-political activism and going about the subject I show the exploitation of the average joe; the corruption of the elite and bringing to the surface that which is of sight like they say “out of sight out of mind” it is also about taking the intangible events, circumstances and becoming a mediator to the public.

The Stepping_Stone exhibition showcases the following work of Azael Langa:

 Transition (2012)

Azael describes this artwork as displaying the process of changing from one situation state or form to another. With an immense play on time and the interpersonal change in spheres the artist articulates that:

“This artwork can be described as a depiction of transition, not only in the physical sphere but in various spheres or forms; whether it’s physiological or an emotional transition of the soul. Various elements in the painting depict the transition factors of the painting. There are kids on the fore ground, one of which is holding a grass rug which is a domestic term symbolising home. These symbols represent a pilgrimage or a landscape carrying these items which are a symbol for a home, which also depicts a pilgrimage or seeking for somewhere to belong.  As they are portrayed, the painting deals with three elements of their existence (a) their past, knowing that for them to be there, they have to be from somewhere, (b) their present, is where they find themselves in the surreal world which is chaotic (which I have archived by juxtaposing the real and sense of the hyper reality), yet with the desire to move to a better place (3) their future, which is the expectation they are carrying as they move with hope in their heart. The painting is also aimed at moving the viewer into two different spheres at the same time; on the one hand it pulls towards juxtaposed landscapes, on the other hand the kid is engaging with you as the viewer.  The engagement is through eye contact, trying to bring the viewer into a different sphere, a sphere of the inner soul, the lost landscape of one’s past, the dreams, hopes and fears.”

Revelations (2012)

Revelations is done with Acrylic paint on board and as the artist states “comments on the title of the artwork”.  Revelations depicts chains intertwined as per say on a canvas, to depict the revelations and things that become revealed but often so easily get intertwined in life, making chains of truth become a shackle of lies. Langa explains: “I could argue, bring contrast and an interesting dialogue between the title itself and the contents on the painting, the word revelations is the word pertaining to the opening up, revealing and even disclosing. Chains usually depict the closing of access or even bending something up, prohibition of territory, yet five chains locked together can be a symbol of truth. This title is a close blow on how band up and often elusive truth can be. There is so much information out there in this day and age, yet we are living in a place where truth can be bound up, manipulated and or even hidden away. “Truth is truth, but a lie can be made into truth””.

 Choice? (2011)

A train on its track depicted with oil on canvas, tackles the influences and the magnitude of which power has over people. The artists articulates that it does not matter where we are we are indeed influenced whether it be good or bad. This painting  further depicts a young man on top of the train- showing a dangerous activity which is popular in the townships called train surfing.  Langa explains: the youth risks their lives, surfing on these metro trains, which results in many unfortunate casualties and claims a great number of lives”. Langa explains that the title choice? allows him to question the way people think, and what  the underplaying or dominant factors that populate public consciousness are.  He elaborates by saying: “One can always look at popular media, peer pressure and even the social influence and impact society has on individuals. Looking at the young man who is standing on top of a train risking his life the viewer must be able to question; was the choice really taken by him or were there various, different avenues of influence on his life that brought him to this position. The painting also shows a small child in a pram on a railway- because humans are social beings, therefore every person represented in this painting is as vulnerable as a child being pushed in the pram that will be growing up the same way – in society.”

Behind the contents (2012)

This oil painting of a figure in a park, surrounded by newspapers, represents the uncovering of the context behind the text. It deals with the various faces of reality.  Langa explains that “the title, Behind the contents, means looking beyond the cover, behind the index, beyond the contents page and into the real story. It goes beyond the ideologies society can build up, or the ideologies even the nation can build around them, and speaks of the truth behind the cover.”

The present (2012)

Painted with Oil on board, The Present depicts a translucent figure pushing a pram, with elements of fire and smoke shadowing the background. It plays on the double entendré of the word “present”. Langa explains: “This title has two meanings the “present”, a gift and the present tense. The child becomes the centre of the artwork. The women being behind the child having no identity, making the individual unimportant but can be seen as a metaphor for woman in general.

Fire is one of the elements in the painting, it is a very complex element that can be used to purify, warm up, and it also has a distractive property. If power was an important element in building our society it can be that its use or misuse leads to the presentation or destruction of our society.”

I was here (2012)

This creation mediated with pencil & pastel on board speaks of the omnipresence that we so long to have or always try to perceive. The artists describes that “I was here …” are words that are used by people to “mark their presence, to leave behind a mark”. The fly represents “the use of flight” and is symbolic to represent “what is there in society yet pushed aside in order to maintain a certain image”. The artist means that there are certain things in society that are overlooked to maintain the ideal presence and ideological stance.

Stepping_Stone exhibition on display in the Pretoria Art Museum till 28 October 2012

By Maryka Potgieter