Themba Shabalala

There’s a saying that goes, “argue for your limitations and you’ll get them.” There is no place for such words in the creative world of, Themba Shabalala, however. Having trained as a print maker at Johannesburg’s Artist Proof Studios (APS), an institution dedicated to the meticulous craft of the print-making medium, one would assume that the precision of editioned work akin to the medium would define him. Instead, his is a creativity which bucks the norm, pushes against the grain and quite literally burns down expectations.

Drawing with fire, denaturing surfaces to the point where unevenness and roughness is the goal, all seem counterproductive for someone whose art education should have instilled a sensibility of creating artworks which can be replicated. Shabala’s creations instead exist somewhere in-between the unpredictable and unsafe. Whether he is relief sculpting into surfaces; denaturing them from flat sub straight to textured surface or in the use of his pyrography (mark-making with fire), there is a sense that his process is a means of grappling with trauma. Shabalala was in an accident which left his right eye blinded in 2013, but rather than allowing this limitation to dictate how he navigates the visual arts industry, Shabalala has created his own rules with which he operates. Rather than allow the challenge of creating pyrographical works with one eye stnt the growth of his creative process, Shabalala uses his unique perspective present his world in an atypical and nuanced manner.