Scaffolding and canvassing

Street and studio artist, Faith47, is not just another brick in the wall

Faith 47 is an artist, a mother and an example to men and women everywhere. Her work combines the best of tradition and expression to spread positive messages to society in public and private spaces. We chatted to this remarkable maverick about canvas, concrete and change.

Old school, new rules and art as primer

It's no news that the home is traditionally the woman's domain. Whether barefoot and pregnant or professional and renovating at weekends, women have ruled the roost from the inside out for time immemorial. But beyond domestic walls, the world, historically, was men's territory, conquered and colonised and liberated in cycles by those without a womb.

Graffiti, in grand defiance of opposites, is the antagonist to all strictures, blending art, protest, celebration, vandalism and voyeurism. It's contentious. It's like gender politics. Those for freedom of expression support public art despite the irritation and inconvenience of public tagging (on road signs, and private property). Those in favour of social order find unsanctioned graffiti a violation of their right to not read the writing on the wall, rude or real. And those with spray cans and their own ethics have put their hand to largely unsolicited artistry and branding for some time. Most of them are men. 

In steps a woman who writes on the walls, and turns gender politics, art and history on its head. Her work, deep and diplomatic, confrontational, beautiful and beyond bipolar societal norms, highlights how a global village, a digital age and access to information and cross pollination increasingly combine to change the architecture of extremes.

Faith47: the road so far

Faith47 began her career as a graphic designer at 19, found she preferred the world as canvas, and is living the life of a nomadic street and studio artist of similar ilk and energy to Banksy (www.banksy.co.uk) and Jef Aérosol. Well known for mural work in and around Cape Town CBD, townships, and shanty towns, she has also collaborated on projects around the world and was most recently a Design Indaba darling. But what does she do, exactly? Tag stuff?

No, she applies original works of art to all sorts of surfaces. Her canvas, graffiti and illustration portfolio abounds with portraits, suggestions, decorative statements and subversive ones.

Describing someone's art is hopeful at best; at worst misleading; it's an art form in itself. Take one creative medium (words) and classify it with another (visual) - what does it equal? Impression.  In the absence of simply seeing the work, it helps to ask the one closest to the strokes and spray cans if they can describe it. Often they can't.  Often that's intentional.

Faith47, painter of ethereal metaphor, solid symbolism, walls and doors and canvasses, seems to relate.  "People like to have neat little boxes for everything, but I prefer to keep things malleable.  Ideas, methods of creating - the concepts change as I do, and I try only to stay true to that which I feel at the time. So, no, there is no classification possible [for my art] as things are in constant flux."

On top of art being relative (and relevant), it isn't easy to make a living out of something that can't easily be quantified by economics. While practicality saw her practising graphic design at the outset, Faith47 has persisted, insistent on finding a way to live off her love of art.

"I had my son, Keya, in my last year of school, so I needed to start working straight away and couldn't afford to take four years out to study art. Initially I was doing graphic design and illustration as it was the easiest way to support us and still be creative. But each year I pushed to concentrate on my own artwork more and do less commercial work, and now I've almost finally gotten to the stage where I do only the art that I want to do. But it's been a constant drive. The projects and exhibitions started coming through in 2003, and each year becomes fuller. In the last year I've been to Belgium, Germany, Sao Paulo, Spain, Holland, China, Switzerland and Canada on projects and exhibitions."

Writing's on the wall – mural art in (global) context

Faith47's thoughts on the changes in the perception, consumption and production of 'mural art' are as globally informed as her portfolio is. "I think the evolution of graffiti and street art being what it is today has turned what used to be called 'mural art' onto its head and brought new levels of skills and ideas to the table. Today there are many projects happening around the world where cities are commissioning internationally acclaimed artists to bring some colour and culture into their public spaces. I've done quite a few mural projects, mostly with people who have a graffiti background. For instance, the project in China included the Bogside artists - those are the artists who painted a lot of the political murals in Ireland during the protest times there."

Faith47's exposure to and collaboration with artists and others in her career has influenced her vision and aesthetic positively. "When you are living in a place like South Africa you are very isolated from the world and you tend to work within small circles of artists or people; it's easy to become disheartened.  Travelling allows one to meet other artists who are perhaps thinking in a similar vein, dealing with similar issues, or working in similar styles even though they may be practicing on the other side of the earth.  That, for me, is really inspiring.  Ideally one should stay in a place that gives you inspiration. This is one of the reasons I love going to Johannesburg, I come home with temptingly violent ideas and thoughts for new works."



Faith47, 24/7

In addition to her first solo exhibition in Hamburg in September 2010, Faith47's multi-media work is available online, a public outlet she calls " the most global, uncensored and unrestricted media out there". "We need to utilize it as much as possible," she emphasises about the World Wide Web."The physical borders of space and nationality can be ignored with the use of the internet and that in itself is completely revolutionary."  Her website is poignant and thorough, her blog posts thought provoking, and both offer the reader a window into a world without walls.

See more at www.faith47.com

Jess Henson

Almost as contentious as graffiti, but a lot louder, Faith47 loves the vuvuzela.  "It's like a flock of vuvuzela birds descended into the city and were alive everywhere.  Screeching, cheering, mourning; they are great, little, noisy critters."  Find out more about the vuvuzela

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