The 2018 Standard Bank Young Artist Award for Visual Art has been awarded to South African artist Igshaan Adams. Now in its 36th year, the Standard Bank Young Artist (SBYA) awards are South Africa’s leading arts award conferred by the National Arts Festival and Standard Bank.
Igshaan Adams was born in 1982 in Cape Town, South Africa. Combining aspects of performance, weaving, sculpture and installation that draw upon his upbringing, his cross-disciplinary practice is an ongoing investigation into hybrid identity, particularly in relation to race and sexuality. Raised by Christian grandparents in a community racially classified as ‘coloured’ under apartheid legislature, he is an observant but liberal Muslim who occupies a precarious place in his religious community because of his homosexuality. As such, the quiet activism of Adams’s work speaks to his experiences of racial, religious and sexual liminality, while breaking with the strong representational convention found in recent South African art. He uses the material and formal iconographies of Islam and ‘coloured’ culture to develop a more equivocal, phenomenological approach towards these concerns and offer a novel, affective view of cultural hybridity. Adams states:
“I am concerned with my two environments: the internal and the external; and the constant exchange of information between the two. As I project myself onto the world, so too do I internalize the world’s projections onto me. Initially I grappled with deconstructing my hybrid identity, focusing on my multicultural, religious and sexual identities in relation to the domestic and political environments in which they were formed, hoping to understanding the conflict I was experiencing. My focus has since shifted to wanting to know more about the self from a multidimensional, universal and mystical position. Doing and undoing, pushing and pulling, employing restraint while at the same time being open to discovering new elements of beauty through playful experimentation, all of this allows me as the artist to insert my personal inquiry into the work. My aim has always been to question and challenge boundaries in a sensitive way.”
To date, Adams has held seven solo exhibitions at blank projects (Cape Town), A Tale of a Tub (Rotterdam), Rongwrong Gallery (Amsterdam), Stevenson Gallery (Cape Town) and AVA Gallery (Cape Town). He has also participated in numerous group shows, both locally and internationally, including Les jour qui vient (2017) curated by Marie Ann Yemsi at the Galerie des Galeries in Paris, Sacre du Printemps (2015) curated by AA Bronson at the Grazer Kunstverein in Graz and Barriers (2015) at the Wanås Foundation in Knislinge, Sweden. Adams has been selected for a number of artist residencies, among them the Sommerakademie im Zentrum Paul Klee in Bern, Switzerland and the IAAB / Pro Helvetia residency, Basel, Switzerland.
Adams lives and works in Cape Town, South Africa. His next solo exhibition will be held in January 2018 at blank.
The category winners are (from left to right): Igshaan Adams (Visual Arts), Chuma Sopotela (Performance Art), Jemma Kahn (Theatre), Thandi Ntuli (Jazz), Guy Buttery (Music) and Musa Hlatshwayo (Dance)
The National Arts Festival established the Young Artist Awards in 1981 to acknowledge emerging young South African artists who demonstrate an outstanding artistic talent.
These prestigious awards are presented annually to deserving artists in different disciplines – dance, jazz, music, theatre, visual art, performance art and film – affording them national exposure and acclaim.
The winners receive a cash incentive, and are given support to develop and premiere new works that will be featured on the Main Programme of the 2018 National Arts Festival in Grahamstown next year.
Other honours go to Chuma Sopotela (Performance Art), Guy Buttery (Music), Jemma Kahn (Theatre), Musa Hlatshwayo (Dance) and Thandi Ntuli (Jazz). •