To celebrate our new exhibition, Pangaea: New Art from Africa and Latin America, we chatted to some of the exhibiting artists with questions that we think our readers will enjoy! Here’s your chance to go behind the scenes and beyond the exhibition guide of our new show, Pangaea.
Antonio Malta Campos
How has growing up & living in Sao Paulo contributed to your creativity?
Growing up in Sao Paulo, a big and cosmopolitan city, I had the chance to study at good schools and establish a friendship with fellow students that were interested in art. I met young art students at high school and at the University of Sao Paulo.
In the 80s, when I started to work, there was a painting ”revival” in Brazil (as in the rest of the world). I had a studio with friends in Sao Paulo, later known as the Casa 7 studio. We painted large canvases. I left this studio in 1983 and started my career as an artist, showing my work in Sao Paulo later on.
I feel my painting has influences from various sources. I always had access to good art books and Sao Paulo has good museums. But most important is the Brazilian modernist tradition and the impact it had on me and on my friends, also artists. My work is in a constant dialogue with this tradition and with the work of fellow artists in Brazil.
How do you feel about the pre-fix of Latin American- Artist?
In Brazil we feel we are part of the Western World, because our country has its origins in the Portuguese settlers that came here 500 years ago. We also have a strong African and Native American influence in our culture, because of the African slaves that were brought here and also because of the Native Indian culture. Our ties with the rest of South America, conquered by the Spanish, are not so strong as it may seem to a stranger. When we Brazilians are called Latin Americans, we feel puzzled, because we want to be part of the Western World like the North Americans, for example. But are we, really?
Words you live by?
Creativity, optimism, love.
How has growing up & living in South Africa contributed to your creativity?
South Africa is often called the Rainbow Nation, a term which I think can describe both the multiculturalism of its people and the diversity of its environments and landscapes. I feel I don’t have to try very hard to find inspiration here, and my ideas are often sparked by discoveries I make while travelling within the country’s borders.
How do you feel about the pre-fix of African- Artist?
Although I must have European ancestry somewhere way back in my lineage, I am a born and bred South African, and therefore I’m also African. Like many of the other continents though, Africa is culturally very diverse and the term African can only mean so much when describing a common identity.
Words you live by?
So long as I keep my eyes and mind open there is a lot to be discovered in the world that surrounds me.
How has growing up and living in Ghana contributed to your creativity?
Traditionally art is quite conservative in Ghana, in how we think of the making of art, but recently there has been a new generation of artists that think much more broadly, which has contributed significantly to how you think about material, how you think about space, & how you think about form. Although recent, these ideas have shaped how I think about art and how I make my work.
Creativity-wise, I have come to learn that you can be creative in many different ways. It mustn’t really come in hard talent; you don’t have to be born with something that you can do. You can actually acquire true experiences and true sensitivities by being sensitive to certain small details. Those things will inform you in terms of how you can broaden your horizon, in terms of creating new things.
How do you feel about the prefix of African- artist?
I feel quite strongly about it because I think that once you are an artist you are an artist, you know? The idea of tagging something has always been quite problematic to me. If my work is going to be shown or if I’m going to be written about, I would like to be written about as an “artist” and not an “African artist,” because once that comes into place it creates a new conversation, because people are now going to think “okay he’s from a certain region, they have certain limitations.” No, we are having a global conversation here. In terms of the work that I’m doing, the material is something that has a lot of global points and connections.
Words you live by?
I’ve always believed that you have to do what you want to do the best way, and you have to be really convinced about it. Some people find it very hard, it takes people time, but you really have to be convinced and you have to take very bold steps in no matter what you do. Even if no one agrees with you, that’s what I live by, and that’s what has carried me all along. Do what you want to do the best way you can, give everything you have to it. Live and die for it. Do it as if it’s the only thing you have to do.