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PLAYING WITH FIRE

June 7, 2017

An Interview By Mike Abel For Wanted Magazine.

In the second of his series of interview sessions with leading African artists, Mike Abel of M&C Saatchi Abel chats to Diane Victor and enjoys an impromptu smoke art lesson.

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wantedonline.co.za

Describe the color yellow to somebody who is blind. I would ask them to go and sit in the early morning sun and let it shine into there face; recognise that warmth and sensation. That’s yellow.

What’s the most interesting thing about you that we wouldn’t learn from your CV alone? I have an interest in volcanoes and when I get the chance, I travel to and go hiking or climbing in areas that are volcanically active.

What are you known for? Drawing, printmaking maybe, making satirical images that respond to the physiological and social conditions we live in.

Teach me something I don’t know in the next five minutes. I’ll teach you how to draw with a candle. Light your candle, prop your paper horizontally above your head at an angle, move the candle quickly over the surface not allowing the flame to actually touch the paper. Allow the smoke to leave a soot deposit on the paper. Build the image up slowly, adding and removing tone as you need it. Work fast and fluid. Don’t stop to think with the candles flame on the drawing!

What inspires you? Really strong artwork by other artists. Their passion, skill and ideas make me hungry to work. That and some kind of challenge or risk in a work of my own that I am starting.

 

What’s the last thing you watched on TV and why did you choose to watch it? Probably a news channel like Sky news or CNN – watched while running at the gym – as it is the only time I see TV.  Combining getting news updates and a training run.

What was the last gift you gave someone? It was a data projector to someone who is passionate about movies so they could watch them with better resolution and clarity then on their beat up TV monitor

What do you think about when you’re alone in your car? If not listening to an audio book, I think about the work that I am busy with at the time generally trying to solve its problems

You’re a new addition to the paint box. What color would you be and why? Charcoal Black. With that color you can do anything.

How do you handle criticism? I try and think it through and look for what I can use constructively, try place its reasoning and logic, then discard what I don’t want.

What is the first thing you do when you wake up in the morning? Drink water.  Go let the dogs out.

Tell me about a time you did the right thing and no one saw you do it. I burned up the drawing that I have been working on for over a week. I didn’t
want to but it didn’t work, so it needed destroying. Don’t keep trying to save things that can’t work

What do you worry about, and why? Drugs, Drs and their respective side effects (that they don’t tell you about).

How do you define success and how do you measure up to your own definition? For me success is personal freedom: The freedom and independence to do and live as I want, to draw and make images that I believe in, and to managing to make a living from doing this.

Give me an example of when you failed at something. How did you react and how did you overcome failure? I failed at summiting on the relatively easy climb on Kilimanjaro.  It was before the transplant and I got bad altitude sickness on the last stage and decided to give up. I was really angry with myself because everyone else did it. In retrospect it probably was the right decision but it still irks me and it is a place I need to go back to.

Would you rather be liked or respected? Respected. Liked is for Facebook

What is the last book you read? Flashback hotel by Ivan Vladislavich.

If someone wrote a biography about you, what do you think the title should be? Burning the candle at both ends.

What makes you angry? People’s indifference and apathy; the tendency to whinge and do nothing to try change a situation.

What was the biggest risk you ever took and what did you learn from it? I had a kidney transplant. The risk was I wasn’t going to survive with the ones I had. I learnt to live for now, don’t take for granted that tomorrow will be there to do what you really wanted to do today.

What’s your most significant project? Tell me about it, what did you get/reach?How? Difficult to make that call. Maybe “ No country for old women”. It was a large free standing glass altarpiece that I built up drawing with smoke on glass set into steel frames.  It was a response to the ongoing violence against and the killing of woman in our society. It set out to create a memorial to and raise awareness about this never ending cycle of damage. It was shown in various spaces but was original designed for and made to be shown in a church environment.

If you were a brand, what would your motto be?Better the devil you know.

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