Contemporary artists in South Africa have adopted new media technologies to produce varied and creative bodies of work. Their art gives insight into the pressing issues of South African society, as they engage with the country’s current reality in globally relevant ways.

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A charcoal and oil on canvas work by leading South African contemporary artist William Kentridge was sold on auction for R3,5 million in London in 2012.

South Africa’s contemporary artists include painters, sculptors, photographers, digital and multi-media artists. They are constantly finding new ways to express themselves and the themes that interest them.

South African contemporary art draws on the legacy of both European and African traditions. In the process, local artists create something new, informed by their different social, political and cultural positions.

There are many well-established contemporary artists in South Africa, including the likes of William Kentridge, Diane Victor, Willem Boshoff, Lien Botha, Zwelethu Mthethwa, Penny Siopis, Roger Ballen, Sandile Zulu, Willie Bester and David Koloane.

There are also a number of exiting young artists who use new and varied media in their art. Kudzanai Chiurai is a painter interested in the aesthetics of propaganda. Nandipha Mntambo uses cowhide as a canvas for exploring the creative process and challenging societal and cultural norms. Mary Sibande uses the human form as a vehicle to explore the construction of identity in a post-colonial South African context.

Nicholas Hlobo is making international waves with his large sculptural works that contrast femininity and masculinity, using dissimilar materials such as rubber inner tubes, ribbon, organza, lace and found objects. Jeremy Wafer uses photography and fibreglass sculpture to create works that deal with ideas of borders and boundaries.

The complex installations of Sue Williamson use found and reworked materials to explore memory and history. Sandile Zulu has made paintings out of the unpredictable marks left by fire. Ordinary refuse has been imaginatively turned into suggestive collages by Moshekwa Langa. Kendell Geers has used a variety of media, from improvised actions in situ to commercial art tools, to examine the process of art-making itself.

Other South African artists put a conceptual spin on traditional art forms: Jane Alexander pushes sculpture to new limits with her disturbing figures; Jo Ractliffe works with photography to investigate personal and familial memory, death, decay and love.

Other young artists are constantly emerging on South Africa’s dynamic modern art scene, exploring themes of local and global relevance in new and meaningful ways.

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