Lifestyle – Love of lines draws artist to the top

2014-08-17 15:00

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In 2006, Atang Tshikare was tagging surfaces in Manchester in the UK, keeping to the upper floors to dodge the police.

The Bloemfontein man was unemployed, stuck in the British city after a job he had been promised fell through.

Graffiti was something he knew and loved. By the time he had left South Africa in late 2005 his tag, Ink, was a common sight on Bloemfontein’s walls.

“To avoid being caught tagging in the UK, I got into the habit of doing graffiti from elevated positions – the second floor upwards, over the cops’ heads,” recalls the 34-year-old artist.

For the first time, he “saw buildings from above – lines, straight lines”.

A decade on, his love for straight lines and the lessons he learnt in the UK have helped make Tshikare one of South Africa’s fast-rising designers.

The recent fruit of his collaboration with a furniture maker – a bench – sold for R65?000 in Dubai.

Tshikare bagged the 2014 Future Found Award at the Design Indaba and, as a result, is completing a six-week residency at the 12 Decades Johannesburg Art Hotel in the city’s trendy Maboneng Precinct.

His bench, his style and his presence at the recent 100% Design SA show at Gallagher Convention Centre in Midrand, north of Joburg, scored him another big job: turning a couch into a work of art for a European furniture company.

“They saw the Dubai bench and called the photographer. When I saw the couch, I knew the kind of patterns that would work well on it. What makes my expression original is that my methods are something I have never seen anywhere else.My work is like no one else’s,” he says.

Tshikare says he never completes his strokes, a deliberate stylistic twist to “involve the imagination of someone looking at the body of work, to interpret and complete it in his head”.

To get inspiration, he simply looks at the object he’s about to work on. “It is an occurrence informed mainly by the amount of space I have, and the surface.”

That creative process manifests on couches, benches, takkies for Adidas Originals in Cape Town, bicycles, wallpaper and posters.

There may be some genetics at play, too. His father writes comic books and Tshikare has always admired his work.

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