Interview: Neo Mahlangu
Luca Curci talks with Neo Mahlangu during Venice International Art Fair 2020 at Palazzo Albrizzi-Capello.
Neo Mahlangu is a Johannesburg-based artist who works with diverse mediums: from charcoal to digital illustrations. Since debuting her artworks at an August House Open Studio ( Johannesburg, 2017) and having a sold out showing, Mahlangu completed a course in Advertising at UMUZI and has shown regularly at galleries domestically, managing to make her Fair debut at the first Latitudes Art Fair Johannesburg, in 2019, In 2017, Mahlangu was a finalist for the Cassirer Welz Award, and was later listed by Between 10and5 as one of the Top 30 creatives under 30 to watch in 2018. Design Indaba listed her as an Emerging Creative and she was also listed as one of the top 10 artists for the Emerging Artist program run by the University of Johannesburg and the MTN foundation during the same year. She made history by being the youngest person to design two R2 coins for South Africa (to commemorate 25 years of democracy) and Mr Price Home gave her reigns to design a blanket for their COLAB Collection which later sold out. She is the Arts & Culture Trust (ACT) ImpACT Awards finalist for Young Professionals in 2020, and has made it on the coveted 2020 Mail & Guardian Top 200 Young South Africans list. Mahlangu has continued to make her international Fair debut by exhibiting at the Venice International Art Fair, in Italy and is currently preparing for her first TEDx Talk which will be presented live in 2021.
Luca Curci – What is art for you?
Neo Mahlangu – Art is a way for me to unpack my identity as a black woman living in South Africa. It is also an outlet to interrogate the world that I live in.
LC – What’s your background? What is the experience that has influenced your work the most?
NM – I have a post Graduate degree in design. Advertising, design and Illustration has played a major role in how I unpack my work. Most of what I have done is self taught.
LC – Where do you find your inspiration?
NM – I find my inspiration from the experiences of being a woman in South Africa.
LC – How is being an artist nowadays?
NM – It is an exciting time to be an artist right now. The world is opening up again. Lockdown was a great incubation period of self reflection and improvement of craft, so I am pretty excited about what is coming next.
LC – Did your style change over the years? In which way?
NM – Yes. I have made it a mission to explore as many styles as possible, these have come in the form of multiple illustrations, some realistic some cartoon. I have done paintings and charcoal drawings and I think the constant exploration has modified my style. I have started adding more colour compared to previous work in the past which were starkly black and white.
LC – What do you think about the concept of this festival? In which way did it inspire you?
NM – I think the inclusion of multiple international artists in one collective space like that is such a refreshing take of exhibiting. It helped me realise how possible it is to do it again.
LC – We were attracted by your last artistic production, has the artwork presented been created for the festival or as a part of preexisting works?
NM – ALL but one of the pieces were created for the Fair.
LC – What do you think about ITSLIQUID Platform?
NM – It’s a good platform that encourages emerging artists careers which is very necessary right now.
LC – Would you suggest a collaboration with us? What do you think about our services?
NM – Yes. The team was extremely patient with me which is something I valued a lot, especially as an artist independently shipping work during extreme lockdown conditions.