Published 05 May 2022 in Thomarts Gallery


In my entire art career, l have met two art dealers that stood opposite behind a fence and as l think of them, their words echo in my head.

One once said, “Never give an artist a down payment for work as they will mess up. The best work of an artist is created from an empty stomach”. 

The other one said that, “ Artists ought to be fed and they will produce their best in a “comfort zone”, a no-worries space” So he supported that artists must be given down payments.

I grew up as an artist, watching other artists along the journey while mirroring the art dealers’ contrasting statements against my and other artists’ careers.

I found both dealers words to be sometimes true and sometimes false overtime, respectively.

You see, the art industry is an ecosystem and every individual, major or minor, plays an important part in the shaping of careers. There is one aspect that separates the wheat from the chaff, and that is spelt M.A.T.U.R.I.T.Y

Most seldom very few artists hit that pinnacle spot. Hitting that spot has nothing to do with how much an artists makes financially, money comes as a bonus even though sometimes some of the mature artists earn less for their works. Living in a world of marketing, the status of the cost of an artist’s work has however determined that the more expensive the better an artist is fitted into a high category. Economic value seldom honours maturity more than the eye of one who is able to behold the maturity of an artist. This is the stage where an art collector or art lover appreciates an artwork not for its monetary value but rather the soul of the art itself and only a few are blessed to nip on such quality. Any immature artist, any commercial artist can claim very high prices and popularity regardless, as long as they have been well marketed.  Every mature artist, including any, knows when they have hit that “Art G Spot”, from the way that they conduct their creative processes, their subject value, the achievement of personification of their art, their "being" being art and the totality of a mental soundness par excellence with the executed works.

Maturity is a dimension in art whereby the artist becomes the art and the art vice versa. Artists like Picasso, Dali, Kentridge and Dumile Feni personified their works by pouring their stripped-naked souls into their executions. As a matter of speaking abstractly, their lives, wishes, dreams, emotions, desires, sexuality, understanding, religiosity, naturalness and what have you, became visual expressions and artist’s statements in their mediums.

Contrary to maturity, commercial artists do not require this maturity but a dependence and polishing of their talents to avoid stagnancy and / or redundancy. Where there is a deficiency of maturity, both the artist and their art have no natural semblance as each seeks their own. They are both two different entities. 

Mature artists are a composite of their art, inseparable.

We see Feni in his art. Kentridge exists in his. Picasso cannot be separated from the individuality of his paintings and sculptures. Neither does Dali fail to coexist with his forte.

Coming of age has been one local artist, Mandisi Mncela, an artist l fell in love with his persona that echoes in his works. When l met Mncela, l overlooked the scruffiness of his works for l was captivated and seduced by his naturalness, his scent, spirituality, religiousness, history, his being, his heart and soul that are laid bare in his works. I had not met an unknown artist of that calibre, and immediately it felt like l had met an artist l had been searching for since before l was born.

Mncela was by then working from a tiny room and was not concerned about the proportions of his canvasses. His work had a way of capturing you and lose your guard on the nitty gritty of proportions of his canvasses. I was taken aback when his works came from the local framer contrasting  the finer edges and corners of the proportionate frames. Having sorted out the titbits of roughness, the works have grown to an articulate proviso.

Here is an artist that has shown all parts of their processes without walking away from maturity.. You see, the art industry is an ecosystem. Every individual plays an important part in the shaping of careers. But it is the honest responsibility, if not accountability of the artist themselves, to take seriously and develop their career to the pinnacle of a mature persona. 

Great intellects have a way and eye to see greatness, in terms of maturity, in great artists. 

Until then when all of us are able to appreciate maturity in art, Ta-da!!

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