My name is Tess Wypkema and I am a sophomore Sculpture major. A year ago I established contact on Facebook with Yiull Damaso after hearing about him from a friend. I asked him to look at my work and he responded and gave me a positive review. I decided that since I was going back to South Africa for Summer 2013, that I would send him a message and ask if he would let me intern for him and he thought that it would be a fantastic idea.
Yiull Damaso is an independent artist in South Africa. He primarily paints in oil and mixed rust medium. He owns a gallery space which also functions as his studio. His work is often political and he is well known in South Africa for painting portraits of Nelson Mandela. His controversial painting the “Night Watch” made headlines worldwide. He has recently started curating and hosting shows for up and coming artists at his Gallery. Since Yiull runs his gallery single handedly, he was my direct supervisor and I spent most of my time with him – both of us working together.
Putting together Loyiso Mkezi’s solo show and opening night was the biggest part of this internship and what I am most proud of. Loyiso Mkezi is an up and coming artist from Cape Town and this show was his opportunity to be introduced to the Joburg art market. I was involved with compiling a mailing list, coming up with marketing strategies to attract the press and public, rearranging and preparing the Gallery, talking to sponsors and curating the show. Yiull involved me in all the meetings, discussions and decision making. Overall the show was a success and Loyiso managed to sell a good number of paintings. I was also involved in the everyday managing of the Gallery, assisting customers and updating the system. A lot of time was spent curating Yiull’s work at different locations. I also designed posters for the “Release Nelson Mandela Campaign” and also went on a tour of Soweto (the area where Mandela grew up.)
The biggest take away from this experience was the connections I made and all the people that I was able to meet through Yiull. I had so many fascinating and helpful conversations with Yiull and all the wonderful people who were involved in his Studio. I learned more about how the art scene in South Africa functions, useful tips about pricing my work, more about South African politics and what works when setting up a Solo Show and opening night. Yiull Damaso is quite a character and this was a delightful experience that I will never forget. My only regret is that I didn’t have more time spend there and that I didn’t have time to try out his rust technique.
I think that this clarified that it can be tough being an Artist in South Africa, but that it is possible to do well. It confirmed that the South African art world is small and I think if I have a choice I’d rather work overseas where it seems like there are more possibilities for an artist.