Blank Projects located in the artsy Woodstock District in Cape Town, South Africa, started as an artist-run project space in 2005 and has since evolved into a gallery space, but retaining its initial vision of providing a space for nurturing and generating work that is innovative and cutting edge. It is also a platform for showcasing fresh and experimental work. Initiated by artists Liza Grobler and Jonathan Garnham, Blank Projects is filling a much-needed gap by providing a space for established contemporary artists to experiment and innovate, free from the usual restrictions imposed by bigger and more commercially driven galleries, while at the same time creating opportunities for exhibitions by emerging artists. Ijeoma Loren Uche- Okeke speaks to Jonathan Garnham about digital arts practice within the Blank Projects stable.
As a space how would you describe blank projects, do you perceive yourselves as a space with no creative restrictions where ideas are generated and implemented freely with no boundaries. A space where artists can create experimental and cutting edge work?
I’d like to think that blank projects does not impose any creative restrictions on the artists we work with, but rather encourages them to experiment and develop their practices, and the gallery does have a good reputation for showing cutting-edge work.
This issue of Omenka magazine spotlights digital arts in its various permutations. Digital arts is loosely defined as a contemporary art form that involves technology and is perceived as being a boundary breaking style that has the ability to combine and transform elements such as painting, filmmaking, photography, digital design, video, installation art, sculpture, animation and sound. Keeping this in mind, you probably have artists working in the digital medium. How has their work evolved over the years and how much of this evolution is due to local, continental and international trends and influences?
Many of our artists work with digital mediums, Donna Kukama and James Webb especially come to mind with their sound and video works. In today’s world of global connectedness I’m not sure that the evolution of their work, from a technological point of view, has been influenced by local or continental trends. Their content perhaps, but not necessarily the medium itself.
What are your thoughts on the growth of digital arts in South Africa and how is the work that Blank Projects does positioned within this context?
With increasing access to digital technology it is easier for artists to make digital work, which would account for the growth of the medium in South Africa [and the continent]. We do not focus our programme on a specific medium at blank projects, we’re open to the use of any medium. The focus is
always on the quality of the artwork and the programme in general.
Have you participated in any continental or international projects/collaborations/ exhibitions involving the use of digital media and what kinds of outcomes have these produced?
Many of our artists are participating in international or continental projects and exhibitions, and we as a gallery take part in international art fairs. If an artist is working with digital medium, video for example, it is an easy and cost-effective way to transport work and exhibit in international exhibitions.
What is your view regarding the visibility of digital art forms within the African continent, photography for instance has evolved quite a bit though there is always room for growth, and what opportunities do you see for meaningful growth and development?
Digital art forms, especially photography, are becoming stronger and gaining more attention on the continent, and artists seem more aware of what their fellow practitioners are doing, which allows for healthy dialogue and growth, resulting in a stronger market for the medium and ensuring further growth and development.
Full interview published in Omenka magazine volume 2 issue 1.