I am fortunate in that my apartment is on the ground floor.
Beyond my fence is the most gorgeous, stretching oak tree and a lovely grassy verge. It makes me so angry when people leave litter strewn on that green expanse. Why do people do that? It must be laziness. It is too much of an effort to pick up the wrapping of your sandwich after you’ve finished eating it. Glory be, now you have to find a bin to put it in! Ah ah, far better to leave it on the ground and be on your way totally unencumbered. The fact that a gorgeous piece of nature is thoroughly spoiled is totally beside the point!
It is difficult to catch people in the act of littering. On seeing a man throw his empty carton of milk on the ground and move off, I decided to do something about it. Picking up the empty container, I raced (alright, I limped as quickly as possible!) after the offender.
“Hold on a minute, Sir,” I called at his disappearing back. Breathlessly I blurted out: “I’m so glad I’ve managed to stop you. You left this under that tree. I knew you’d want it,” I placed the container into his hands.
“Oh…er…yes…um, thank you!” was his startled reply.
That would teach him!
Litter is not only ugly, it can last for a long time. Cans are not biodegradable and some plastics take hundreds of years to break down. Living in a littered environment can have a depressing effect on people, and it can also injure and kill animals. Perdita, my wire haired dachshund, sees an empty plastic wrapper used for chicken and she’s all over it. That discarded plastic wrapper can kill her! Never mind what it can do to the birds.
Plastic is a scourge of our modern day world!
Enter Mbogeni Buthalezi!
South African artist, Mbongeni Buthelezi recycles plastic litter, adds some heat and melts it all on to his canvas. In this way, he is creating some of the most audacious and mind blowing pieces of art. A regular exhibitor on the local and international art scene for more than twenty years, he has been hailed as one of the country’s most innovative artists.
Buthalezi grew up in Springs where his creative talent was nurtured by the artist, Lucky Moema. Buthelezi received lessons in perspective and drawing from Moema in exchange for bread and tea. He eventually made his way to Johannesburg where he began studying at Funda. Being an artist is not exactly a cheap occupation. One needs canvas and paint. Buthalezi struggled with this. Then he took a workshop with a Swiss artist who used plastic as canvas for his artwork. This gave him the idea. Buthalezi’s plan was to use plastic not only as a canvas but as ‘paint’. This cheap material can be found everywhere!
He began experimenting with a heat gun and his artistic process evolved into wondrous creations. It involves melting down strips of coloured plastic on to the canvas surface, itself also made from plastic. He understates the creation process as simple and haphazard, but the final Pollockesque pieces speak for themselves. They are enjoyable and provocative on all levels, from all distances.
“I’m interested in finding the details in the painting, but also, as you step away from the piece it really comes together,” he said.
Buthelezi may be the only artist who works in this medium. He believes the melted plastic method is a way to make art creation easily available to anyone who wants to experiment, but who may not be able to access or afford traditional art materials.
“Anyone can gather waste plastic and start painting,” he says, “and construct something out of nothing.”
I really like Buthelezi’s work, but I wish I wasn’t looking at photographs. I want to see the real ‘pain’t and canvases close up. I want to…to…’smell’ them! As John Hunt says: “These images may look like oil on canvas in these photos, but it is impossible to fully appreciate this work if you are not standing in front of it. It takes every bit of restraint not to reach out and touch these canvases. From close up, it looks like a mish-mash of melted plastic, but as you move further and further away, landscapes and emotive portraits of life in South-Africa are revealed.”
People are central to Mbogeni’s work. This comes from a natural love of his fellow human being. He believes that respect for people and particularly the world around you is central to success in all things.
An artist whose eye catching work is derived from rubbish. Every single neighbourhood needs to be inhabited by such an artist. In that way, one would have a cleaner, more art-loving South Africa!!!
***** Images courtesy of the BBC & Mbongeni Buthelezi *****