Photo by Jonx Pillemer
We spoke to RVCA ANP artist, gallery-owner and creative activist, Freddy Sam, about his inspirations and his recent mega mural in Woodstock, Cape town…
What’s your day job?
I run two projects, Write On Africa, that is a community mural upliftment and inspiration project. Then there’s /A Word Of Art that involves art projects, exhibitions and an international art residency. The aim there is to help build a creative community. In my spare time I love to paint under the name Freddy Sam, the name is made up of my two grandfathers’ names put together.
What kind of art do you make and enjoy?
I love to make murals, as I really enjoy working large scale and working in the streets creating artwork for everyone to see. I like to create energetic colourful and hopefully inspiring art
Other than that, what do you get up to in your free time?
I guess I don’t get too much free time as my projects are my life and I’m always working on something. But if I have free time, I’m either painting or doing something with friends, going to the beach or the forest or going on road-trips. Living in Cape Town is inspiring, there is always something to do within nature. I also like to travel and I take any opportunity and I am very lucky that I have been getting more and more invitations to travel and paint and present my projects around the world.
Photo by Jonx Pillemer
Who are some of your favourite artists?
I’m inspired mostly by my friends who are making art, Jared Ginsburg has one of the best outlooks and attitude for art and I love to talk to him about art and life, and the same goes for Faith47 who I have learnt a lot from over the years. I really love Basquit as he found a way to create energy and a kind of visual jazz and I was fortunate enough to go see his retrospective museum show in Switzerland last year with over 1000 of his works. He painted crowns, and I sometimes also put that in my work, but it’s not a homage to him, it represents childhood imagination, in your make believe world you can be a king and you can use this inspiration in your real life. You can be and make whatever you set your heart too. Also an artist that I really like and would love to meet at some point is JR, who recently won the TED prize. He is a street artist who makes massive positive and inspiring interventions in communities around the world, he is also extremely famous and world re-known. I like him because he is using his art for something bigger, he is changing the world.
Are there any particular things that inspire your work?
Childhood imagination, colour, inspiring messages, enhancing the environment. I am just trying to make work that has sense of beauty and heart. I am inspired by life, so painting is an expressive outlet for my emotions, thoughts and wishes. For me painting is an attempt to pour my energy from that moment into the artwork, and it’s more about the action than the result. Therefore I will never reach a point in my work and say, “Oh this it, this is what I have been searching for,” as I believe there is no “it” just the experience. So with this self awareness you can really tap into your imagination and inner creativity and allow for something really honest and raw to come out. My mom was an art teacher and she told all the kids, “Art is in everyone, it’s up to you to bring it out,” and I believe this is true, it’s a simple matter of connecting with you creatively.
Could you tell us a bit more about the recent mural, sponsored by RVCA, that you painted?
I painted a mural of Juma and Willard who are two guys from Zimbabwe, that work with me when we have bigger projects. They are truly inspiring people who put themselves second and their community first, especially youth as they are always volunteering on a number of youth programs. At the time of painting the wall they were going though some some hard stuff, they had to send there families back to Zimbabwe a couple months back when the xenophobia tension arose again, so they didn’t want to have their families at risk. And on on top of being away from their children and wives, they were having a hard time getting work. They want to be workshop facilitators and teach kids art, but the work was coming in small. They were on the verge of having to loose everything they had worked for over the last 2 years, as they now have a studio in the same building as me and have come such along way. You can read more about there story here: http://www.mahala.co.za/culture/hope-street/
I wanted this mural to inspire them and to remind them of the inspiration they have created for others, and to remind them, others and myself, how we can inspire change if we can inspire ourselves and each-other.
I wanted this to be, in someway, a wish for hopeful change for them, so I made sure it was the biggest painting I’d ever done. It was also the first time I used a crane. I’m also happy to share that things have turned around for Juma and Willard and it’s really exciting to see their dreams slowly coming true.
Do you have any projects lined up for 2011?
I’m going to be doing a lot of traveling, LA in April to paint at Coachella music festival. I am then curating a mural art initiative in a village in Gambia with international artists, then in July I’m painting an “anti-gun mural” in NY. In between all of this we will continue to host exhibitions in the gallery, throw some cool parties, host amassing international artists in the residency and continue to facilitate murals and workshops in under-privileged areas. Watch the blogs as there is always news.
Links for people to check out?
Thanks for the support RVCA
Photo by Paul Ward