A solo exhibition 22 November – 03 January. This new body of work is inspired by my most recent experiences which have come with a spectrum of emotions – pain, fear, rage, loss, darkness and the unknown, eventually reconnecting with, love, hope, light and joy. Accounting for the process of transformation as an artist is fundamentally also about being honest and deliberate. – Tony Gum.
Photographer and artist in learning, Tony Gum wrestles with the infinite existence of womanhood, femininity, loss and solace in her latest exhibition offering, A PORTION. The 24-year-old returns to the canvas to share an intimate show, which follows the journey of self-reflection and healing with her feline confidant; which echoes past and present relationships that have shaped the young artist. Black cats in most African cultures are synonymous with ‘bad luck’ or evil spirits. In this series, the artist rebelliously anchors the cat as the mode of messaging.
The cat plays a central character in her installation on navigating life’s undulating paths. Gum describes this exhibition as a self-reflective series. A PORTION introduces a new style of artistry for her, one deeply centred in the use of distinct colour, symmetry and combines stark black and red costume design with lighting elements to capture and express the bold and lasting impact of the experiences she encountered. Red lighting and smoky hues create the dreamy and surreal place she would go too for solace and respite.
“I have found solace and serenity in simple yet strong palettes, red possibly the strongest most indicative; culturally and spiritually symbolic like these and representative of the journey – red carries life force, oxygenated blood, and fertility in women, red denotes fire, intensity and passion. White and black occupy their distinctive realms; yin/yang, light and dark are symbiotic in many ways relative to culture and reference points” she adds. In an almost cathartic manner,
A PORTION captures the existence of women’; bodies as a site for life and violence at the same time. This work reflects the spirit of fire and pursuit for accountability that has been at the forefront of women’s issues across the globe. Gum explores the explosive force of ambition and pure joy carried in her own life and the women who have influenced and shaped her drive while simultaneously exploring the crippling discomfort, fear and danger of being a woman in times of aggravated gender-based violence. This project, much like Gum’s earlier works, explores her feminist agenda in creating an equal society for all – even in the collective memory.
*** PULSE Miami Art Fair prize winner 2017 (Best artist). ***
***15 Women artists who are changing their world – and ours.***
***Tony Gum has been named by Inner Circle as one of South Africa’s top three young artists to invest in.***
*** Vogue voted Tony Gum “The Coolest Girl in Cape Town.” ***
Tony (Zipho) Gum was born in July 1995. She grew up in KwaLanga in the Western Cape and then moved to Pinelands in Cape Town. She started blogging and using social media sites like Instagram from the age of 15. Her subject matter is predominantly about art, photography, music and life in general. Tony’s biggest influences have been the African photographers, Malick Sidibe and Zanele Muholi, as well as Nigerian novelist, Chimamande Adiche Ngozi. Tony is continuously inspired by their unique approaches in their different fields of creative work. Tony is currently completing the third year of her diploma in Film and Media Studies at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology.
Tony’s career as an artist launched when she was introduced to Christopher Moller, the director of the Christopher Moller Gallery, through Ashraf Jamal, Tony’s lecturer and prominent South African art critic. The Christopher Moller Gallery has been representing Tony Gum since August 2015.
Her photographsoffer the viewer a unique African perception of Western brands and culture. Her works celebrate the best parts of the African continent and of modernity. Tony, often mistaken for a man because of her masculine name, pleasantly surprises viewers as they realise that this young woman is fully involved in the conceptualisation and completion of all of her artworks, whilst featuring herself as various tenacious female personas in all of them. She offers a unique perspective on femininity – indicated through her confident expressions, rather than the use of clothing or make up. She provides a fresh and energetic zeal to the work, which she hopes will stimulate proactive thoughts and actions. Whilst she has carefully constructed each work to convey specific meanings, she wants her pieces to inspire all kinds of unique and interesting viewpoints.
Tony’s work is also strongly driven by the distinct lack of representation of African women in popular culture. This has been a genuine concern for her and admits that it has affected her self-esteem as a young woman. However, instead of complaining about it, she grabbed a camera and started shaping her own identity. In doing so, she has started creating an African model for popular brands, such as Coca-Cola, which were previously only represented by and for limited demographics. She understands the intimate link between a product’s image and the consumers who make these commodities part of their lives. She is creating a new prism with which to view contemporary African art and culture.