Wesley van Eeden, a finalist in the 2016 SA Taxi Foundation Art Awards, recommends that entrants for the 2017 awards, open for submissions now, use the competition to do work they would not otherwise have an opportunity to try out.
“When you’re doing a commissioned work, you have to follow your clients’ brief. When your preparing for an exhibition, you need to take into account the tastes and preferences of the people who will attend it. But, an art competition is a rare opportunity to experiment and move out of your comfort zone.”
With his own entry for the 2016 awards, van Eeden changed his normal bold, graphic style based on solid shapes to a much more line-based, abstract approach. His design exploits Google map lines to create the shapes of people and buildings in a celebration of the way minibus taxis mobilise people’s hopes and dreams. Converted into a decal, it is currently being carried on minibus taxis driving on various routes around the country.
The SA Taxi Foundation Art Awards is a watershed competition in that it requires entrants to create an original work of art based around a specific theme and then reinterpret that work for use as a minibus taxi decal. This encourages a cross-over between fine art and graphic design, enables artists to prove they can work to a commercial brief, and bridges the different skills needed for two and three dimensional artistic expression.
“It also uses the minibus taxi as a moving canvas, enabling thousands more people to see art than is possible when it hangs in a gallery,” van Eeden says. “As a commercial artist who does the full range of graphic design, including record covers, advertising campaigns, posters, videos, and murals, I’m used to working mainly on paper, canvas, or flat surfaces like walls. So, my imagination was stimulated by the idea of producing something that would physically move and have people interact with it as part of their daily lives.
“The cash prizes in a competition are important, obviously. But, for me, the real satisfaction in being a finalist in the SA Taxi Foundation Art Award was the ability to get so many more eyes on my work – and working in a different medium.
“It’s also good to see that SA Taxi Foundation understands the power of art for the man and woman in the street. As I’ve seen so often, when someone sees a work that resonates with them, it lifts them on many different levels.”
Van Eeden has shown his work at two different venues in November 2016. A screening of the documentary he made about creating in two weeks a massive 8m x 14m mural for Durban’s Station precinct was screened at The Plant on 3 November 2016.
The mural was commissioned by The Human Elephant Foundation, RVCA, and a range of artisinal shops in the precinct.
Although Van Eeden doesn’t describe his own work as controversial, he does see it as part of an artist’s job to provoke discussion and reassessment of issues. “Everyone needs to guard against complacency.”
In his own environment, van Eeden has avoided the obvious by inventing a word, Resoborg, to describe his own company. Inspired by his artists’ residency in Finland, in a district called Raseborg, he conflated the English slang ‘reso’ for ‘resource’ and the Finnish word ‘borg’ which means ‘castle’ or ‘centre’.
“Combining those ideas to form the name Resoborg became a kind of personal manifesto for me. The word is unique. So, when you Google it, only my business comes up. That speaks to the individuality of my talent.
“Beyond that, the name is the beginning of a new language, my own language. We all have our own language. We just need to find and speak it.
“The name also symbolises the fact that all of us have the ability to create our own destiny. We are our own resource centres. We don’t have to rely on parents or governments or employers to be able to live the lives we want.”