Linsey Levendall is a multidisciplinary creative originally from the Cape Flats of Cape Town. He currently resides in the small rural town of Saskatchewan, Canada, with his wife, kids, and two dogs. Growing up in the Cape Flats showed Levendall a world filled with nature and wildlife contrasted with corruption, human violence, and suffering. He chooses to pursue an optimistic outlook in his work instead of being entrenched in negativity.
Levendall describes his work as ‘mildly trippy’ due to the influence of dreams and subconscious thought as driving forces in his art. Each of his portraits is made up of hundreds of tiny patches of colour, creating multi-hued worlds within each character. His work is ever evolving, but he still finds himself attracted to styles such as Cubism, Surrealism and Pop Surrealism.
In Silence is typical of this otherworldly quality in Levendall’s work. Here, the portrait is seemingly conjured from the ether through his meticulous use of Prismacolor artist pencils on Coal Black paper, bestowing the lustrous sheen of the face with an almost psychedelic quality
William Kentridge is world-renowned for the charcoal-sketched stop motion animated films he produced in the 1990s. He creates unique and distinct movement in his artworks by erasing and retouching characters for specific sequences. This phantasmic visual style informs and reflects the main themes of his work: South African socio-political history, colonial oppression, conflict, transience and memory.
It is worth noting that Kentridge’s parents were prominent anti-apartheid lawyers representing significant freedom fighters such as Albert Luthuli, Desmond Tutu and Nelson Mandela, as well as Steve Biko’s family during the inquest following Biko’s untimely death in 1977. These significant events shaped Kentridge’s upbringing, studies and overall work as an artist, filmmaker and theatre arts activist.
Old gods have retired is notable for being one of Kentridge’s first experiments with the ‘coffee lift’ etching process, a newer sustainable technique where coffee liquid is painted directly onto an etching plate. The fluidity of the coffee allows for Kentridge’s figures to take on a dynamic painterly quality in this work, recalling his acclaimed animation.
Grafter is an anonymous street artist based in London since 2006. He paints murals on prominent but unloved public walls using a combination of stencils, spray paints and acrylics. Through these interventions in public space, he aims to provide an unexpected distraction to those who encounter them, offering temporary reprieve from the stresses of modern life. Grafter also produces commercial work that has been displayed in numerous galleries, and has held sold-out shows internationally. He first gained substantial recognition for his 2008 work Splash.
As with that acclaimed earlier work, Bomb It first appeared on a doorway in the streets of London before being released as a series of limited edition prints. While the stencilled boy is consistent throughout the entire print run, the explosion of colours is hand-painted with thick acrylics and is unique to each edition. The freeform burst of colour speaks to the exhilaration of creative expression. Due to health issues, he has not produced a new release since 2016, but remains a prominent feature at auction houses and galleries worldwide.
Dion Cupido was born in Mitchells Plain, South Africa. Cupido is primarily a self-taught artist, who discovered his talent for art while helping a friend with a school project in 1990. He initially began to explore his creativity through graffiti on walls in the Cape Flats. However, he quickly progressed from there to having his first exhibition of paintings in 1998. In 2003, he joined the Arts & Media Access Centre’s (AMAC) professional development program, where he won the Truworths AMAC Academy of the Visual Arts award. Cupido has held several solo exhibitions through Worldart in Cape Town.
Street art is still heavily influential in his work; however, it is mixed with planned studio-produced portraits that he calls ‘African-pop portraiture’. Cupido came to realise that his work can trigger thoughts and memories, which he now explores with his combination of abstraction and portraiture. There is a sense of palimpsest in his works, the vibrant expressionism of his faces juxtaposed with the distinctly urban edge of the overlaid graffiti script.
Paul Senyol is a Cape Town-based abstract artist. Although he received no formal artistic training, he was initially inspired to create artworks by skateboarding magazines he read as a teenager. This prompted him to explore ‘free art’ in the early 2000s, exhibiting on street corners to unexpected audiences. He frequently draws from the graphic design found in various album covers, library books, magazine layouts, and illustrations to create his distinctive aesthetic.
Inspired by artists such as Andy Warhol, Jean-Michael Basquiat, and Henri Matisse, Senyol’s work celebrates details of everyday life through colour, line, and form. He makes use of diverse mediums such as acrylics, pastels, ink, pencils, and spray paint to create an interesting mix of textures and tones for his two-dimensional surfaces; which also range in variety from canvas to found objects.
Paintings such as Manifesto aim to translate the emotional experience of urban and natural spaces into spontaneous arrangements of vividly-coloured shapes and forms.
Zanele Muholi is a Johannesburg-based artist and self-proclaimed visual activist. They are one of the most celebrated photographers working today, receiving numerous honours and awards, including an honorary professorship from the University of the Arts Bremen in Germany, and a knighthood from the French Embassy.
Muholi explores what it means to be black and queer in contemporary South Africa by documenting members of these marginalized communities. Their work not only confronts how the viewer sees representations of blackness, the female body, and queer sexuality but also showcases the political issues and violence surrounding these topics.
Isililo XX exemplifies their recent turn towards self-portraiture as a means of using self-representation to defiantly critique the viewer’s gaze. This stream of Muholi’s work began with the acclaimed 2015 exhibition ‘Somnyama Ngonyama’ (meaning ‘Hail, the Dark Lioness’), which is still touring internationally as of 2021.
Norman O’Flynn is a painter and sculptor based in Cape Town. Prolific in his output, he has held numerous solo and group exhibitions, as well as workshops, around the globe. O’Flynn draws inspiration from the media and various real-world encounters, reflected in the content of his artworks. Although he tackles dark topics such as trauma, impending violence, and the state of humanity, the way he portrays these themes in his work is satirical and easily digestible. This is aided through the bold use of colour and playful imagery, ranging from comic book superheroes to ballet dancers.
This particular work forms part of a series called Timekeepers (2016 - 2019). It incorporates O’Flynn’s distinctive use of pop iconography, religious symbols, explosions, and graffiti-styled tattoos across the body of a masked figure, with an abstracted background of colour and motifs. Here, the mask serves both as a filter to protect the wearer from what they absorb, and as a means of safeguarding their identities. He views his Timekeepers as ‘glitches’ that interrupt the flow of surveillance and indoctrination in our society.
Marc Shoul was born in Port Elizabeth, South Africa and is currently based in Johannesburg. He is a photographer focused on portraiture and documentary photographs, capturing social issues in South Africa. His work affords the viewer a raw look into various subcultures in areas around South Africa, as well as a glimpse into distinct individuals through his Portraits series. Shoul’s primary interest is to use photography as a tool for discovering the things that make people tick.
Soup Kitchen comes from Shoul’s documentation of South Africa’s 2020 national lockdown in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Focused on areas of Gauteng, Shoul was particularly interested in juxtaposing the intensity of the army and police units enforcing the lockdown’s regulations with the ways in which different sects of the general populace responded to them. This particular image captures the efforts of Baboo’s crew - a nonprofit humanitarian group specializing in food drives – towards providing hot soup to the residents of Booysens informal settlement.
Ilené Bothma was born in Port Elizabeth, South Africa. She received both her Bachelor of Arts in Fine Art & Master of Fine Arts (MFA) from Stellenbosch University. She has a second MFA from Northumbria University in the United Kingdom. Bothma works as a painter, sculptor, and photographer whose work explores her experiences with the contradictions & complexities of motherhood, domesticity, and assigned gender roles.
While Between Grief and High Delight recalls the art historical motif of the Madonna and Child, it is both a celebration & critique of the perceived merging of identities & loss of self that comes with being a mother. Bothma frankly reflects on the challenges posed by balancing her work as a practicing artist with the never-ending cycle of domestic responsibilities, while also embracing what she finds beautiful & unique about this relationship. The technical mastery of her painted depiction of the lace – simultaneously obscuring & revealing the self-portrait – questions the alleged distinction between what is considered art & crafts; the latter often derisively designated as the purview of ‘women’s work’.
Born in 1992, Ruby Swinney is a painter who currently lives and works in Cape Town. Her paintings and immersive installations transport the viewer to an ethereal realm populated by surreal faceless individuals and are seemingly locked into a perpetual state of twilight. These qualities are accentuated through her signature use of oil paint on tracing paper and silk. Swinney thins the oil to the point of liquidity, allowing her images to be easily wiped and blurred, creating a sense of haunting ambiance.
In The Dreamers, the viewer is presented with a curious ensemble of figures attempting to ascend a series of poles, which seem to stretch off indefinitely. As the title suggests, their heads are ‘in the clouds’, the implication being that they are all so blinkered by their own private fantasies and aspirations that none of them are present and aware of those around them.
By the same token, Swinney conveys the isolation and disconnect that can come with chasing dreams. The rawness of her figures’ hands suggests repeated failed attempts at reaching their goal, but – judging by the vigour of the dreamers on the left – they remain undeterred and resilient in their striving. It is the pursuit that drives them.
Penny Siopis is a South African visual artist of Greek heritage. She was born in 1953 in Vryburg, and lives in Cape Town. She is currently an Honorary Professor at the University of Cape Town’s Michaelis School of Fine Art.
Known for her paintings, installations, and films, Siopis embeds themes such as history, sexuality, race, memory, shame, trauma and violence in her work through the physical properties of her materials and a tension between figuration and abstraction. Siopis refers to this as the ‘poetics of vulnerability’.
After The Good Philosopher continues Siopis’s contrasting of the recognisable (the eyes in this case) with the free association of nonfigurative elements (the explosion of newspaper cuttings and ink and glue washes). The eyes resemble Man Ray’s famous 1932 photograph Les Larmes, which seemingly depicted a woman crying glass tears in a faux black and white film still. Siopis’s reference to that image seems to interrogate the aestheticizing of grief, and how it exists both as something intensely personal and as something experienced collectively through the news and unfolding events.
Teresa Kutala Firmino is a multimedia artist, working with paint, photography and performance. She was born in 1993 in Pomfret – a remote desert military town in North West Province – and is now based in Johannesburg. Firmino’s work aims to rewrite the prevailing prejudicial narratives of Africa’s history, merging the past and present to construct a new archive built on fresh perspectives and possibilities.
Firmino’s works always begin with the intent of telling a story. Her paintings often resemble a theatrical stage upon which archival imagery is collaged, layered, and reworked in order to ‘perform’ the story she has in mind. Firmino seeks to investigate the trauma that African people have experienced and continue to experience due to the vicious cycle of colonisation, civil wars and present-day obstacles.
Central to this work is the floating portrait of Patrice Lumumba, the first Prime Minister of what is now the Democratic Republic of the Congo following independence in 1960. While his dripping red tie references his brutal execution, Firmino’s figures to the right salute him, promising to stand firm and keep on fighting for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness in Africa.
"Art is the highest form of hope,” is a line first expressed by the German painter Gerhard Richter.
The parallels and debates of the blurring of art and advertising are endless. But what is certain is that both are a reflection of a society at any given time. It’s through this perspective that we view the role of art as important to inspiring, challenging and building creative and original thought.
The Saatchi brand is synonymous with contemporary art. Charles Saatchi is one of the most influential patrons of contemporary British art, from launching the careers of Damien Hirst and Marc Quinn, to opening the Saatchi Gallery in London, which today is one of the most visited art galleries in the world.
When we opened our doors more than a decade ago, we had the vision of building our own collection. But more importantly, as a business in the ‘creative industries’, we wanted to play a meaningful role in supporting young artists. Our growing collection represents various ideologies, social commentaries and perspectives from both South Africa and African artists. And we are always looking for pieces that are challenging, interesting, inspiring and sometimes just beautiful to look at.
Outside of the collection, the agency’s commitment to art extends to it’s partnership, sponsorship and pro-bono work with the ZEITZ Museum of Contemporary Art Africa (ZEITZ MOCAA), constructed within the historic Grain Silo’s at the V&A Waterfront which was transformed by leading international architect Thomas Heatherwick.
The Museum houses the largest collection of contemporary African art in the world, and is a significant move to put African contemporary art onto the global stage. In addition to developing their advertising, marketing and communication – which included developing their full corporate identity – we sponsored the new media exhibition room.
Fueled by immense talent & originality, The M&C SAATCHI ABEL Contemporary Art Collection houses more than 120 pieces of work hanging across our Cape Town & Johannesburg campuses. Each piece is a masterclass in creativity - conceptually powerful & often containing important hard messages, but sublime and unexpected in its execution.
Maybe one day we’ll open our own gallery too.
But before that, do spend some time looking at the art on our walls.