I once read somewhere that painter and poet, Banele Khoza, buys himself flowers. I cannot remember the exact context of the article, but I do remember reading it in the context of creating a practice- a discipline, and what a beautiful discipline to cultivate.
I was reminded of this when looking at the work Bae, I want flowers. ‘Bae’ is a term of endearment, a form of address for a partner. The sentence seems simple, an uncomplicated command or request. The intention, however, in the context of Khoza’s larger body of works, is slightly more complex. Flowers are often an act of giving, not an act of asking, and one of its manifest expressions is to display or reveal our romantic intentions. To ask for something, to request a romantic gesture from a partner, reveals a sense of vulnerability evident in all of Banele Khoza’s work.
In many interviews the artist speaks openly about the idea of cultivating love; witnessing it, expressing it, giving and feeling it. Khoza does not shy away from the difficulty that love can bring either, as seen in the work Crying in public. In many of the works, Khoza includes notes from journals, his body of work becoming a visual aid to the thoughts behind the paintings and their titles. In utilising contemporary modes of language and commenting through this our exposure to social media, Khoza exposes how much of ourselves we reveal. He uses his work as a means of storytelling, about himself and about our social spheres, and he always seems to do this in a way that feels like he is releasing delicate personal information.
His slightly representational but abstract figures are always observing the viewer. They are never fully formed- the eyes are hinted at, the head not a full shape and these forms are created with the fluidity that acrylic paint, water and ink provides. This fluidity is intentional. Khoza is trying to reshape, misshape, and recreate complex expressions of masculinity. His colour palette predominantly tends towards blue and pink, and red, colours habitually and incorrectly synonymous with specific genders. Masculine love and intimacy is a strong exploration in Khoza’s work. The delicacy with which Khoza dilutes his paint and marks his canvasses often tend towards bodies that are not fully formed, and, in this way, he comments on ideas of identity and that it is not always a fully formed thing either. He makes us aware that identity is adaptable, playful, fluid and shifting all the time and that our own identities as well the identities of others are to be treated kindly, openly and with love.
“My practice is about love. I’m continually speaking about love even when I think I’m not. It’s all about love.” (Banele Khoza.)