Cameron Platter is a contemporary artist living and working in Durban, South Africa. We discovered Cameron's work on Stefan Simchowitz Instagram account and were captivated! AND a bit later we were incredibly lucky to see his work live at the Ernst Hilger gallery, Vienna.
Cameron Platter’s works form part of the permanent collection of MoMA N.Y., The FRAC des Pays de la Loire, France, Zietz MOCAA Collection, The Margulies Collection, and the Iziko South African National Gallery,
His work has been featured in Artforum, The Los Angeles Times, The Guardian, The Wall Street Journal, Vice, NKA Journal of Contemporary African Art, L’Officiel, The BBC, Utflukt, Art South Africa, L’Officiel, The Bangkok Post, and Protocollum.
Platter lives and works in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa.
Cameron Platter’s multi-disciplinary work reflects contemporary culture.
Using pop iconography of the ‘now’ he revels in both the worst and the most innovative inventions of our epoch.
Hidden under a surface of graphic exuberance childlike playfulness is an investigation into the underbelly of our age: of capitalism, conspiracy, moral degradation, existentialism, humanness, and suffering.
I like to go against the flow.
Everyone in South Africa tends to migrate to Johannesburg or Cape Town. I ended up in Durban.
My wife is from here, there’s more space to hide out, not be bothered by anyone, and it has fantastic craftspeople and industry.
And, as you mentioned, the weather is great.
You can pretty much wear flip-flops year round.
Durban, or its isiZulu name, eThekwini (which means bull’s testicles, after the shape of its lagoon) is a constantly changing, decaying and rejuvenating, parasitic 21st century post-apartheid city—a place where the Iron Age intersects with the post-internet.
Durban is not all beaches and postcards.
The gap between rich and poor is in-your-face. (South Africa has the highest unemployment rate in the world.)
You’ll see someone driving a million dollar car ignoring someone begging for pennies at a traffic light.
There’s recently been crazy violence, protest, looting, riots because of this inequality. (Google “Durban looting”) There’s crime (because of this inequality) and corruption (also because of this and lots of other complicated reasons.)
The environment is ignored, and regarded as someone else’s problem to look after.
Recent toxic chemical spills have contaminated large parts of Durban’s coast.
What isn’t contaminated, is being mined by Shell for oil and gas. And so on and so on.
In many ways, it’s a city, a place on the edge, always on edge.
An indicator of what’s to come. An interesting, but not always easy, place to make art from and about.
I can imagine, but I don’t think it will happen. My connection, my work, my identity, my family are tied to this place.
Pre-pandemic, when I used to travel, I’d always do this long exhale when I first arrived back home after being embraced by the sub-tropical humidity.
“It’s just an illusion”
I took an amateur ceramics class- I got into ceramics to relax and to listen to some gossip.
I had no intention of developing ceramics as artworks.
But I then got addicted to the alchemy and the reveal of the medium.
Clay and fire, and then the surprise of taking it out of the kiln. When I get into a medium, I have a tendency to start to turn the volume up, to push things as far as I can, in quite off-center ways.
And this happened with ceramics.
I work very non-traditionally in all the mediums I choose to follow.
I make pencil crayon drawings, because I want something between a print and a painting, I co-opt traditional woodcarving techniques to make assemblages of consumer junk, and I make huge psychedelic tapestries with very traditional rural weavers.
It is fitting that I fire most of my ceramic pieces in a commercial kiln, in between the bisques of urinating angels, garden gnomes and mushrooms.
It’s pretty simultaneous. I generally work on 2 or 3 bodies of work at the same time, and move onto one when the other is maturing/resting.
And then move onto the next while that’s percolating.
So, I’ll be designing drawings, while tapestries are being woven, designing paintings while drawings are being made, doing ceramics in all the gaps, and developing new projects in the gaps of the gaps.
As much as I’d like to work on one series in one material forever, I know couldn’t do this.
I’ve always worked like this, and been attracted to multiple interests, ever since I was a kid.
But this schizophrenic approach doesn’t mean that I don’t give each medium or work not enough attention.
I think each works feeds off and relates to others, and makes each more powerful.
I’ve had a number of shows with Ernst, who has been a great supporter of my work from the beginning, and I’ve been to Vienna quite a few of times.
I really like the city.
The Beisls. (A Beisl is a typical Viennese bistro. Simple, cozy and traditional offering authentic Viennese cuisine).
My studio is under my home, so I have a 10 second down-the-stairs commute to work.
We live in a house perched in a sub-tropical forest.
On a perfect day (which isn’t interrupted by good surf or oncologist visits or life) I’m in the studio by 7am.
I’ll stop at 4pm, do some exercise, then cook dinner and relax. In bed and asleep at 11.00.
Music? When I’m thinking, planning, designing, I prefer quiet. Just ambient sub-tropical forest sounds.
When I’m doing- like drawing or painting or ceramics, I love music or podcasts.
I don’t like to work with other people. I guess I like the alone time.
I listen to Iggy Pop’s weekly radio show “Iggy Confidential” on BBC Radio 6. He does a 2-hour set covering a huge range of musical styles, sharing his lifetime of insights and opinions.
It’ll brighten your life.
Take your time.
We do. We walk on my tapestries everyday. We eat off my ceramics.
I like to live with some of my pieces- to see how they hold up after a month, a year.
But we also live with works by John Muafangejo, avaf, Derrick Nxumalo, Herman Mbamba, Luis Gispert, Callan Grecia, and Azaria Mbatha.
Works that have meaning for us. We like to collect when we can.
Gwyn (my wife) is “creative.” She’s the editor.
All my works have to get past her, before they can get made.
I think our kids are too, just via osmosis. (Although, I’m trying to steer their creativity into them becoming ruthless bloodsucking capitalists.)
I drew, and enjoyed drawing a lot as a kid, and spent quite a lot of time alone.
It was this enthusiasm for drawing, (which means you have to look and think about things) that pushed me into this path.
I’m still that kid making drawings today.
Yes and no.
I grilled steaks professionally for a while. Plus an assortment of other jobs, which made me realize that I should really concentrate as much as I could on art.
Art is less punishing on the legs than cooking.
To be happy, and to be OK with failure.
When the pandemic first hit, I was just starting to recover after heavy surgery and intense chemotherapy.
I’d sort of already been locked down for 3 months.
The uncertainty of everything was overwhelming.
Her name is Hala, after CNN presenter Hala Gorani.
She likes carrots, chilling on her beanbag, and has an incredibly long tongue.
She doesn’t like swimming, being picked up, or monkeys running on the roof.
I have an open door policy. They know they can come in anytime.
They like building polystyrene sculptures, and drawing and painting.
They live in and with so much art, that it’s absolutely part of their lives, whether they like it or not.
My oldest kid, Lily, (11) was hanging around an install of an exhibition of mine once and said, very loudly, to me and the gallerist: “This is soooooooooo boring!” I liked that.
I felt I’d done my job, in making art just such a normal part of her experience.
It happened in 2010. It obviously felt pretty good, but also a little bittersweet.
You realise it’s all downhill after that.
Tapestries, drawings, paintings, ceramics, and nfts.
I’m giving sculpture a rest for the moment.
Don’t Fuck the World Up!
‘Public Intimacy: Art and Other Ordinary Acts in South Africa’, SFMOMA, San Francisco; ‘Imaginary Fact, Contemporary South African Art and the Archive’, 55th Venice Biennale; ‘Impressions from South Africa, 1965 to Now’, MoMA, New York; ‘Les Rencontres Internationales’, Palais de Tokyo (2014) and The Centre Georges Pomidou (2010), Paris; Le Biennale de Dakar 2010, Dakar, Senegal; and ‘Absent Heroes’, Iziko South African National Gallery.
All images courtesy Cameron Platter
We are so thrilled to have connected with the amazing artist Cameron Platter and are very happy he shared his work and his story with us and our viewers.