By Candice de Beer
Welcome Danca is a KwaZulu-Natal born and bred artist currently based at the ArtEye Gallery in New Doornfontein, Johannesburg. His journey as an artist began many years ago on the walls of his childhood home. Today his artworks hang on the walls of 5-star hotel Hout Bay Manor and well-known South African brand Nando’s. Fastjet sat down with Danca to find out a little more about him and his craft.
From a young age Danca knew he would be an artist. He loved drawing. In fact it got him into a great deal of trouble, particularly with his mother who was not enamoured with his tendency to draw on any available surface. Despite his obvious skill with the leftover charcoal from fires, his childish masterpieces sketched onto walls often lead to a beating or two. In a bid to continue refining his skill, he turned to drawing on the back wall outside his house hoping to escape the watchful eye of mom.
And it paid off. During biology class, when given drawing homework (sketching a fish or plant), his classmates often paid him to do theirs.
Danca comes to the attention of Trevor Makhoba and Tyrone Selmon
His first formal teachings came from Trevor Makhoba, one of South Africa’s most important artists, and one of the first black artists to create work that embraced current issues affecting a multicultural society.
Under Makhoba’s tutelage, Danca began to experiment with oil and acrylic paints and changed his approach to creating art. “He taught me to relax and check what is happening around me. You need to be aware and observe,” says Danca. Makhoba also took the young artist to a variety of Durban galleries where people could see his work. The African Art Centre was the first gallery to sell Danca’s work.
But this was merely the beginning. Tyrone Selmon, owner of the ArtEye Gallery in Johannesburg, would change Danca’s life forever. Selmon first came across Danca’s work online. After locating his phone number, he travelled to KZN to meet the fledgling artist. The rest, as they say, is history. They began working together in 2013 and have been ever since.
“Tyrone came into my life of art and challenged me to do bigger and better,” Danca says. “My work was good, but I needed to explore, to be wild!” It was Selmon who inspired Danca to find a mark or brand which is easily recognisable. He chose blue.
“Blue represents strength, passion and patience,” says Danca. “When working at night, there is that blue that shows there is a light. When I was working, I was in the dark,” he elaborates. “Tyrone saw the blue in me and gave me strength.”
Danca challenges himself to grow as an artist
Danca realised that to grow as an artist he needed to take risks, knowing that “comfort zones are bad for artists”. And so he travelled to Johannesburg to work at ArtEye Gallery and learn from his contemporaries.
It was here that he began to evolve as an artist. Danca now produces double the amount of artworks that he would normally do in a month, and he’s more focused. Local artists such as Thokozani Mthiyane and Dominic Tshabangu are also inspiring him to try new things.
Whereas his previous works were on canvas which had been stretched, and were clean and neat, his new artworks are on canvas which has been dipped in water, scrunched up and walked on to achieve the effect he wants. This is then stretched on to a board. He’s also mixing paint with pastels and charcoal.
He draws his inspiration from what he’s seen and then translates it into his work. He also utilises whatever is available, saying “when I don’t have material, I’ll grab magazines and put a collage together”.
A new theme which he is working on is technology. “Before the cell phone, you had to go to a call box with your diary and phone numbers. We ended up memorising the numbers, because if you lost the diary who would you call in an emergency? Now, with the cell phone, you just find the name and call. You don’t check the number.”
In his opinion, “Technology is imprisoning people. It’s good and bad. It makes life easier, but we need to have boundaries. It shouldn’t take you away from what you need to be doing.” And it is this message which he conveys to his audience in his new artworks.
When asked what he plans to do next, Danca says, “I’d like to experiment more with charcoal.”
His advice for young artists? “You need to be focused, humble and to be you. You also need to be patient and work hard. You can have good work, but if you don’t have contacts and know the right people, you won’t go anywhere.”
Apart from biding your time, he adds, “It’s important to go out and show your work, promote yourself and believe in yourself.”
You can meet this young, gifted yet humble artist at ArtEye Gallery.