national Arts Festival Banner

Monday, January 11, 2010


(Michael MacGarry - pic by Suzy Bernstein)

Graphic artist scoops Young Artists Award for Visual Art

Michael MacGarry, 2010 Standard Bank Young Artist Award winner for Visual Art, is proof that creativity cannot be confined. This 31 year-old Johannesburg-based visual artist, graphic designer and author draws from various creative wells to unpack and critically analyze contemporary socio-political and economic narratives on the African continent through his visual creations.

“From a young age I have always wanted to work across a number of creative fields, from visual art, to design and writing,” said MacGarry. “Now as an adult I do work across these fields, but the visual art component allows me to integrate all these elements in producing dense, theatrical and fictional hybrids.”

“Michael’s genius is the particular way he transforms an object we know into something completely different, another reality that is still recognisable,” said acclaimed artist Andrew Verster, National Arts Festival committee member for Visual Art. “At times subtle, at others radical, the new objects are so hypnotic, so plausible, so clever, so tantalising that we can never look at any of his sources in the same way again. We are torn between what we know to be fact and what he offers as an alternative.”

MacGarry holds a Masters Degree in Fine Art from the University of the Witwatersrand, and began his graphic design career in 2000 with Sexton Design & Media in Dublin, Ireland before moving to London in 2002 to join Brockway Associates as a graphic designer. In 2003 he returned to South Africa, and joined The Trinity Session as manager of The Premises Gallery. In 2006 he joined Fever Identity Design in Johannesburg as a graphic designer, where he is currently based.

“This unique award represents a substantial vote of confidence and a show of institutional support in my career. As a young artist one cannot ask for better,” said MacGarry, who is a member of the Johannesburg-based visual art collective Avant Car Guard, who have shown at a national and international level for several years. In partnership with Zander Blom, Michael is also a member of visual arts collaborative Blom & MacGarry Presents. No stranger to the national and international exhibition scene, MacGarry’s art has travelled to Germany, the UK and the USA. His work is housed in numerous private and corporate collections both locally and abroad, including the Seattle Art Museum and the Johannesburg Art Gallery. Brodie/Stevenson in Johannesburg represents his visual art career.

MacGarry is looking forward to producing a comprehensive body of new work at a substantial scale in the year to come. “The award is a unique opportunity to realize a series of large-scale works I have been developing for a number of years, but was previously unable to produce due to budget and contextual constraints,” said MacGarry. “The award affords me a well-funded, institutional context to both produce and exhibit these works at a national level.” As part of his Standard Bank Young Artist Award prize, MacGarry will be funded to exhibit at the National Arts Festival, Grahamstown, in 2010.

His work has been acknowledged and awarded in a range of arts circles. In 2009, he was a finalist for a Loerie Award (Publication Design) and for the SOUTH Design Awards. In 2008 he was a finalist for the MTN New Contemporaries Award. He was awarded a Full Merit Scholarship from the University of the Witwatersrand in 2005, and a National Arts Council Individual Artist Grant in 2004.

As a writer, MacGarry recently wrote, designed and illustrated a 180-page monograph and reference book on South African graphic design, titled Skill Set One – A Primer in South African Graphic Design, published by David Krut Publishing. He is regularly published in several magazines including: Art South Africa, Design Indaba, One Small Seed, Stage and House & Leisure. Michael is also co-publisher, with Lloyd Gedye, of The Pavement Special, a tri-annual magazine dedicated to independent South African music.

“The Standard Bank Young Artist Award is unique for a number of reasons,” said MacGarry. “It is multi-disciplinary, recognising cultural and creative production across a number of platforms and media. It is also an unsolicited award rather than an open entry competition, which seems to be the norm for South African corporate patronage of the arts. All of these aspects differentiate the award from any other in the country. Most importantly, as a recipient, this award allows me a space to produce unique works independent of the hegemony of the gallery system, coupled with a real budget and a national platform. Sincere thanks to the National Arts Festival and Standard Bank for this opportunity.”

The Young Artist Awards were started in 1981 by the National Arts Festival to acknowledge emerging, relatively young South African artists who have displayed an outstanding talent in their artistic endeavours. These prestigious awards are presented annually to deserving artists in different disciplines, affording them national exposure and acclaim. Standard Bank took over the sponsorship of the awards in 1984 and presented Young Artist Awards in all themajor arts disciplines over their 26-year sponsorship, as well as posthumous and special recognition awards. The winners feature on the main programme of the National Arts Festival, Grahamstown and receive financial support for their Festival participation, as well as a cash prize.