Exploring and Expressing our Modes of Being: Interview with South African Muralist Lisolomzi Pikoli

Exploring and Expressing our Modes of Being: Interview with South African Muralist Lisolomzi Pikoli

We continue with our interview series with our global community of digital artists who are pushing the boundaries. We are collecting interviews with artist who are iterating our understanding of the creative digital practice. We are honored to have a conversation with artist, muralist, and illustrator, Lisolomzi Pikoli. His work intersects between offline and online spaces.

In this interview, South African visual artist Lisolomzi Pikoli, also known as Mr Slipperz or Mr Fuzzy Slipperz, shares insights into his artistic journey and creative process. Beginning his art career as a child, Pikoli delved into drawing and later embraced street art, which became a major influence in his works. He describes his art as a tool to explore the complex human experience in relation to nature and modern life, using both traditional and digital mediums to express his perspectives. Pikoli also reflects on the significance of African art and its role in global culture, along with his commitment to public art that resonates with broader audiences and fosters societal connection.

Let us begin by getting to know you Lisolomzi, can you please tell us more about yourself, where are you from and how did you begin your journey into art.

My name is Lisolomzi Pikoli aka Mr Slipperz or Mr Fuzzy Slipperz. I’m a visual artist, illustrator and muralist/ street artist from Pretoria, South Africa. My artistic journey began when I was a kid. I just loved drawing or trying to recreate drawings of cartoons and environments. I was lucky enough to have a supportive family who was rather amused and intrigued by my skill – when I think back to my earlier days my dad would push me because he had an older brother who could draw too, so would always tell me what I did was great but I could do better. Both he and my mother were open-minded about creativity as my siblings are great creative writers in their own right and  I was accepted at a School of Arts for high school which made for a good foundational artistic environment. I would later meet friends with similar interests and we would show each other our works and collect art magazines, books, posters, stickers and whatever we could get out hands on the would express our creativity at the time. I was taken by the graffiti I would see when going into the city and would practice what I saw at everywhere! I really found my voice in my teen years through street art and contemporary visual art. This taught me a lot of DIY techniques and gave me the tenacious spirit to share and spread my art in the public sphere.

“I aim to unpack the complex maze of human experience in relation to the natural world and contemporary livelihood”

Does your art represent something about you, does it represent a message about the world, does it focus on history or look to the future?

 Sure in some ways it does represent me and my perspectives because it stems from me, but in my art, I aim to unpack the complex maze of human experience in relation to the natural world and contemporary livelihood. I like to observe how we are more than mere flesh, bone and circumstance but a beautiful mixture of tightly clustered atoms that take shape into the human form, gifted with consciousness and free will. We’re sown together by our biology, physics, beliefs and perception of time which convict me to create works that capture this.

Lisolomzi, Can you tell us about the process of making your work? We want to know a little about the significance and scope of your work. How do you make your work? Are there particular tools/materials/software/technology that you use? Is there a connection between your process and your artwork’s message?

I enjoy drawing from my imagination, letting my pen or pencil move intuitively on a surface and seeing how lines and shapes relate to form. I then pick out the best compositions that come out of what usually looks like scribbles and challenge myself to forge compelling pieces from these. I’m interested in cosmology and there are a few things I observe about the physical world and universe that intrigue me, movement and stillness being my main points of interest. To me, they capture a kind of magic that happens around us all the time, which inspired a phrase, which goes “In a world constantly in motion, stillness becomes its greatest illusion”. I try to recreate this in my works. The main disciplines in my artistic practice revolve around painting, drawing, mural, installation and public art but in more recent years, I’ve been introducing more digital and animated aspects to my works. I go between mediums and will usually scan or photograph my drawings and finish them off in Photoshop to make a digital painting of the artwork. Although while I enjoy exploring digital media I make sure to keep creating artworks by hand to sharpen my skills and keep my inner child playfully crafty. 

What is African art? How would you describe “african art”? What does African art mean to you? Do you think African art is important? Do you think that Africa is reflected in your work? If/so how? why not?

African art is hard to do define because one could argue that art is art 1st and calling it African art may be a divisive way to other it from mainstream art so I’m mindful of how I use it. On the other hand, it’s valid in representing and locating the origins of the art, its narrative, and history as well as the diaspora. In that sense I think African art is very important as Africa is the birthplace for humankind and civilization, and its voices represent an omnipresent intersection between the past, present and future. As a second-generation ‘urbanized’ African I am interested in collective memory and the metaphorical tug of war between the post-colonial body/mind and the imperative of participating in globalized modernity. Through my work, I play on some of these tropes to soothe my existential questions as an offering for an audience to relate or contemplate.

Do you think art should be used to express beauty or the ugly and painful reality of life?

For me, the art I usually enjoy has a touch of both, as it would seem in life that the beauty and ugly realities go hand in hand. We need to take into account what the artist’s convictions may have been when creating their artworks and let them express it in their way. For me though when art expresses only beauty it struggles to compel and tends to lack character and authenticity, once it only expresses only the ugly and painful reality I feel it may be relatable to ones own pains and cathartic but can exclude the joys we experience, it, therefore, becomes a divine balance the artist undertakes. The art would and may, of course, express one side of these aspects of life from piece to piece or in a body of work as there is something profoundly engaging in the work of an artist dives into their subject matter. I enjoy seeing or experiencing art where the artist has challenged themselves and the audience technically, emotionally or intellectually and a little humour can be a nice cherry on top.

Why do you create art? is it for money? for fame? to fulfill an inner calling? change the world? does your art contribute to your society? should it?

I would say fulfill an inner calling with the hope of shedding light through exploring and expressing our modes of being that people might be able to relate too. I think that art is as a catalyst for social change, understanding and healing, innovation, and in many ways is a reflection of society. 

Why don’t you create more art? is it because of money, lack of recognition, lack of resources, time?

That’s an interesting question, I freelance as an illustrator and designer so I have to divide the time to make personal art, of which I’m always experimenting and only publishing works I’m satisfied with. However, I’m learningto let more of my work breathe and be enjoyed by the public on my website and social media platforms.

If you had all the time in the wolrd and unlitmited financial means, would it change the artwork you are working on today? would you create something different?

Sure I think I would experiment with more mediums, scales and materiality of the works which is a plan I’m slowly rolling out over time, but I don’t think my fundamental convictions for making the art would change much. I believe that art is a life long practice so I’m learning to be more patient with myself when it comes to executing all the wild ideas I have!

Do you think you were born an artist? or Do you think you became an artist?

I’m inclined to say both and though it may seem like a cop-out answer I think that people are born with different talents or higher knacks for certain skills but I think it’s an active decision one makes to follow a certain path for them to become that thing, It is with a lot of love, practice and dedication I became an artist. 

Do you think you have a responsibility to share your art with the the world? or is it for your eyes only?

I would say share because I love seeing or experiencing other peoples works so I would only hope to inspire the same feeling in others. Unfortunately, art is only experienced by a few in person, the internet and social media has done a lot in exposing it to more people, which is why I also create street and public art, so the average person may come into contact with it, without having to be educated or into the art scene. As an offering in a time where our societal gaps seem to be widening public art is a place where we can share and take part in creativity. 

Do you create to understand or do you express what you have already learned?

I create to understand and at times heal, whilst using what I’ve learned to help me create my works. I call my works graphic expressions as they graphically express a multitude of feelings, dreams, memories and ideas I have swirling around in my head, I offload in my works. Whilst I don’t derive all my philosophical or existential answers from these works they definitely fulfil and soothe such questions. This for me in many ways is what art does, it poses questions and interrogates our realities as we know them.

Where do you find inspiration? Can you share some of your favorite artists and why they have had a meaningful impact in your work?

I am moved and inspired by the natural world, cosmology, music and the human spirit. The visual artists that inspire me are Colbert Mashile, Augustine Kofie, Joan Miro, Dian Viktor, James jean, Marriam Sibande, Herbert Baglione and Salvidor Dali to name a few.