Many visual artists come up with complicated narratives in their paintings; others tell implicit, yet simple stories in their multi-layered pictures. Mmegi Staffer Mompati Tlhankane interviewed Frank ‘De Painter’ Monageng who, just like most contemporary visual artists, he has a story to tell.
When the late German painter and photographer Sigmar Polke returned to painting in the 1980s, he came up with paintings that combined both figurative and abstract imagery.
Through his artwork, Polke gave his audience a chance to witness the effect of his imagery through a series of his creative collections. Similarly in Botswana, there is one such a painter who has since decided to come up with paintings that tell stories to engage viewers and convey meaning. When Arts and Culture visited Frank “De Painter” Monageng’s studio at Thapong Visual Arts Centre this week, he was finishing up two of the paintings from his latest collection, ‘the purple print’.
One of the paintings shows a full-figured woman walking besides a road and a car coming from behind. Being a painting that falls under the 19th Century art movement of impressionism, the artwork is not a common local fine finish drawing with a lot of details. The painting has a temperamental narrative and the main character is the central part of the story.
The second painting is stylistic and depicts a portrait of an old man wearing a hat. Monageng said the subject is a mimic of his grandfather. The painting is a representational imagery of the old man and doesn’t rely on his realistic depictions.
Both paintings will be part of the ‘purple print’ collection and they both have the unique purple colour to create a recognisable identity. Monageng took Arts and Culture to his home where he has two more paintings from his ‘purple print’ collection. Being a collection that was inspired by Monageng’s life, one of his paintings shows a big portrait of his mother in a detailed form as opposed to his previous subjects.
The painting includes pure intense colours of blue, orange and purple. The other painting is another portrait but this time it was a happy little boy. Monageng’s wonderful and subtle technique of use of colour surfaced in this painting.
The 24-year-old Monageng from Tlokweng told Arts and Culture that he prefers to play around with his subjects rather than going in to details. “My art tell stories and most of my work has been inspired by full-figured women,” he said. Monageng revealed that his strongest point is playing around with colour.
“I experiment with the fun stuff and it helps to me to grow as I engage with other artists,” he said. He revealed that his latest collection themed ‘the story of my life’ was based on his family, friends and personal life.“My artwork has been inspired by my late mother,” he said. Monageng said since joining the creative industry as a young artist in 2004, he has grown more than ever before.
“Visual arts has done a lot for me and now as a fulltime artist, I can make a living out of my artwork,” he said. Monageng said his artistic work needs full commitment and patience because success doesn’t come easy.
“I realise that I can’t go halfway, so I decided to take my art seriously and it took me a lot of practice to finally reach this stage,” he said. He indicated that his contemporary artwork always tells a story and conveys a hidden meaning. “Some audience locally do not understand the depth of art. No wonder they prefer the traditional abstract artwork,” he expressed.
Monageng said he doesn’t want to paint anything without a story. Recalling his early years as an artist, he said people had always seen his potential.
He said he managed to survive for a long time because he learnt from other artists. In the past, he hosted two solo exhibitions entitled “this is art” and “the art of painting”.
“I came up with a smart collection called ‘rhythm for the soul’ and it was dedicated to the love of music,” he said. He also said some of his paintings were inspired by legends such as Nelson Mandela because they left a legacy.
“Humanitarians inspire me because they make a difference and as I walk around I also get inspiration,” he said. He said he can tell local stories better through his paintings. Monageng also said he expresses his stories and tell them differently through a canvas. He said Batswana are starting to buy art but some do it for the wrong reason.
“Artists shouldn’t be told what to paint, they should be allowed to tell their stories and in that way they would never run out of ideas,” he expressed. He revealed that it took him six years to implement his purple print collection. Monageng said he aims to become international and push Botswana art beyond the shores.