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Written byJosh Raynham

“To live in Cape Town is to truly experience life in a concrete jungle”

As an artist it is one’s goal to convey an array of emotions, and life experiences to an audience outside of one’s own mind- to interpret one’s surroundings. Twenty-two-year-old Michael Beckurts’ ability to convey love for his city and bring to life the natural, as well as urban landscape of Cape Town truly reflect in his work and as the viewer allow this feeling to almost flow out of each artwork and imprint itself onto one’s mind. Michael’s juxtaposition of styles brings together the concrete jungles of the mother city with the natural flora that surrounds it. I have had the pleasure of meeting this Michael and can truly say his passion for the arts and fundamental feelings toward the human connection allow for a nostalgic and wholesome atmosphere when in the presence of his works.  

Having graduated from the Cape Town Creative Academy in 2022, Michael is no stranger to the ongoing processes required to establish a name for oneself in the South African art scene. Michael has had 3 solo exhibitions in and around Cape Town. His first, “Archives” in 2021, focused on memory and Michael’s experimentation with mixed media. Using charcoals on a watercolour and coffee base he was able to create incredible atmospheric and introspective works. “Watercolour is delicate and unpredictable. Coffee is warm and earthy. Charcoal is raw and imperfect”, says Michael when describing his art making process and desire for a deeper connection through his artwork. I particularly enjoy his ability to draw light through his watercolour and coffee base. This contrasts the tonality of the charcoal layers forming shadows and shapes.

“There is a weird line between emerging and establishing within the art world, ” remarks Michael. I wasn’t ready two years ago but now I feel confident”. – Michael on looking at potential mentorship programs.

Michael’s second exhibition titled, “Portraits of nature, Portraits of Places”, in 2022, captures his love of nature and the harmony between his inner and outer world. In this second collection of works, Michael draws inspiration from the textures, colours, and structures found within nature. Painted using a limited watercolour palette these works are characterised by fine brushwork which produce lightness and movement and allow for the creation of varying depths without the need to rely on tonality. Described as using bold, loose, delicate, organic, smooth, and textured styles, Michael is able to experiment with depth, colour, and light in order to accentuate Cape Town’s natural beauty.

In his latest exhibition titled “Remember to Play’, currently at Openwine in Wale Street, Michael’s series of urban and natural landscapes depict iconic views, both familiar and unfamiliar, in and around the CBD.

In this body of works he uses a limited colour palette- often using a pair of complementary colours which have visually striking rhythmic qualities. His focus on shadow and reflection produces a sense of depth and convincingly Capetonian feel. Introducing an element of imagination to his works, he constructs his composition from ten stories up. Michael says, “combining the objective view with the imagined view is more fun and makes for a more interesting artwork. I enjoy playing with ideas and creating unlikely compositions”. Forcing himself to work from his imagination sees him having to reinterpret what is there in his own way rather than just copying an image. This, Michael says, is a slow step towards becoming less representational. 

“When youre making up compositions and colour palettes it leads to unexpected outcomes. Much of the composition and lighting is influenced by associations and memories of a place rather than the actual place”. – Michael Beckurst

Associations and imagination continue to play an important role in Michael’s upcoming installation to be displayed at the International Public Arts Festival taking place in and around The Company Gardens from 1-5 March. The 3 metre mural installation has an artificial reality component and depicts the prominent wine bar Openwine, from an imagined aerial view. Michael’s mural celebrates another mural – painted above Openwine in 2022:  that of a young resident of Bo Kaap on his bicycle entitled ‘The Gatekeeper of Bo Kaap’ by acclaimed graffiti artist Case Maclaim. This puts emphasis on a member of the community who actually exists” ، says Michael, and it ties in with his inherent need to focus on human connection within an urban landscape. Created in stop animation, Michael continues to experiment with the tools he has at his disposal. Inspired by prominent South African artist, William Kentridge, Michael is preoccupied with the idea of bringing the artwork to life. Although created on an I-Pad, the animation has an old school, almost archaic feel. The animation’s imperfections and lack of fluidity, uncommon in today’s world of powerful technology, add to its character. “

Michael’s connection with the arts world and passion for continually trying to grow himself as an artist doesn’t fall short of admirable. By taking figure drawing classes or connecting with other artists around Cape Town Michael is able to push himself in a direction which he hopes will eventually lead him to a place where he is able to exhibit a prominent style.

His ability to observe his surroundings allows him deeper insight into his themes. As well, whilst observing obstacles he has also allowed himself to see the openings within those obstacles. So even whilst his physical abilities may restrict him in some ways, in others they allow him to form his own unique style. In his everyday life one might see Michael as an artist out of the ordinary but to talk to him and understand the processes he goes through truly show a side to his creative process and pure talent that is undeniably the makings of a great artist.

Here is a link to Michaels website, browse, buy, it’s all there.

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