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Black Lines

Updated: Jul 23, 2023

“Everything we create in life starts with a line, every drawing, painting, print or design. Lines represent repetition and rhythm, actions that help with focus, consistency, and building confidence. I simply took the line as art element and ran with it as concept.”

Marking the end of a seven-year semi-sabbatical – having retreated largely into academics (teaching and studying at the same time), while occasionally gracing the audience with an attendance at selected group exhibitions – Kabelo Kim Modise returns with a much-anticipated solo exhibition, ‘Black Line’.

The artist’s latest introduces a fresh perspective on his signature concept as printmaker and painter, presenting lines that run on paper and canvas, in ink, charcoal and eraser, lines that stretch over the surface and take on lives of their own. Working with a selection of time-perfected techniques and methods, including experimenting with various technologies to heat up and make the thick linoleum plates easier to work with, the artist spends the majority of his time in preparation of the final artwork. As he cuts through the lino, or takes away from his drawings, the lines start to take on a natural ebb and flow, and Modise admits that he gets lost in a meditative state of movement, with a hand guided by perfectly balanced ripples and waves that construct themselves around the centrepiece that gave birth to his creative idea.

On a personal level, lines hold their own significance, representing Modise’s passage from young boy becoming aware of his talent for “hyper realistic drawings”, to the prominent artist he is today. The journey stretches all the way from his hometown of Francistown in Botswana, to his new home in Namibia – with a number of memorable pit stops in between.

After finishing high school, Modise started a tradition of volunteering his skills and expertise in the arts to achieve personal goals. He spent some time as art assistant and teacher at some local schools, while simultaneously volunteering as museum assistant at the National Museum and Art Gallery in Gaborone, where he was finally offered a permanent position in 2001. “I am a dedicated person, a goal-getter. My personal vision in arts is really big and I will go to all lengths to achieve my dreams, even if it means volunteering and working for free. So far, it all paid off.”

In 2004, the artist’s lifeline took a somewhat different twist, as he quit his job and took the plunge to claim the Namibian arts scene as his new domain. “I just realised one day, if I want to grow as an artist, I need to get out.” His only backbone and support system was the Namibian woman he fell in love with during the SADC Arts Festival some years earlier – the same muse who is still by his side today – and a strong sense of self-motivation and perseverance.

Since then, Modise has embarked on a “rollercoaster of being a full-time artist,” focussing on making a name for himself across the region, and while time may have passed since he last graced the audience with a complete body of work, he has certainly been keeping busy in the arts department. In between studying towards his Bachelors in Visual Arts (through UNISA) and teaching textile basics at the College of the Arts in Windhoek, Modise started a ‘Progressive Artists Channel’ on YouTube – featuring short documentaries on selected artist’s “progress from their comfort spaces” – and opened a printmaking studio. The aptly named Printricate Studio aims “to promote the most intricate and finest art prints”, and fills a welcome niche in a local market where independent creative spaces are few and far between.

He concludes, “Here’s the secret. I enjoy teaching art. It’s something that comes naturally, giving back. And for good reason, because my first name, Kabelo, doesn’t mean ‘offering’ for nothing.”

Modise’s reflection on the ‘Black Line’ is on view at The Project Room from 15 – 30 July.

‘Black Line’ is the first exhibition at The Project Room’s new gallery and creative hub, presenting “a bigger exhibition and workshop space that will allow us the opportunity to expand our community”. Revealing an expansion of founder Frieda Lühl’s vision, the space also welcomes Laschandre Coetzee as new partner and creative director. “We are both excited for this new chapter and look forward to further impacting the local art industry”. Our new location is on 30 Julius Nyerere Street (former Lazaret Street).

View the catalogue here.

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