Peter Mammes To Die For

SA artist Pter Mammes with one of his artworks, ‘Orders’, which will be exhibited in his ‘To Die For’ solo show in London from 18 to 21 August. Image: Supplied

Exclusive interview with SA artist Peter Mammes ahead of solo Soho show

SA artist Peter Mammes continues his rise through the UK art ranks with his new solo show, ‘To Die For’, at the Noho Gallery in Soho, London from 18 to 21 August. The work deals with the question: ‘Is there anything work dying for?’ and even contains a work made from human ashes…

Peter Mammes To Die For

SA artist Pter Mammes with one of his artworks, ‘Orders’, which will be exhibited in his ‘To Die For’ solo show in London from 18 to 21 August. Image: Supplied

Krugersdorp-born artist Peter Mammes started his career out as a puppeteer’s apprentice and a prop maker. He has since made name as an artist who “dissects” subjects with an intricate narrative and currently resides in London.

The South African spoke to the 35-year-old artist ahead of the opening of his solo exhibition To Die For.

Your show ‘To Die For’ poses the question is there anything worth dying for? How would you answer that question for yourself?

I can think of a few answers to that question. I would think protecting your family, friends and community would be foremost and would take precedence?

Fighting to protect the biosphere, planet, and nature would be another; there are only a few gorillas and chimpanzees left in the wild and I’d most certainly sacrifice my own life to protect them.

The problem comes when people try and manipulate you to die for them, power plays hidden behind ideologies. This is the central idea behind this body of work, questioning these narratives and myths.

Peter Mammes solo show
‘The Battle’: Acrylic paint on canvas, 170 x 100cm.

You have had a measure of success in South Africa, and now expanding your influence by living in London, how’s that transition going?

I am absolutely loving London, there’s so much that’s very different from the South African arts scene. London is much bigger. There are many galleries and arts communities and so much more to see and experience, plus museums and institutions that I use for research and inspiration.

I have met and interacted with scores of artists and it has been unbelievably valuable to me to be a part of a new arts community. London is so much more connected to Europe and I have had opportunities to exhibit internationally.

Also, because of the higher range and quality of art materials and equipment over here, I have experimented with so many more ideas because of it.

You have used actual human ashes in some of your works. Please explain! 

I wanted to show how we are all, in essence, just material things made from stardust. I was looking at ways to express that idea visually and I came up with the idea to make work out of human ash.

Human ash is a very grainy material. It has a strange look and feel and a unique way it reflects light. I used the ashes of a few people given to me by friends and family mixed together, so as not to enshrine a single person.

The use of human ash is more of a reminder of what and where we are in this universe and is something grotesque made beautiful; a reminder of our mortality, prescient during this time of pandemic.

Peter Mammes Solo Show
‘Jackal Pattern’: Cold-cast metals, resin and wood. 36.5 x 36cm.

What do you think South African artists can offer the global art market that is unique?

South African art, if I had to generalise, is more focused on dedication to the mastery of technique. The ideas behind and purpose of making art in South Africa feel very different to the UK.

We South Africans use art to depict, deal and process the insane world we inhabit in South Africa and therefore there’s a sharp edge to the artwork. A dark and harsh sort of outlook is what embodies South African art.

Peter Mammes Solo Show
‘Wake’: Double-layered reverse glass acrylic painting. 53cm by 53cm.

Details: ‘To Die For’ opens on the 18August and closes on the 21 August.

VIP opening night: 18 August from 18:30.
E-mail: for guestlist. 

Gallery address: NOHO studios, 46 Great Titchfield Street, London, W1W7QA