Pamela Phatsimo Sunstrum

Artist Pamela Phatsimo Sunstrum explodes on London’s art scene

Born in Botswana, Pamela Phatsimo Sunstrum lives in the creative capital of Johannesburg and will be exhibiting at London’s Tiwani Contemporary group exhibition “Mythopoeia”

Pamela Phatsimo Sunstrum

Her recent exhibitions and performances have seen her globe-trotting from France to New York. Pamela’s drawings and video animations allude to mythological musings on the beginning of time, geological speculations of the earth’s structure, theories on the nature of the universe, and, most recently, 18th-century European Romanticist landscape painting.

Her drawings appear simultaneously futuristic and ancient but shhh…we don’t want to give too much away.

I asked Pamela a few questions:

I watched a video of you installing your exhibition astro_nautic in 2009. You were drawing large scale portraits on the gallery’s black walls. Do you have moments of self-forgetfulness when making art?

I think a certain amount of self-abandon is necessary in any creative process. When I work on these large wall-sized drawings you are referring to, I am essentially translating my drawing practice— which is usually a very private endeavour that takes place in the small amount of space between my hand and my drawing desk—and expanding it to the size of a gallery wall. These drawings take place in public and often with other people walking in and out of the space, so I really have to be able to let go and just dive into the work.

Which has been your favourite country or space to exhibit in so far?

That’s a difficult question to answer since I have been fortunate that each space I have been invited to exhibit in presents its own unique and positive experiences. I think one of my earliest exhibition experiences still holds itself as being particularly special. It was the Spelman College Summer Art Colony in Panama that I participated in in 2003. As artists we were given space to work and exhibit in the small and beautiful village of Portobelo on the Caribbean coast of the country. It really was quite a magical place and I think the fact that it was one of the first times I had presented my work publically made it all the more precious for me.

You mentioned that you are influenced by Bjork, ee cummings and other poets. Who is currently your favourite artist/ writer/ singer who has inspired your work?

There are so many! Some of the mythological references in my recent work come from stories in South African mythologist, Credo Mutwa’s anthology, Indaba, My Children. I am interested in the ways ancient mythologies and scientific theories intersect and have referred to the writings of physicist Wallace Thornhill and comparative mythologist David Talbott, the forerunners of the so-called “Electric Universe Theory.”  Recently I have been looking at 18th century European Romanticist landscape painters such as Caspar David Friedrich, Albert Bierstadt and Robert S Duncanson because I am interested in their obsession with epic landscape and sprawling vistas as a tool in communicating the sublime power of nature. Julie Mehretu is a contemporary artist whose work I greatly admire because of her ability to fuse architectural, archaeological and lyrical visual references into enormous, explosive paintings.

In an interview, you mentioned that you were born in Botswana and that your “See You Again” landscapes were based on memories from there. Do you ever miss it?

Botswana is only a 4-hour drive from Johannesburg so fortunately I am able to return there often. I go there particularly when I’m craving vast, uninterrupted views of the horizon or clear access to the stars in the night sky.

What is your connection to South Africa?

Johannesburg is a powerful place for creatives. I am fortunate to be part of a community of artists, curators, writers and intellectuals who are all committed to discovering, sharing, and creating new platforms for African women in the arts in South Africa. From communal studio spaces and collaborative exhibition concepts to reading groups and workshops, Johannesburg provides the physical and conceptual spaces that make it a great place to grow up in as an artist.

Date: 10 April – 9 May
Place: Tiwani Contemporary, 16 Little Portland Street, London W1W 8BP
Private View: 9 April, 6:30 – 8:30pm (please RSVP the gallery)