Contemporary artist Jozua Gerrard was born in 2001 in Cape Town, South Africa. His work walks a line between existentialism and nihilism, touching on a range of themes including mental health, religion, sexual identity and contemporary, urban youth culture. He is influenced heavily by his personal experiences and is fascinated by ordinary life, often depicting scenes of the everyday in his work – which he refers to as “little windows into people’s existence”.
Gerrard began making art at age 10, with his evolving craft becoming an important outlet and coping mechanism. “As I grew up I could pour out all of the feelings, which I didn’t have the vocabulary to express, into these constructs and it gave me a new perspective on self-worth,” he explains.
In contrast with the sense of disquiet in his paintings, his colours are vivid and intoxicating, creating a taught duality – a theme throughout Gerrard’s practice. His work is filled with contradictions: brash and ethereal, carnal and innocent, menacing and tender.
His bright, horned mask is a signature motif, conveying multiple symbolic meanings for the artist. He describes this mask as an attempt to reclaim the notion of ‘primitivism’ from colonialist appropriation by placing it in an everyday, contemporary context. The mask allows the wearer to skew or hide their identity, giving them the space to be more than one thing simultaneously.
“It’s like you’re saying ‘It’s me, but I’m still hiding’,” he explains, conceding that all the masked figures – both male and female – are projections of himself. This asserts Gerrard’s fluidity and his conscious moving away from restrictive labels often imposed on individuals, an entrenched societal inclination. The wearer becomes faceless, non-specific and emotionless, and in turn, gains access to a new reality: the one Gerrard creates. The mask is supernatural in this imaginary world, providing a protective shield for and against emotions, both external and internal.
Gerard’s debut solo exhibition, Loveland, opened at Southern Guild in August 2021, and was a sell-out success on opening night. Previously, he has exhibited at WorldArt in Cape Town and the Turbine Art Fair in Johannesburg.