Knysna fire disaster inspired Sasol New Signatures winner

Overall winner for 2018, Jessica Kapp, is encouraging entries for the 2019 Sasol New Signatures Art Competition. Kapp, who comes from Knysna, is a recent graduate of Stellenbosch University
Overall winner for 2018, Jessica Kapp, is encouraging entries for the 2019 Sasol New Signatures Art Competition. Kapp, who comes from Knysna, is a recent graduate of Stellenbosch University
Image: Supplied

Knysna’s Jessica Kapp, overall winner of the 2018 edition of Sasol New Signatures, is encouraging emerging artists to enter for the potentially life-changing competition this year.

Sasol New Signatures is the longest running competition of its kind in SA and provides a platform for unknown artists to break into the mainstream.

Sasol is celebrating 30 years of sponsoring the competition in partnership with the Association of Arts Pretoria.

Many past winners are now household names in the national and global art world.

Kapp won the R100,000 top prize in 2018, along with the opportunity to have her own solo exhibition at the Pretoria Art Museum in August.

Her exhibition will coincide with the announcement and exhibition of the 2019 winners and finalists.

Kapp had this to say to artists thinking of entering: “Put your best foot forward and enter! There is nothing to lose and so much to gain by putting yourself out there, and exposing your work to a larger audience.

“It is an amazing platform and you learn a lot about yourself and your aspirations.”

Kapp’s 2018 work commented on the Knysna fires and her sense of having felt disconnected from her home town during the disaster, as she was studying at Stellenbosch University at the time.

“My working title for my upcoming solo exhibition is In the Act of Remembering,” Kapp said.

“The exhibition will explore concepts of labour, experience, trace, habitat/home, bodies, memories, ambience, the histories of landscapes as well as artefact retrieval and collection.

“This work developed after my fourth-year final exhibition, Artefacts of Belonging, and is a continuation of that theme.

“It showcases a number of projects that continue along the same motif explored in my final year, namely the unearthing of experience using my own interpretation of the 2017 Knysna fires, and what they came to signify to me,” Kapp added.

She will explore the resonance of home through the uncovering of memories and remnants belonging to certain landscapes, and plans to continue to use an earthly aesthetic, as well as materials from Knysna, in the work.

“I set out with the intention of creating visceral experiences of my home by identifying the key physical features that have come to categorise my own,” Kapp said.

Collecting, identifying and ordering objects according to their perceived value has long been an interest and is found throughout her work.

Her winning piece from New Signatures 2018 was called ‘Mapping Time’ and her planned solo exhibition is an extension of that concept.

“I started out the year by creating some sculptural installation pieces and have a few printmaking ideas in mind.

“I think the reason I keep revisiting sculpture is because of its bodily capacity.

“Sculpture paired with the installation’s ability to render new articulations of space has allowed me to explore my own identity as an artist through the process of discovery.”

The competition is open to SA artists 18 and older who have not yet held a solo exhibition. They may submit works in all mediums including photography, performance art, video and installations.

Contemporary emerging artists may submit works at one of several points around the country between 10am and 4pm on Tuesday and Wednesday June 18 and 19.

Eastern Cape collection points are the Ann Bryant Gallery in East London and the Quad Gallery at Nelson Mandela University’s North Campus in Port Elizabeth.

The winner will be named on August 21 at a gala event, after which the winning works will be shown at the Pretoria Art Museum from August 22 to September 29.

The winner will receive R100,000, and a solo exhibition in 2020, with the runner-up winning R25,000 and the five merit award winners R10,000 each.

For more competition information and to download the entry form visit