Johannes Phokela South African, b. 1966

Artist and sculptor, Phokela (b. 1966, Soweto) currently lives and works in Johannesburg. He formally begun pursuing art at Johannesburg’s Federated Union of Black Artists (FUBA) Academy in 1984 and concluded with a master’s degree from The Royal College of Art in London in 1993.
Phokela's paintings are predominately oil on canvas. His references to the classical style of the Dutch Golden Age forms images that are not part of the European canon but appear to be. He reinterprets these traditional works with a contemporary language, often referencing violence and political unrest in his home country. Through his work, Johannes retells folklore and parables to create a history that we in the present can relate to. Doing this through lushly painted surfaces and allegory, Phokela’s medium is not the message; his painting is a subversive tool in an intellectually rigorous practice that provokes the viewer.
Johannes has established a distinguished career both locally and internationally, participating in numerous notable solo and group exhibitions that have earned him many accolades and decorations, among which is the Decibel Award from the Arts Council of England (2004). He was represented in the South African Pavilion at the Venice Biennale in 2013 and most recently, at the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa (Zeitz MOCAA) in Cape Town. Phokela’s work can be found in the collections of the National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institute, Washington D.C., the Delfina Studio Trust, and the London Arts Council Collection. In South Africa, he is represented in the art holdings of BHP Billeton, Scheryn Art Collection, Johannesburg Art Gallery and the Iziko South African National Gallery (SANG), amongst many others.