Ama Voetsek, Art, Graf


by Samora Chapman / 21.08.2015

Cape Town-based artists Ello and Black Koki popped into Durban town for a corporate job not so long ago and took the opportunity to lace some walls here and there with local legend, Skullboy. Durban’s a small scene so it’s always blessed to see a few new splashes of paint. We caught up with Ello, whose refreshing artwork is like looking at the jaded world through rainbow-tinted sunglasses. Here’s what she had to say…


Mahala: Your work seems to mix naïve, childlike fantasy with elements of vice and darkness. What/who influences your work the most? Is it a purely visual expression or are there strong emotions behind the work?

Ello: My work now is mostly influenced by the people and things I experience and what I think about it. I make mental notes when I see something or someone that interest me, and I recall it later, drawing how I remember it. Or how it made me feel. My strongest influences regarding artists have been the ones that I grew up with – looking through my parents’ art books and the artwork we had in our house. Certain elements have just gotten stuck in my subconscious and the same artworks still move me as they did when I was a child. I have a handful of favourite artists. And they have shaped how I want my work to make the viewer feel. I’m still working on it though.

I would say it is a visual expression of strong emotions, although the emotions and experiences aren’t always obvious. I like to leave it open for interpretation, so that people can add their own narrative to the images. I use a good deal of symbols and symbolism. Visually my work is strongly enforced by the basic elements and principles of design. I’m obsessed with visually balancing out colours and weight.


Mahala: You work in many mediums… from design, screen-prints and gifs to graffiti and street art. What do you love/hate about these different mediums? Are some more liberating than others? And what is your favourite tool?

Ello: I prefer to keep it interesting and don’t want to constantly do the same thing. Like everything, all mediums come with pros and cons. But I like them all because they produce different results. If you are able to express something through them they are definitely liberating, some more than others. I find it liberating when you can change the work constantly during the process, so I try to make that part of my process with all the mediums I work in. My favourite tools (besides my eyes) are pencils and a scissors.

ello zombie

Mahala: Judging by your online portfolio, your work has become progressively more flat, colourful and abstract. Is this a fair interpretation? How has your style developed and why?

Ello: My style has developed in many ways since I’ve started, it has gone through a variety of phases. I think it’s safe to say it has gotten more abstract but it has mostly been quite colourful. I feel that I achieve a cleaner result with stronger lines and shapes, perhaps because repetition makes it possible to convey the same visual concept in less detail. It also makes you realize what you like to repeat and what you don’t, so I think that has quite a big impact considering style and time.

I have also always liked stylizing things, finding smooth lines and in this way deconstructing imagery and ideas to their basic shapes. I am a fan of 2D animation, comics and cartoons, and this has always made quite an impact on what I draw and paint.  So I am trying to find a balance between being a grown up and making kids’ pictures. I think this has caused my characters to become more sophisticated in a way but I will always add something super cute or playful because that’s just what comes naturally. I would like to think of my work as abstract/surreal cartoons made in South Africa.


Mahala: What’s your view on the digital daze, social media and the internet? Do you think the internet has enhanced creativity or destroyed it? What are the pros and cons for you?

Ello: Creativity and the internet are not really connected so much. If you are creative you will use the internet creatively. Literally infinite possibilities. My view of it all is that it is simply the times we are living in. We have to embrace where we are, what we have done and what we have available to work with. The pros are that anybody can see your work and the cons are that everybody can see your work.

Ello room

Mahala: Do you feel responsible, as an artist, to have a strong agenda or purpose behind your work?

Ello: Yes I do, but I don’t want to be a politician. I want my work to be real and true and make the viewer feel nostalgic and think about life as a force of positives and negatives.

Mahala: Are you tattooed or clean canvas? Why?

Ello: I am almost a clean canvas. I recently got a small one, commemorative of a special time with personal meaning. It was just the first time I felt the need to do it.

Ello space 2013

Mahala: What projects are you currently working on? When is your next show or what should peeps look out for?

Ello: I am currently working on a whole new project. It is called OHNO, and will be a range of clothing items and other lifestyle products with my styles as inspiration. You can follow the project on Instagram: THIS.IS.OHNO. I am also working on a comic book called Diary of a Spider Killer. I am drawing one panel a day so it will still be a while in the making. But it will definitely be followed up by Diary of a Killer Spider. My next show is at Kalashnikovv Gallery in Jo’burg, on the 3rd of September. It’s a group show called “Death to the Old.

Mahala: Any last words or shout outs? Big up!

Ello: Shout out to my mom, my dad, my frauke, my sisters, all my other sisters (you know who you are), my bestie Black Koki, the cat, my art friends, the babes and of course you for doing this interview!

“Without Contraries is no progression. Attraction and Repulsion, Reason and Energy, Love and Hate, are necessary to Human existence.” – William Blake, The Marriage of Heaven and Hell

*Follow Ello on Tumblr: and Instagram: @ello_xray_eyez.

Ello, Black Koki and Skullboy – Durban, 2015

Ello, Black Koki and Skullboy – Durban, 2015


drawing-of-life-2014 drawlikeagirl2014 elloxrayeyez2014

ello zombie 2014

*Artwork © Ello
*Photography © Samora Chapman

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