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Art, Graf


by George Kirkinis / Images by Laura McCullagh & Teigue Blokpoel / 03.07.2015

Dfeat rattled his spray can and assessed his latest inscription on the gallery’s outer wall. “That’s what it’s all about, right there”, Blake said over his shoulder, turning to a lone tree jutting out of the pavement, surrounded by rubble and buildings. “That oak, emerging from the tarmac. It’s about the passion. We are all working two bar shifts to get this going. But at least we are out here living life, and not just talking about it”.

It was immediately clear to me how an oak tree surrounded by concrete debris would be an appropriate image for the Knobs and Tassels gallery founders to identify with. In an art culture born from privilege and decadence, where an art piece becomes one more commodity in a room full of other commodities, the artist becomes something closer to a stylist than a creator; rehashing ‘pretty things’ to decorate the walls and tables of the economically endowed.


Andy Neuro’s work at K&T. Image © Teigue Blokpoel

The horrible disconnect with this is that the creators themselves are very rarely of the camp they are creating for. The artists are forced to pigeonhole their work to fit the mould of a milieu they are neither from, nor likely to join. By necessity, the work becomes disingenuous: catered to the safe appetite of the market, so that it may tidily hang on the clean and polished walls of some extravagantly furnished living room. A neat and self-contained package, no more challenging or thought provoking than the wall on which it hangs.

Out of the burning furor of artists sick to death of doing sketch portraits of white kids, have emerged a series of small self-standing institutions. Institutions that de-commodify art. That take it off of the plain, smooth, flat surface of the wall and re-hang it where it was always meant to be: in your mind. This new environment is a beautiful contradiction, full of irreconcilable emotions, thoughts, and desires. And so the art that hangs there should be too: beautiful, contradictory, discordant, uncontainable, individual, and, most importantly – authentic. As a result, the art finally reflects the artists: a rag tag collection of unwashed, paint-stained dreamers, trying their best to present their work in an environment that is resistant to conscious individual thought.

Knobs and Tassels, a new gallery in Cape Town, is one such institution actively seeking to create a space curated for the person, and not for the pocket.


Rayaan Cassiem’s work directly on wood at K&T. Image © Teigue Blokpoel.

The separation between their establishment and the other Cape Town galleries was something that founders Dani Diamond and Blake Combrinck were both quick to point out: “Our place is very counter the art culture in Cape Town, this is a gallery where artists are uplifted instead of exploited. From a business point of view, this makes absolutely no sense. And that’s why it’s going to work. We curate people on their integrity rather than on their ability to sell.”

Cape Town graffiti artist and newest Knobs and Tassels exhibiter, Dfeat, lauded the duo for the same reason: “They don’t limit you as an artist, they let you be open and free with your work. There is more expression rather than just doing things because you are trying to sell them. You can actually do art that you love.”


Custom grafitti caps by legendary street artists Dfeat & Logikll Paradox

Indeed throughout the whole interview, Dani continuously emphasized that the central credo was that there should be “no boundaries placed on the artist”. Walking around the gallery space it was clear that there was no set defined style or niche, it was an explosion of creativity; both beautiful and discordant. Each work a separate journey from the one that came before. The only unifying thread was that they were all pieces that their creators actually wanted to do.

“They don’t have to try fit into what sells or what the gallery wants to market at all”, Dani observed about the heterogeneous mix, “this lets the artists make art they are passionate about, as opposed to trying to bring what they think other people can make money off of.”


Optimism Form: The James Musoke Lule series at K&T. Image © Teigue Blokpoel.

Her attitude towards the gallery showed that the space had what the rest of the world desperately needs: a bit of individuality. “We don’t sell perfection, we sell passion”, said Blake. “Yes. The art here is a product of unique, creative, and individual thought… And that is what we are selling; the whole creative process behind the artwork and not just the thing on the wall”, Dani immediately added. The result is authenticity. And that is one thing that money can’t buy.

Stepping into a space like Knobs and Tassels solicits a burden; but it is a necessary burden. A creative burden. A burden that invites you to interact not only with your eyes, but with your mind as well. Andy Neuro’s autobiographical note about how to view his art poignantly affirmed this: “It can be taxing for the viewer, but I do not make art for stupid or lazy people, their demands are well catered for by society.” This, I believe, should not be read as an insult, but rather as an invitation…


Artwork by Shirage Davids. Image © Teigue Blokpoel.

All humans have the capacity for independent thought, yet whether or not all humans exercise this capacity is severely in doubt. To engage with the art using an open and critical mind is to engage with the world in the same manner. This is because the art exists to emulate the world in which it was created. To approach life with an open and critical mind is the sole destination of the creative individual. And the only individuals capable of both dismantling and mending the world are the creative ones.

What Knobs and Tassels are trying to do, I believe, is take the art down off the gallery wall, dust it off, and place it where it was born and where it was always meant to hang: in your mind. This step is a bold, but a necessary one. The rest is up to us. It places a responsibility on us to be creators, rather than consumers. To be individuals, rather than institutions and to be artistic, rather than apathetic.


Strangers and friends at the K&T opening.


Wolf River performing live at the K&T opening.


Josh Roxton and his band performing at the K&T opening.


Support live musicians. Invest in artists!


Sandi our Captain – Kirwin’s Coffee mascot.

Knobs & Tassels can be found opposite an Oak Tree in the pavement at 115 Harrington Street. Contact them if you want to exhibit your own art, view other people’s art, or merely have a think about life. Their next event, Alon Fainstein’s exhibit, opens on the 2nd of July at 6pm.

*Lead Image: Dfeat painting the garage doors of the K&T Gallery. “‘If you wont let us dream, we wont let you sleep…”

*Images © Laura McCullagh & Teigue Blokpoel

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