ABSA L'Atelier Merit Award

The ABSA L’Atelier is South Africa’s most prestigious art competition and is held annually for artists between ages 21 to 35. This award not only ensures South Africa’s emerging artists of recognition, but also affords them the opportunity to develop their talents abroad. A look through the list of previous winners will testify to this.
 Four prizes will be made available: First prize, two merit award prizes and the Gerard Sekoto Award for the most promising artist. 
One of the merit awards is done in cooperation with the Sylt Foundation. The merit winner will sopend a two-month residency on the island of Sylt in Northern Germany.

Bevan de Wet at the Turbine Hall Art Fair, Johannesburg 2014
© Ivan Muller

South African artist and printmaker Bevan de Wet is the winner of the ABSA L'Atelier Merit Award 2014 and will spend a two-month residency on the island of Sylt in Northern Germany in september and october 2015.

De Wet was born in 1979. He studied at Rhodes University, Grahamstown obtaining his BA (FA) with distinction in Studio Practice in 2008. He has participated in several exhibitions both locally and internationally, including the Absa L’Atelier Exhibition in 2007 and 2012.

Decorus in Gryphus II.
Etching and relief,177 x 117 cm
© Bevan de Wet


The artist’s work engages with various symbolic and cultural implications surrounding the body. The artist is interested, not in the body’s position in a space or particular context, but rather in its potential for incongruity when void of such. The exploration of masquerade in his work is a key factor, through which he is attempting to create his own mythological language.

The use of animals as symbols is a predominant theme in most folklore. De Wet is intrigued by such symbols since his family’s coat of arms bares the symbol of a griffin, a legendary mythological creature with the features of both a lion and an eagle. De Wet’s personal isolation from its metaphor forms a basis for conversation and narrative, which he uses to deconstruct history and identity.

The title simply translated is “Becoming the Griffin”, indicating a process or period of transition experienced while slowly gleaning an understanding of its significance. The use of anthropomorphism in the work allows for a negotiation of that dichotomy between the civilized self and the instinctive, untamed self. De Wet sees the skin's surface as a boundary, receptive to patterning, mapping and fragmenting. This fracturing of imagery further investigates notions of displacement and belonging, thus evoking a sense of unease and disconnectedness.