Juan Stockenstroom | ARTIST PROFILE
ARTIST STATEMENT AND BIO
My work is informed by my upbringing and experiences as a person of mixed race and heritage (termed “coloured”) in apartheid and post-apartheid South Africa. I extract from my life experiences to create my work.
I work under the moniker of a fictional character called King Champion. King Champion is the finder and custodian of ancient stories. What stories, you ask? The lost and distorted historical narratives of the African continent and its diaspora. Stories our ancestors buried to keep them safe from a gaze that distorted them. Stories about who we are and who we come from. Stories about where we come from and how we came to be.
King Champion is a listener, a seer: an artist whose ear stretches through time to bring history into the present. Listening for the stories of men and women who are ready and wanting to speak now, who want us to hear and remember them. King Champion searches for the invisible stories that line our streets and sing in the wind. He collects the songs and phrases, the images and memories. One by one, he remembers them with brush on canvas, with acrylic and ink, with words etched into images.
King Champion’s canvasses are mirrors through time, showing you histories you might not know, that live within and around you. And, like a mirror, each image offers a different reflection to whoever chooses to stand before it. His stories are not easy to read. Where you might find comfort and affirmation, another might be confronted and questioned. However, King Champion is not concerned with your reading of each story – his work is simply its re-telling.
In this way, my work is multi-layered. My paintings are reconstructions, remixes and re-imaginings of these historical narratives. I juxtapose these visual images and portraits with mythology, handwriting in multiple languages, symbols, cryptology, gang culture and high culture. Thus, presenting ambiguous narratives, and creating a Visual Creole.
Juan Stockenstroom is a South African artist, born in 1982 in Cape Town, where he grew up. He started out working in the medium of photography and digital art. However, after a number of years in this medium, he found it limiting and so abandoned it. In 2018, he started working in painting, finding this medium more expansive and thus more suitable for exploring the themes and ideas with which his work is concerned.