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This South African Street Artist Moved to L.A. to Explore the Politics of Being Human

Faith XLVII settled into her new Echo Park studio less than a month ago, but it already looks as if she’s spent her career here. In one corner is a growing collection of wood paintings of animals with some mystical references that will be part of a forthcoming solo show. Elsewhere, there are collages, screen prints, and more paintings, an eclectic mix of works all from the mind of the same artist.

Previously known as Faith 47 (she made the change from Arabic to Roman numerals “a year or two ago” because she liked the look of it), the South African artist known for her work in the street-art realm relocated from Cape Town to Los Angeles a year ago. “I wanted to be in a place where I could expand my practice,” says Faith.

And Los Angeles has made an impact on the artist. “I think I’ve become a lot more focused,” she says. Faith spends the bulk of her days inside the studio and will keep at work until midnight or 1 a.m. Often she’ll have assistants come in to help her out during the day. The afternoons can be sluggish, but by the time evening falls, she’ll start blasting music and getting back into the work.

Faith, who will be part of the Beyond the Streets exhibition this May, got her start as a teenage graffiti artist, but working on the streets was something that she found “limiting.” She wanted to develop a studio practice where she could delve into the ideas that piqued her interests. “The street art stuff is really interesting to me and I think that there’s a lot that can be done with it, but I think that on some level, it becomes a little Instagram friendly,” she says. “I don’t know if people are really exploring their subject matter properly or very in depth. I want to find ways to do that and also have a really strong studio practice.”

Her practice now incorporates everything from painting to video installations to immersive art. She’s a prolific artist and one whose works cross disciplines and themes. Sexuality, borders, peace, and environmentalism are all topics Faith has explored in her work.

If there’s one central theme that runs through Faith’s art, it’s the interplay between life on the planet and the myriad issues that face humanity. The animals that she has taken to painting on wood speak to the relationship between humans and the environment. “I’m trying to play with some archetypal animals that relate to our human emotions and represent different parts of our being,” she says. “I think we have absolutely disrespected nature and it’s to our own demise and I think that we have to reconnect to the animals and the planet and see ourselves as part of it in order to [start] living sustainably and thinking of the earth as an organism.”

Recently, Faith painted a large mural in Skid Row. Titled “Salus Populi Suprema Lex Esto,” the piece features the arms of a person crossed over the chest. It’s genesis stems from a video collaboration that Faith did with Chop ’em Down Films in Jacksonville, Florida, called By Virtue Of, where homeless people were interviewed while their hands were filmed. The resulting footage was screened on the side of a building.

The Skid Row mural is part of an ongoing series called “7.83 HZ,” referencing Schumann resonances—peaks in the Earth’s electromagnetic field spectrum—as a way of illustrating human connectivity. Other murals in the series are titled with the dates of wars, while the images themselves are often scenes of people embracing. Faith says that juxtaposition is to show, “the polarity between how beautiful and loving we can be and, at the same time, how awful and destructive we are.”

“There’s always been a bit of a political and social edge with my work, although I try to stay away from it a bit. Sometimes, I just can’t help myself,” she says. “In some ways, I find that it’s a bit too defining or too obvious sometimes. I want to look at ways that are maybe a bit more abstract to affect people.”

Faith surmises that being from South Africa resulted in her early politically charged works; she once created a series based on the country’s Freedom Charter. “Now, I’m looking at it more holistically, where I think that we need to develop as human beings and spiritually and emotionally in order for the political situation to get better,” she says. “It’s all linked.”

Written by How Africa

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