Tamboerskloof artist off to Paris

Some of the work shown at an auction of artworks by Monique Pelser this past week.

Independent visual artist Monique Pelser has been awarded an opportunity to go to the Cite Internationale Des Arts in Paris for three months this year on a residency programme which connects artists from all over the world.

The Tamboerskloof-based conceptual artist was trained at the Market Photography Workshop at Rhodes University and The School of Visual Arts in New York.

She was selected to be part of the programme along with two other South Africans and plans to use the opportunity to her advantage.

She said she would be researching the development of photographic technology by going to various archives in Paris.

“It is a three-month residency to live and make my work in Paris and I’ll also be working on a story about the development of technology and making a series of public interferences,” she said.

She said she’d always been passionate about visual arts and had won a number of awards throughout her career.

In 2007 she was voted Bright Young Artist by Arts in South Africa and was part of a group of emerging African photographers who attended the Simon Njami-initiated master classes around Africa between 2008 and 2013.

In 2009, she won the Tierney Fellowship for photography, which led her to being awarded a place in the intensive Photo Global programme at the School of Visual Arts in New York.

She has continued to work and exhibit locally and internationally. Her work includes images of clouds on the Sea Point Promenade and the images of the faces that were part of a 2014 public art installation along St George’s Mall .

Ms Pelser said it had not always been easy and the journey had been full of ups and downs.

“When I started off as an artist, the industry was tiny, if not non-existent, now it’s bigger. It takes a lot of passion to remain a working artist,” she said.

Ms Pelser said while it was a great opportunity to go to Paris, it did mean she wouldn’t be earning for three months and covering costs at home remained a challenge.

“I have applied for funding for a year, but have not got any and the photographic industry has been very quiet in Cape Town this year,” she said.

“The main challenge is that I have to work a second job to support my art-making career. It’s a problem that I can’t afford to pay my rent when I’m doing so well in my career,” she said.

To raise funds for her trip to Paris, Ms Pelser launched an auction of artworks of top Cape Town-based artists.

Contributing artists included Toast Coetzer, Ingrid Masondo, Inge Prins, Ulrich Knoblauch, Matthew Hindley, Stefan Naude, Monique Prinsloo and Samantha Reinders.

“A group of my friends, some top Cape Town-based artists were so generous and donated works to help support my project and this trip. We sold a few works and since then a few more artists came on board so we moved it to an online auction,” she said.

Ms Pelser said while there had been a surge in commercial art-making and the number of galleries in Cape Town, conceptual artists were still struggling and she believed that arts funding needed to be re-evaluated.

One of the reasons for this, she said, was that mature artists needed support but funding was often restricted to those under 35.

“How is that okay? Just as artists are making sophisticated work and need the most support. Art-making is not just a decorative and entertainment industry, its a philosophical endeavor and should be supported,” she said.

To raise money for production costs for the work she plans to make in Paris, she has started a fundraising campaign, through crowdfunding platform Thundafund

She is 50% of the way with a week to go. Visit https://www.thundafund.com/project/moniquepelser to donate.