Sifiso Mkhabela was born in Nelspruit (now Mbombela) in 1991. Mkhabela moved to Pretoria to pursue his art career in 2013 where he studied and obtained his B-Tech degree in Fine and Applied Arts. After graduating he went on and worked for Angus Taylor where he Wes a studio assistant. Mkhabela now works in his own studio in Johannesburg where he specializes in metal sculpture.
Picking up the welder and the grinder was not just an artistic choice for me. I have a really strong connection with these tools as they were basically in front of me my whole life. My work is inspired by my father, who is a boiler maker and that is why working with metal is second nature to me. As a good observer going up, I learnt a lot from my father whom I categorically say right now, is a better welder than I am.
I draw my inspiration from my childhood memories. Working with metal is hard work and watching my father work tirelessly over the years and never giving up really helped me form the solid ground that I stand on as a sculptor today. Metal is a medium that speaks volumes to me because it is used in almost everything we used in our daily lives, metal is the back bone of our entire infrastructure.
I am currently working with both geometric forms and organic structures to create my sculptures. In my work I employ hybridity as a powerful tool of transformation and reconstruction of existing concepts to create new exciting structures. My point of view is inspired by mathematical and scientific concepts. I love the philosophy thought by Plato where he said “The physical world is a poor decaying copy of a perfect, rational and changeless original world.
”Platonism is a contemporary view that there are abstract objects that do not exist in time or space, my work is an attempt to represent these abstract objects taking from my childhood experience. My works becomes hybrids of these abstract objects as they are after all just mere representations of the originals.
I consider my work hybrids because it is a combination of my thoughts and everything we perceive every day from our infrastructure to the human figure as we traditionally now it. I try to understand and imitate this concept by playing around with platonic shapes to construct new identities of my thoughts and my work becomes a form of me talking about these abstract objects, while transforming ordinary matter into something new thus creating a link between the material world and the mentally formulated one.
To begin the process, my sculptures are made out of shoe sole rubber and sometimes wire and then later I turn them into metal life size and sometimes 3 times life sized sculptures. This material is strong and direct; it allows me to fully engage in the process of constructing and creating through various welding processes and techniques.
The surface of my sculptures has a raw translucent quality, I do not want to mask the medium because of the texture it introduces into my sculptures. The more I work with this medium the more I find new ways of manipulating it to depict my thoughts of the abstract objects that Plato is talking about in his theory. I call them hybrids of my thoughts.