MILAN – Can the recycling of plastic to promote ecologically sustainable art actually work? Many people have wondered about this in the past and amongst these was also Mbongeni Buthelezi; a South African artist, who, in the last 23 years, has exploited recycled plastic in the composition of marvellous works of art. Buthelezi was introduced to plastic materials during a workshop, while working in synergy with a Swiss artist to create ecologically sustainable pieces. Inspired by the idea, this was enough to understand how to use these materials, not just as a canvas, but also as a painting medium. The breakthrough came through experimentation with a special gun, used to apply molten plastic. Over the years, this artist from South Africa has been able to refine his technique and has worked meticulously to improve it to the point of becoming an expert in the sector.
Breaking the mould
The forty-nine year old South African, after gaining a diploma from art school and taking a classic art route, has dedicated himself body and soul over the past 23 years to this special art of recycling: "In the past, I experimented with watercolours, paints and other media”, said Buthelezi; “I was no longer able to grow, but I wanted to become well-known and capture the attention of the public, because I knew that if I wanted to live from my art and make a career in this sector, I would have to create something really special”. According to Buthelezi, ecologically sustainable art also represents a metaphor for life: “Using rubbish and trying to create something beautiful with it; this is what we can do with ourselves and our lives: making them unique”.
A simple and causal process
The artist considers his creative processes to be simple and causal, but maintains that his works speak for themselves. "I am interested in finding the details in a painting”, he affirms, “but also how evocative something can be when observed from afar. I would define myself as a mirror for the society in which I live and want to have a significant impact on this world”. In his paintings, Buthelezi depicts a variety of subjects: scenes from daily life, African history, portraits of people and abstract images. He also deals with social and environmental themes. In one picture, he has used purple and orange drinks labels to ‘paint’ the clothes worn by women standing at the corner of a street. He uses the rough texture of the plastic to depict the difficulties of life in a South African city. He also has a series of black and white pictures of children playing happily and on a personal level, this means a great deal to him, having spent a childhood of hard labour in the past.
by editorial staff