Seth Pimentel Is Overcome By The Creative Spirit
Inspired by the complexity of the city of Johannesburg and the people who inhabit it, Seth Pimentel aka African Ginger illustrates portraits of pure emotion in a punk aesthetic. Melancholy and anxiety make their way into his works rich in mood, layers, symbols and reference. We interviewed him about his textured style, and asked how he wants his art to make people feel.
Exclusively for The Jameson INDIE Channel, African Ginger adds his mark-making to portraits of Johannesburg faces shot by Kgomotso Neto.
How did you develop the style you work in now?
My style is pretty much a combination of everything I’ve learnt visually; a massive amalgamation of artists I’m inspired by, textures I find in my daily life, like graffiti hand-styles, and this weird tendency to deconstruct volume and weight in unconventional ways. It took me ages to develop this style, and even now I’m so lost. It’s like I keep losing my style, myself. It crushes me. So I realised I have to continuously draw, to make sense of myself again.
Do you have a vision of the final piece in mind before you start?
Never. I’ve learnt that nothing is ever perfectly planned. Sometimes I have a vague idea of what it would look like pieced together but it never looks like what I imagined. I realised that’s kinda what life is like. You have no set idea of what something will turn into, and even when you do, it never pieces together the way you expected it. Rather just let your creative spirit take control.
Who are the people who feature in your portraits? Are they people you know or faces from your imagination?
The faces in my portraits are a blend of people I know and faces I’ve seen; people I’ve dreamt I’ve met. Sometimes the faces have a strong emotional connection to me, like I’ve known them for eons. Or like I once fell in love with one of them a long time ago. Most of them are just the emotions I wish I could convey physically. Frowns and smiles and blacked out eyes that I wish I could show. But no one cares about how you feel, no one really cares anyway. We’re all so collectively disconnected from each other. We only truly speak to each other through our art. Which is so fucking narcissistic, it’s beautiful.
Does Johannesburg have an influence on the work you make?
Hugely, I mean like the biggest influence on me. It’s grimy, hard, callous. But at the same time it’s warm, passionate. Connected. I take what I see in the city and try to reimagine it as a figure, or what the city makes a figure feel like. What the city makes you feel like. That grime to that cleanliness. Intoxication to infatuation.
Where does the text in your work come from?
It comes from music, lyrics I hear that stick in my head, overwhelming my thoughts until it just spews out onto an illustration. Sometimes a little bit of anxiety. It feels like I’m overwhelmed by my own thoughts, sentences that really plague my head. It all just runs out.
Where does your mind go when you’re drawing? Do you find it meditative?
It used to be super relaxing, I could breathe when I worked. When I was younger it was an escape. Now it’s just anxiety-ridden thoughts. I’m obligated to create, I’m not creating for myself. I’m creating for you, to feel that little thing you never let out. It’s like I have to get this feeling off my chest before it consumes me. But it’s not even my feelings. It’s not sad, I’m not sad. It’s melancholic, like drinking tea during a rainy day, understanding your own isolation, but not wallowing in your sorrow, but enjoying that feeling of being misunderstood. It’s beautiful. It’s this overwhelming feeling of our entire species’ emotions flowing over you. It’s the most beautiful experience.
What emotions are at play in your work?
All of them. Woefulness, joy, wonder, hope, isolation, everything. All in one. Whatever comes out in the end was the emotion that was most dominant. I don’t know, it’s hard to pin point one specific feeling.
How do you want your work to make people feel?
I want my work to make people to feel something, it doesn’t matter what it is. As long as you felt something, even if it was just a brief, fleeting moment of joy, or melancholy, or wonder. Something. Feeling anything just means you’re alive anyways. I just want people to feel.
Photogaphs by Kgomotso Neto
Interview by Alix-Rose Cowie.