Tony Gum’s award winning artistry involves grace, depth of expression and a self-reflective truth, which allows her to naturally transcend the confines of a singular narrative espoused through the arts. Her ethereal yet candid nature captured through her work, involves the synthesis and symbolic practice wherein the artist offers her entire being as canvas; body, mind and soul are fused together as modalities of expression. Tony is art and, art is Tony.
Gum’s distinctive style and youthful effervescence has contributed to growing global interest in artists from South Africa. Her dynamic appetite for storytelling creates accessibility across constructs of class, culture, race and gender. In an eclectic celebration of her artistic gifts, Gum blends digital film, and graphic design with more traditional methods, like paint and still life composition. She masterfully captures and brings to life the range of poignant yet subtle realities of our shared human experience. Through the prism of her culture and archetype as a woman of South African Xhosa heritage, Gum’s art captures life stories – interpreted in the most unexpected yet refreshing way. Wearing the hat of creative director on sets, informs her iconic contemporary portraiture pieces. Gum’s innate wisdom, discipline and rigor culminate in bold, iterative, and fluid artistic works that lie beyond the bounds of most gallery walls.
Tony Gum describes herself as, ‘an artist in learning, a filmmaker in training and a storyteller in grooming’. Gum is also an avid social commentator and through art gives voice to key local and global issues such as gender, colonialism, globalization, and identity. She represents free thinkers of the 21st century, recognizing both the influence and responsibility of artists in the world. Seamlessly weaving together artistic genres like art, film, photography, paintings and narrative – Gum’s work is innovative yet timeliness.
Establishing her artistic voice by drawing on pervasive signifiers and brand iconography in her seminal works which includes; ‘Black Cola’, ‘Free Da Gum’, ‘Indian Lady’, ‘iSnap’, ‘uTwiggy’ (2016), ‘Milked in Africa’ (2017), ‘Ode to She’ (2017), the ‘Rock Cause Analysis’ series (2018) and ‘Kat’emnyama’ (2019), her previous works helped set a unique visual tone of inquiry now synonymous with the Tony Gum signature. Her most recent (2020) departure into painting, captures her renewed appreciation for the magic and boundless possibilities where paintbrush and canvas connect. A reminder that inspiration can come from the most unexpected yet deeply profound moments, including objects present in our day-to-day lives. During a solo exhibition hosted in Milan, Italy, Gum illustrated her unique range, creating four powerfully distinct Xhosa matriarchs AmaMfengu, AbaThembu, AmaMpondomise and AmaMpondo. This immediately extended her art to include sculpture, remaining characteristically true to her self-portrait trademark style of execution where she is both canvas and muse.
“I’m not making work exclusively for the art world alone. It’s not directed at brands either. The message is for my people. There’s so much richness in us that should be embodied and glorified.”
Her vision and passion are to ensure her art and art in general, remains accessible to ordinary people everywhere. She often uses materials and stimulus that is found in everyday life contexts, inspiring generations in South Africa to appreciate their innate artistic talent, and to realize that art is not only for the elite. As such, Gum remains relevant and is herself accessible to diverse audiences in South Africa given its unfortunate historic divides.
Her art exudes innocence and purity – you simply have to see it to understand it, which creates a personal bond to the work. With a deep interest in local art and the development of education art – Gum takes an active role in educating, facilitating and guiding children through creative outlets. Her passion is to empower local youth by serving as an ambassador. Given the opportunity and financial backing, her long-term goal is to create a generation of ‘makers’. Thereby allowing children, otherwise unable to have access to trade the opportunity, to become craftsmen and self-sustainable. To teach children to be carpenters, blacksmiths and other trades, which serves not only as a creative outlet, but an opportunity to create their own financial support system. A fundamental part of her empowerment program is to make youngsters believe in even the mundane.