The artist FRINGE with his unique way of expression is one of the most successful rising street art stars in South Africa.
As a companion of his style is Faith47, furthermore also Sindiso Nyoni. All three have their artistic roots in street painting and comic illustration, which elevates them into a gallery environment.
But FRINGES’ obvious playfulness hides a deeper meaning – he works with a recurring repertoire of characters and symbols. FRINGE does not reveal his identity and rarely gives interviews. This leaves it up to the viewer to draw his own conclusions about what the artist wants to express when he combines painting and collage on canvas.
An interview in the context of the exhibition “Fringe. The Very Definition” (2017): his “embedded motifs” as Fringe calls them, point to a “persistent contradiction between recognizable and spatial things with controlled and uncontrolled forces, precision versus indeterminacy, coming together to convey my message.
In other words, on canvas, FRINGE the Artist creates a space of existence for the famous characters and shows how the preconceived opinion about them varies from viewer to viewer. And from place to place. No single person has a uniform image of Marilyn Monroe, Mahatma Gandhi, Mickey Mouse or Tintin – but we all believe that these historical icons are so firmly anchored in our consciousness that they are synonymous for all of us.
In doing so, FRINGE the Artist obviously equates outstanding figures of contemporary history such as Monroe or Gandhi with two-dimensional comic heroes such as Mickey Mouse and Tintin.
To begin with, we can discuss what significance Gandhi has in the South African context – the country where he laid the foundation for his path of passive resistance. The figure of Gandhi is not without controversy here, as he is often accused of having a negative attitude towards black Africans during his protests against British colonialism. The situation is similar with the popular comic figure Tintin, who is portrayed by many outside Western culture as a brazen neo-colonialist.
FRINGE’s humorous and perceptibly cheerful paintings challenge us to question these characters, who have long since become brands of our pop culture (FRINGE started his career in advertising, so expertise for brands is part of his creative DNA).
For example, is the figure of Monroe really still the ideal woman in a world where gender, powerlessness and degradation are hotly debated? Or is she rather a bad example from today’s perspective of how women should “be”?
Symbols of FRINGE the Artist: Word Wildlife Fund, Coca-Cola, fried egg
FRINGE the Artist uses a symbolism that is as challenging as it is controversial – and this is where his social satire really comes into its own.
The logo of the renowned World Wildlife Fund is redesigned as WTF (What The Fuck) and Coca-Cola becomes readable as “Cocaine”. It remains our decision whether these transformations are deserved.
In a similar, even more sophisticated way, the ubiquitous fried egg in FRINGES pictures has more than just a decorative purpose.
In his early works, the artist takes Leonardo da Vinci’s study of a foetus as his basic motif and makes it the historical core of compositions of other modern characters and symbols. We can assume that the growing child (as a recurring artistic motif) will one day become an individual seeking its place in a world of established brands and historical symbols.
At the same time the egg is a symbol for development and nutrition, although it does not clearly stand for positivity and health.
The fried egg is perfectly produced in a two-coloured spray technique. The white colour runs as if by chance and imitates the actual preparation. At the same time, the fried egg is a rather sad symbol for mass-produced breakfast at fast food chains and franchisers.
We cannot look at it without automatically thinking of its importance in our industrial eating culture, which prefers fast and cheap mass products and is thus accused of devastating our planet.
The artist “Fringe” is a phantom. No one, except a Johannesburg gallery owner, knows the identity of the South African. The works of the pop-up sprayer, however, are becoming increasingly popular. More than 20,000 people follow “Fringe The Artist” on the Instagram platform alone. And in his home country, the pop-up sprayer has long been “a star” like the equally anonymous “Banksy” in England, says Frank Fluegel.
In a recent interview, the artist known as Fringe provided insights into his creative journey and artistic philosophy. Fringe describes himself as an artist, a businessman, and a family man, in no particular order. Their artistic talent emerged from a habit of doodling in notepads, which eventually led him to explore larger formats against pop backgrounds. Inspired by classic pop art and contemporary artists incorporating old paper into his works, Fringe found a style that incorporates randomness, mirroring the unpredictability of life.
Living with his secret identity presents challenges for Fringe the Artist. He works in a secret space, frequently washes his hands, and changes paint-stained clothes regularly. However, seeing his artwork displayed in people’s homes, either through photographs or collections of precious items, fills him with a sense of amazement. Fringe’s art is versatile and capable of functioning in minimalist spaces or alongside cherished possessions, showcasing visual contradictions and the fusion of disparate elements.
When it comes to public reception, Fringe acknowledges the potential for criticism due to his anonymity and the artworks’ departure from overtly South African themes. However, he believes that more people are starting to embrace the global nature of our world and appreciate the common ground found in popular culture.
Fringe’s closest friends, unaware of their artistic alter ego, offer positive feedback on the boldness, color, and incorporation of famous comic-book characters in the artworks. Their friends’ comments sometimes provide helpful suggestions for future artistic exploration.
The decision to adopt a pseudonym stems from Fringe’s desire to focus on creating art rather than dealing with the art scene and constant self-explanation. He finds it liberating not to be the center of attention and spare his family from potential complexities.
Fringe the Artist has never come close to revealing his true identity, as he has no interest in doing so. He prefers to avoid the associated challenges and responsibilities that come with being recognized.
Art has always been a driving force in Fringe’s life, with every moment filled with creative potential. His vision constantly contemplates how objects or scenes would fit within frames or plinths, driven by the pleasure of sharing their artistic perspective with the world.
Although some may perceive Fringe as someone with artistic tendencies due to his tinkering with various things, he is not seen as eccentric or rebellious.
Fringe describes his art as classic pop art with a 21st-century edge. Over the years, his art has matured from sketches mixed with collage to a style that blurs the boundaries between reality and art, showcasing his ability to copy and adapt.
Inspiration for Fringe the Artist comes from his teenage years, his children’s exposure to social media-driven realities, the pop-art movement, and the dynamic world of art collecting.
Being Jewish has had a profound impact on Fringe’s art and life. Growing up in a home where art was cherished, surrounded by collectors within the Jewish community, instilled a sense of appreciation and support for the arts. Fringe acknowledges the fortunate position of having Jewish art enthusiasts who contribute to making their artistic journey easier.
When asked about comparisons to Banksy, Fringe expresses admiration for Banksy’s mastery of understatement. He aspires to use plain symbols and characters effectively like Banksy does, although he notes that his artistic direction may differ. To discover more about Fringe’s evolving style, visitors are encouraged to attend the exhibitions personally.
- The Very Definition (South Africa, Germany 2017)
- Don’t Blink (South Africa, Germany 2018)
- Porsche 911 exhibition (Desom Luxembourg, 2019)
- No Seriously (South Africa, Germany 2020).
- December 2021 Solo show at Gallery 508 in London.
- February 2022, solo exhibition, titled Calculus of Joy, at Scapegoat Gallery in Hyde Park.
- VIK gallery in Milan, April 2022
- MEC Museum Palermo, October 2022.
- In the best of all possible worlds, FRANK FLUEGEL GALERIE, November 2023