Gerald Tabata is a self-taught artist, who was born in 1975 and spent his childhood in Khayelitsha, Cape Town. He was enamoured of art from a young age and was trained in a variety of disciplines including sculpture, photography and painting, which he took to immediately. Tabata participated in the Community Arts Project (CAP) between 1988 and 1990 where he received further mentorship and training and became an artist in residence at Greatmore Studios in 2004, where he participated in a number of group exhibitions. He also took part in the Thupelo International Arts Workshop in 2006, collaborating with local and international artists as part of a creative cultural exchange programme. Tabata has exhibited in South Africa and internationally.
Since the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic, the whole world was thrust into solitude as lockdowns and extreme social distancing became what was called ‘the new normal’. In that stillness, many things rose to the surface of our societies, including inadequate healthcare systems, authoritarianism, glaring inequality and the illusion of security.
As the country and the world emerge from various stages of lockdown, Gerald Tabata’s paintings are a poetic depiction of the mundane, that may serve to inspire in the viewer a renewed appreciation for freedom of movement, the reigniting of relationships and a tentative return to the daily rhythms of human interaction.
Tabata’s paintings have a documentary feel, becoming an almost photographic record of the comings and goings of his subjects; simultaneously simplifying their physical form and alluding to the absolute fullness of their lives. Tabata’s subjects live, work, play and love in the township. They move from one place to another, often not even acknowledging the viewer – they are wholly engrossed in their activities, their lives completely their own.
The surfaces of many of Tabata’s paintings are sculptural in nature, imbuing them with depth and nuance. His subjects always seem to be in transit, always in a state of movement. If the painting is a document, Tabata becomes a social commentator, using his way of seeing to evoke a deep sense of respect for freedom of movement and an admiration for the mundane.