To inhabit a space implies a type of ownership by presence. City bylaws and property deeds describe space in one way but that map frays at its intersection with the human occupation of place. Daily movements define and embrace space, carving it with the simultaneous care and ruthlessness of a sculptor.
The modernist trend is to present information in an ordered, chronological way – where meaning is imparted, not found. The shift to an artistic and narrative practice around providing immersive situations where viewers discover meaning for themselves has emerged as a counterpoint to that reportage trend. In Senyol’s work, this idea of immersive, experiential space provides a process of critical interrogation with the notion of inhabitation that is neither city bylaw nor street dweller, but somewhere between the two – a place where art is the patina of a lived experience.
The patina of Senyol’s experience of space is one characterised by transition. His home and studio in Woodstock is on the fringe of an urban renewal zone, a site characterized by places of collapse and repair. It is a space of binaries, of wealth and poverty, newness and decay, concrete and park verge. Senyol recognises that between these binaries resides a new creation altogether. This ‘fringe’ between states is his artistic Eden.
Works for inhabitant are more loosely based on Senyol’s daily sketches than in previous exhibitions. He has foregrounded his role as translator in this series, working across multiple canvases simultaneously in a process of experiential storytelling. He has also expanded beyond the canvas into the gallery space itself, evolving that experiential story telling onto textured gallery walls and the inclusion of small sculptures or urban cairns – a personal memorialising of the oft overlooked beauty of urban debris.
Senyol received no formal artistic training, but he has been studying art and the mark since his fascination with skateboarding magazines as a teenager in Cape Town. He is inspired by the Mission School Art Movement in San Francisco, the Woostercollective, Marc Gonzalez, Ed Templeton, Barry McGee, punk rock music, the way skateboarding & cycling enables him to access the city and books in the City Library. Graphics, album covers, magazine layouts and illustrations are an important influence to his aesthetic as is the work of Jean-Michel Basquiat, Andy Warhol, Cy Twombly, Henri Matisse and Joan Miró, respectively. His works celebrate the abstract moments of the image: formal qualities of line, form and hue from the basis of his compositions that evolve through the process of painting. Senyol began exhibiting “free art” on street corners in the early 2000s and this enabled him to connect directly with the street and its unexpected audiences. He may now exhibit almost exclusively within the gallery space, but this shift remains, for him, just another space to engage the viewer in a new way.