South African-born, London-based artist Kevin Mackintosh rose to prominence around 2008, with the release a series of photographs that offered audiences a privileged window into the world of the Russian Bolshoi Ballet company. Now, for the first time in more than 10 years, Mackintosh is slated to exhibit in Cape Town, where Hero, his latest compilation, will be showing at the Deepest Darkest Gallery from February 22 to April 10.
The Hero series draws on some of the tenets of modern West African portraiture – in the colloquial, photo-booth style of artists such as Seydou Keita, Malick Sidibé and Sory Sanle – while incorporating elements of contemporary fashion photography. Mackintosh’s lurid hybrids are slightly surreal, reminiscent of stylized magazine editorials but with a great deal more emphasis on human subjectivity – the makeup and garments Mackintosh features are only an extension of the characters he conjures up from behind the camera. The finished images take on the quality of old-fashioned portraiture, insofar as they are markers of time and place, operating as snapshots of personhood for posterity.
Hero, which has been in production for the past five years, was shot in locations all over Africa and is the sum of a collaborative undertaking by Mackintosh and production designer Daryl McGregor (as well as a coterie of stylists and makeup artists). McGregor is well known for his work for big-clout design labels like Louis Vuitton and Hermes and, Mackintosh began his career as a photojournalist, with an orientation towards fashion. This is evident in Mackintosh’s attention to personal style as an index of identity, self-creation and the performative nature of heritage and belonging. The portraits that comprise the series include a juxtaposition of traditional African artefacts and modern embellishes, which coalesce into a unique and thoughtful encounter with the mythos of the African subject, to who a narrative voice has too often been denied.
If you are in Cape Town in late February, March or early April, I urge you to seek out this collection. Mackintosh rarely exhibits locally and Hero might well be the series that reifies his reputation as one of this generation’s more notable African voices.
• Hero will be showing at the Deepest Darkest Gallery, Cape Town, from February 22 to April 10 2020.