Chris Soal emerged unassumingly on the scene a few years ago, but with several collaborations, impressive residencies and weighty solo performances, he has steadily amassed a body of work and a reputation that belie his age.
Best known for his first works — striking installations using discarded objects that marked his arrival on the art stage to acclaim — Soal has metamorphosed over the past few years, expanding in scale and scope. Taking the concept of abstraction and his sensitivity to texture — transforming everyday items such as bottle tops and toothpicks — he’s expanded of late into larger-scale work, all the while challenging the onlooker’s perception and assumptions of value.
“It’s been exciting to see how my practice has taken on a life of its own, often starting in the most unassuming ways and developing far beyond my initial ideas,” he says. “There’s been a consistent inquiry into the unknown that keeps me engaged day in and day out.”
Soal has become increasingly aware that the nature of creativity has a timeline of its own. “Some things spring up immediately and others lie unconsciously beneath the surface for years before anything can come of them,” he says.
When asked which work he feels most proud of, he’s torn. “That’s a bit like asking a parent to choose a favourite child,” he says. When pressed, he chooses the ongoing series of works in concrete of negative impressions of toothpicks (most recently seen in his installation at the Margins of Error group show at NIROX), one that came about by chance — when a piece broke off a mixed media piece. “Despite my initial horror I noticed how the toothpicks had left a fascinating impression on the concrete,” Soal says.
Besides NIROX, locally he’s participating in the Whatiftheworld Gallery’s 40 under 40 in September — a showcase of artists in collaboration with Krone at Twee Jonge Gezellen estate in Tulbagh. His expanding international footprint also sees him exhibiting in Miami and Belgium over the next year. Piero Atchugarry Gallery in Miami has a long history of engaging with artists from the global south and has invited a number of artists from Africa and the Diaspora to be part of a show, opening in September, curated by Natasha Becker.
“I also have a solo booth at Art Brussels 2022 which I’m especially looking forward to, considering the support I’ve received from many collectors and curators from Belgium,” Soal says.
It’s not just galleries who have Soal on their radar. Brands, too, have realised the scope of his conceptual and material strength, and a recent collaboration with Dior — as one of 10 artists and the youngest ever chosen to reimagine the iconic Lady Dior — saw him tackle a new medium. “Opportunities like the Lady Dior collab are incredibly rare for any artist, never mind one as young as me,” he says.