Malt used to create art

Artist Russel “Yay Abe” Abrahams with his installation at the Waterfront.

Artist and illustrator Russell “Yay Abe” Abrahams will display his work at the V&A Waterfront until the end of August as part of a national art installation using a new medium, malt.

Yay Abe joins two other artists, Sindiso Nyoni and Baba Tjeko, who will be displaying their “malt” pieces simultaneously in Johannesburg and Durban respectively.

The installation was done in collaboration with Stella Artois Beer.

As part of the installation, Yay Abe created two large sculptures which will be at the Waterfront until Tuesday August 31.

“Creating art using malt was an exciting task. I really wanted to create a piece of art that is inclusive of the viewer and allows you to walk around and appreciate the pure craftsmanship behind the piece. For me, the bigger the space and the more challenging the medium, the better it is,” said Yay Abe.

Yay Abe, from Richwood, grew up as the child who was always drawing on desks and doodling in his books at school.

He discovered graphic design in high school, and took a keen interest in Adobe Photoshop and other design tools. “After high school I decided to take my passion further by studying graphic design at Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT). By 2014, I was well equipped to tackle the world and decided to start freelancing straight out of university. It was definitely a tough few years.”

He describes his art as “bold” with a graphic illustration style “that carries a happy vibe with it”.

“It’s a style inspired by the super-flat movement along with various pop-art themes. I think my traditional art work represents my digital art work as they both have a very flat approach to colour use.”

Yay Abe enjoys painting murals, and uses any medium to do so. He has also established a home studio of the same name for artists of colour, designing on any materials, from T-shirts, to take away boxes and walls.

Yay Abe said he became involved with this project when he was contacted by company CSA Global and they pitched the idea.

“The thought of being able to create a sculpture was such a fun one and there was no way I was not going to be a part of this all.”

He said this was his very first time working with malt as a medium.

“It was definitely a tricky surface to work on but a fun one. I really enjoy straight and crispy lines, so the idea of painting over thousands of little pieces of grain was something I felt to be quite a challenge.”

The installation he made comprises of two busts that have their own stories inside of them. “It’s a piece that brings my work to life in the real world while still being true to my digital and flat paintings.

“When viewed from the front it tells the story of two people doing a toast and one that tells the story of a strong woman enjoying a beer instead of the stereotypical male figure. I really want people to just enjoy the feeling of joy when they view the work.”

He said because of the Covid-19 pandemic and the strange times the world is living in, he wanted people to feel happy when looking at the artwork.

“If it can inspire someone to get creative and explore their own ideas, great! If someone stops to just look and get lost in the work, I’d love that.”