Lolo Veleko's urban hip

#130. See Lolo Veleko’s photographs at the Standard Bank Gallery. Only one day to go until the exhibition moves off taking Veleko’s portraits of urban fashionistas and graffiti with it. “Gatecrash your own fantasy” reads a piece of graffiti scrawled on a wall. Veleko’s subjects are mostly young, black and hip. They stare back at you with a brash confidence, dressed in clothing that makes you start. It’s full of colour, its often unconventional in its arrangement, it is “individual” and a powerful form of expressing that. “The Japanese love them,” a Joburg gallery curator once told me.


There is an element of fantasy to the subjects being dressed up so as they stand out from their urban settings. The exhibition is aptly named “Wonderland” and at its centre is an installation — a green carpet dotted with plastic flowers, swings suspended  above it from the ceiling. It looks inviting and fantastical — all that is missing is a ‘Don’t walk on the grass sign’.

In the background of some of the photos is the city of Durban with its tropical palm trees and strange mix of cutting-edge urban fashion and design with that frozen-in-time  1970’s  seaside town look (reminding me of the movie Funny Bones starring Oliver Plat and set in Blackpool where he auditions lots of carnie-folk). It is perfectly  captured in a photograph of a statue of a rickshaw-puller, behind him two strange-looking white children, all of their frozen gazes fixed on what’s ahead; another has a fairytale castle set amidst a city landscape, a couple at its doorway as if they are about to enter and escape to another dimension.


Standard Bank Young Artist Veleko is in an exploratory phase, playing with words and meaning. Another piece of graffiti says: “Adventure without risk is Disneyland”.

Her photographs range from portraiture to capturing fragments of urban life.

William Kentridge (also a Standard Bank Young Artist once) was there before us and signed the comment book with “White people are negotiable ?” – a comment on one of the grafitti photos. William if you are listening I chose to interpret that as saying you can bargain them down. Let’s discuss. I don’t have to tell you its art – open to as much interpretation as you can throw at it.

* Standard Bank Gallery is on the corner Simmonds and Frederick Streets, downtown Johannesburg. For more on the gallery click here.