When not eating bunny chows in his hometown of Durban, Pastleheart is out on the streets painting walls. With platinum dyed hair and fierce dark eyebrows, this young street artist looks reflect his enigmatic nature.
But somewhat at odds with his club kid appearance, Pastelheart is modest about his work, explaining that the Durban street art scene is close-knit and that he has yet to discover the reasons for his notoriety within in this group. His code of practice and advice to other street artists is “learn to compliment before you criticize others, this will help you grow as an individual”. At just 24 years of age, Pastelheart embodies both the reckless spirit of youth and the earnest conviction of an artist passionate about his work. “I am an artist”, he says, “I just paint”.
Rather than painting a wide range of subject matter, Pastelheart sticks to almost a singular figure in his work – lips. In some of his paintings, giant cyber-coloured, moist and alluring disembodied lips pout seductively at the street. In other paintings they dominate the stylised face of a female character – which also recurs in different representations across his work. These female figures resemble indie pop princess FKA Twigs and fashion model Lara Stone – both gap-toothed ethereal beauties and darlings of the counterculture cliques. These Lips, with a capital ‘T’, Pastelheart says have been a recurring motif since 2010 and a core component of his work. “I am willing to give [these lips] to the public unconditionally, as long as the critics do not ‘bite’ my style,” he jokes.
Pop, fashion and the Internet are what inspire Pastelheart. He describes his imagery as drawn from a bad dream and inserted into reality – a Tumblr aesthetic of garish colours and screen shots from impossible gifs. Many of the figures in his work are fragmented and in the process of either breaking up into segments or re-assembling, a constant state of downloading or uploading into existence. “A dream to me is a life with endless possibilities. What is a nightmare? Life is confusing. I love going into a mind space where my equilibrium is peaceful, but where my workspace is always unpredictable. This reflects our volatile world we relate to,” Pastelheart explains.
Recently, Pastelheart collaborated on a capsule collection with irreverent label Tein (The End Is Near) Clothing. The project is called ‘Wiccan Wi-Fi’, and consists of oversized jumpsuits, t-shirts, tank dresses and print suits. The range is inspired by the relationship between magic and Internet and uses graphics as icons and icons as graphics. Pastelheart says that this experience pushed him to be versatile and various with his disciplines and mediums, learning how to appreciate variety. “It helps to create possibilities,” he explains, “which redefine art and fashion. Everything has to be new.”
These same principles of ingenuity extend to Pastelheart’s painting and the interplay he negotiates between environment, logistics and final outcome. When creating an art piece he is exposed on the street, which redefines his personal space and pushes him into contact with whatever that environment presents. The financial constraint involved in painting murals is another factor that must be negotiated constantly. “I believe that I have to discontinue all thoughts that encourage giving up. You have to make art when you have nothing that shows that you have the right motives,” he explains. Coupled with this is the cycle of self-doubt and second-guessing that most artists experience en-route to the finished piece. Pastelheart quells these insecurities with a positive attitude and belief in his purpose: “My process and the final appearance is always a reflection of my personal being. I focus on being carefree towards the negativity of the world; just make art, this way you won’t harm those around you.”