Monday, 27 May, 2024

The 'anonymous' South African artist turning dreams into reality through photography and AR

Xopher Wallace -- shown here in his signature morphsuit, goggles and sweatshirt, through his "Sleepwalker" series. Courtesy of Xopher Wallace

By Doménica Orellana, Apr. 27 (CNN): For the artist known as Xopher Wallace, it all started with a recurring dream he had as a child.

In the dream, he would speak to people around him, but they never engaged. When he looked at his reflection, Wallace realized he was only a silhouette.

In 2017, the South African visual artist decided to become "anonymous," taking the alias Xopher Wallace and wearing goggles, a morphsuit and a sweatshirt in his photographs to keep his real identity a secret. For him, being anonymous means that people can focus mainly on his art and he can preserve "his authentic character."

"In society, I think we're under pressure to only show the good side in our lives, whereas in my work I express even some of my negative feelings or feelings that make me feel uncomfortable," Wallace said.

By using a blend of fine art photography and augmented reality, he merges the real and virtual worlds to bring his dreams to life. Wallace says he is also inspired by the Japanese anime series "Mob Psycho 100," which uses imagery resembling the silhouette in his dreams.

"For me, dealing with empty spaces is also dealing with an empty canvas, so I could decorate it as much as I want," Wallace explained, adding he can shoot day or night, then digitally include extra visual elements such as lights or smoke.

For South Africa's Virtual National Art Festival 2020, Wallace contributed by creating face filters. He also curated an online exhibition called "Afridelic Trip: Faces of Mixed Realities," for the Fak'ugesi African Digital Innovation Festival, in which Wallace used artworks by fellow South African artist vonMash to design face filters and virtual galleries that presented the themes of "African mysticism and spiritual realms."

The 27-year-old visual artist blends the real world with the virtual one. Credit: Courtesy of Xopher Wallace

When the pandemic prompted nationwide lockdowns, shutting down galleries across the country, Wallace hosted his own online exhibition named "Inside/Outside," inviting other South African visual artists to showcase their work. On the first day alone, Wallace said the event drew nearly 5,000 viewers.

Strengthening that online presence has allowed Wallace to expand the audience for his art, as well as help shine a light on other African digital artists.

"Times are changing," he said. "People are looking into investing into the virtual realm instead of physical spaces."