The nature of Phalane’s Map Art transcends the purely diagrammatic or semiotic. They are not mere signposting. Like many cartographers, Phalane knows that embellishing maps with artistic elements can enhance their effect, making them more compelling through shear visual creativity. Aeroplanes and helicopters abound in the skies over his maps.

But as an artist, Phalane has swung around the relationship between maps and art. He uses maps to further his own artistic vision. Cartography provides Phalane with a rich vein of concepts and imagery to mine, exploit and upend. Conventional maps can do no more than point the way to unpredictable, individual experience, while Phalane’s maps embody those experiences.

John Phalane was born in Tzaneen, Limpopo on 19 January 1957. John went to Nogoboya School in Tzaneen in 1965 and left school in 1974. He worked as driver for the Inanda Country Club in Johannesburg between 1980 and 1996. He then returned to Limpopo, ferrying people from the southern parts of the province to Mazina in the north and to other parts of Venda. The street maps of Johannesburg originated in 2004, when he first took up making art. They were done from his memory and his imagination.

At that stage he traversed Limpopo and was intimate with all the highways and back roads of the province. He consequently was in a perfect position to map this part of South Africa in and through his art. Phalane did not attend any formal art lessons or go to an art school. He read many books, though, including Winston Churchill’s six volume The Second World War. Churchill, incidentally, was a self-taught artist in his own right. This is Phalane’s third exhibition at Gallery AOP.

Exhibition Sat 27 February – Sat 26 March Gallery AOP