Theme: Simply Beautiful

Artist r1 doesn’t mind it when people write or scribble on his artwork. That’s the attitude of this urban interventionist who has made street art in England, Azerbaijan and closer to home in the roads of inner-city Jozi. One such work can be seen on August House, a brick-façade building in Doornfontein, where r1 has introduced his signature repurposing of street signs to create an African-inspired mandala for an exterior wall and another installation for one of the tall corners looking on to the streets, in kaleidoscopic graphic patterns that are now part of the urban fabric. “Because the corner piece can only be seen fully when you stand at a particular point, you actually have to make an effort to engage with the artwork so that it reveals itself,” he says, pointing to the sculptural effect it has when one looks up at it from street level. “It’s like the artwork is popping out of the building.”

For r1, the juxtaposition of his boldly coloured graphic art with the raw edginess and historical elements of Joburg’s inner city is what makes such pieces work. By using street signs, and another favoured material – barrier tape – in such novel ways, he questions the rigidity and rules with which they are usually associated, and turns them into pieces that live and breathe with the society in which they exist. “When I intervene with a city, and I walk away from the artwork, I don’t own it anymore,” he says. “It belongs to the people who live in the streets.”

100 Beautiful Things is presented by the V&A Waterfront in celebration of South Africa’s creativity, compassion, ingenuity and resilience. Every week we will be showcasing five amazingly beautiful creative things that make us proud. It is curated in partnership with Platform Creative.