Johannes Phokela is a painter who blends contemporary painting with elements from Dutch and Flemish Old Masters. His concerns with pictorial traditions and images are tools to critique social norms and corrupt value systems in the aftermath of empire. Phokela’s ideas are embedded in the meaning, power, and properties of images — how they circulate in the world, and more importantly, how they function in and are instrumentalised to affect historical narratives. His vision is of a world history drenched in the spoils of violence and his sardonic and, at times, nihilistic take on current affairs and the state of things holds up a mirror to society.
Original Sin – Fall of the Damned as Damaged is based on the seventeenth-century painting Fall of the Damned by Peter Paul Rubens that was vandalized in 1959. Phokela’s work formed part of his master’s degree project at the Royal College of Art, London in 1993. This was the pivotal work that resulted in his development of the themes around which his master’s degree exhibition was based.