Artist Interview: Lerato Ntili – Riding The Lighting, Or Into A Healing Space

April 25, 2023



Lerato Ntili was part of the TAF Unearthed programme at the 2022 Turbine Art Fair.

What sort of training have you received and how important do you think it is to seek training (in terms of learning first principles and refining techniques?

I have received formal and practical work training from university I studied fine arts at the University of Pretoria. It is important to seek training, as it helps to adapt to the trends found within the art space and learn skills through promoting and enhancing your capabilities and passion. An introduction to mediums you are not initially interested in is key as you develop skills through learning and understanding the processes that help you as an artist. It gives you an advantage and understanding of mediums and techniques through daily learning.


What is your principal medium, and why did you choose it?

My principal medium is photography. Photography has always been the medium that I am most drawn to. The sense of being able to tell a story through a lens has always been intriguing to me. I draw with light, black and white photography for myself as an artist creates an important view and structure on lighting by capturing the essence of the self and subject.


Describe the techniques you use most? How complicated are your methods, and why is each step necessary?

In capturing my photographs, the first step is setting up my space, as I use a backdrop and studio lighting. Lighting is the most important within my methods as that makes and breaks the photograph. I carefully place my studio lighting in specific positions in order to have the perfect placement of light on the skin. I only take photographs at night. I have never taken any of my work during the day which is essential to me because any speck of unwanted daylight can ruin my process. Each step is necessary as the setup leads to the creation of my work.


What technological tools do you use in your work?

Camera and my desktop, after the capturing of the imagery the next step is the editing of the photographs, which is of high importance. I edit on my desktop using Photoshop and Lightroom. The tools used in the editing software are to add to and enhance my imagery. The use of a selection of specific printing paper and moving forward to certain materials I use on my prints vary according to the concept of the work.


Who is the single other artist whose style you most admire, and why?

I admire Santu Mofokeng. He was a South African news and documentary photographer. His black and white images of everyday life in South Africa, both during and after white rule, hold such significance. Connection and emotions are created by just viewing his images – one can feel what he was portraying through his imagery. I admire his work, as he had the ability to have a presence that surrounded his photography and how he was able to turn his photography into visual poetry.


Galleries and other traditional means are only one way of marketing art. What do you believe are the most important other routes, and what is the most important insight you have gained in that area in your career?

In this day and age, social media has gained a huge presence within the art scene. I definitely think social media is important as an artist, as it creates and opens doors for you in the sense of public recognition. As an artist, showing and presenting your work on social media isn’t the easiest, as it can add pressure, but the most important thing I have learned is that you need
to put yourself out there in order to be seen, the effort of that can take an artist further than expected.


Why do you create? What are your stated goals in producing art?

I create art because art grounds me and in that grounding I am able to produce and create. As an artist, art is a healing space which extends to intentions and meaning for my work. The art speaks not only for me but for the experience of viewers through the quality and interpretation of an artwork. The goal is to sustain substance and stay true to what message I want to put out, and the importance of being able to create conversation through understanding what the eye is seeing.