When a young artist and a collector are in conversation, it's usually about one thing: art. Neïl Beloufa and Theo Danjuma are no exception. French-Algerian artist Beloufa works across a range of different mediums, usually incorporating video and sculpture, while London collector Theo Danjuma set up his family's art collection focusing on contemporary African artists. Having met at a show in New York a few years ago, both have stayed in touch, primarily through Theo initially following and eventually collecting Neïl's work.
This year's Frieze in London was a benchmark for both young men. Beloufa had his first major UK exhibition, Counting on People, at the ICA, while Danjuma exhibited his collection for the first time under the theme One Man's Trash.
Beloufa's work is regarded as socially critical, investigating an audiences' conventional relationship with the digital screen and other information systems. He plays with the theme of rationalisation versus love and is intent on exploring affect in certain situations.
It's architecture, meets cinema, meets sculpture.
Despite being permanently part of the Danjuma collection, Theo admits that Beloufa's work is at the other end of the spectrum. To him it's "work you have to spend time with, think about, give something to."
Beloufa's Vintage Series from 2013 is of particular interest to the collector, especially because of the way it was created. The artist carves shapes out of walls of MDF, medium-density fibreboard made from of broken down wood residuals and pressed and burned into fibres. It's not immediately obvious to the viewer what lengths the artist has gone to in order to create the work. "It was one of the hardest things I've ever [done] in my life. MDF is glue, you're [...] just burning glue, I think I've lost five years of my life."
What is special about Beloufa's work is that it reflects his thought processes with restrictions on the possible audience, which to him is the only way of making original work. "Some artists are really good at it, at talking to an audience, and that's when we know the work is bad, [...] or you realise talking about the work is more interesting than looking at it." If they are willing to spend some time with the work, immerse themselves in it, they may discover some truth about how people spend time with each other and engage in a digital age.