Pamela Phatsimo Sunstrum creates otherworldly paintings that envision mythological archetypes and imaginary realities. Her multidisciplinary practice comprises of painting, drawing, animation and installation.Read More
Sunstrum lives and works between Toronto, Canada and Johannesburg, South Africa.
Sunstrum was born in 1980 in Mochudi, Botswana.
In 1998, at the age of eighteen, Sunstrum moved to the United States. A few years later, in 2003, she gained a place on an artist residency at the Taller Portobelo Artist's Colony in Portobelo, Panama. While there, Sunstrum worked to further her artistic development and participated in valuable interactions with residency peers and the local community.
In 2004, Sunstrum completed a BA in International Studies from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She became interested in pursuing a career in the arts and applied to study a Masters in Fine Art at the Mount Royal School of Interdisciplinary Art in Baltimore.
After graduating in 2007, Sunstrum was offered a fellowship from the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture in Maine. She began contributing to several curatorial projects and started practicing art full time.
Sunstrum is interested in taking the traditional narratives of mythology and altering their perspective to look inward at her own experiences and personal history.
Focusing on female characters set among imaginary landscapes, Sunstrum uses 19th century photographs of women of colour as a base to draw and paint over. By altering original portraits, Sunstrum explores different ways of creating multifaceted identities that represent both real histories and mythological archetypes.
One of the characters Sunstrum created is an alter ego called Asme. Sunstrum often features Asme in her paintings and drawings, depicting a central figure from which she can delve into an examination of selfhood. Through Asme, Sunstrum is able to convey deeply personal narratives that examine the complexity of black female identity.
Sunstrum's artistic practice incorporates imagery from a variety of sources including magazines, textbooks, portraits, photography books and films. Her work delicately blends different mediums together, including pencil, watercolour, acrylic and gouache.
In 2018, Sunstrum was invited to create a large-scale mural for The Showroom in London. Inspired by South African writer Bessie Head, Sunstrum made the mural by painting the landscape of Serowe, Botswana, a village the writer exiled herself to during the violence of apartheid.
The landscape Sunstrum painted was adorned with words from Head's Earth and Everything (1964—65). The words, 'I am building a stairway to the stars. I have the authority to take the whole of mankind up there with me. That is why I write', repeat and overlap across The Showroom's façade.
The commission highlights the importance of utilising public spaces to promote the arts and create an informative and engaging environment for young creatives.
Sunstrum is the recipient of several awards, grants and art prizes.
In 2010, she was awarded the Brenner Faculty Grant for Professional Development from the Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore.
In 2018, she received the International Residency Grant from the Canada Council for the Arts in addition to the SSHRC Research Opportunity Grant from York University in Toronto.
Sunstrum's artwork is included in the collections of various galleries all over the world. Selected collections include the Deutsche Bank Collection in Frankfurt, the FRAC des Pays de la Loire Contemporary Collection in Carquefou, the University of South Africa Art Collection in Pretoria, and the 12 Decades Hotel Main Street Life Collection in Johannesburg.
Pamela Phatsimo Sunstrum has exhibited in solo and group exhibitions internationally.
Selected solo exhibitions include: Panthea, Goodman Gallery, East Hampton (2021); Battlecry, Goodman Gallery, London (2020); All My Seven Faces, Contemporary Arts Center, Cincinnati (2019); Diorama, Tiwani Contemporary, London (2019); There Are Mechanisms In Place, Michaelis School of Fine Art, Cape Town (2018); From No Fixed Place, ICTAF, Cape Town (2018); Omphalos, Interlochen Centre for the Arts, Interlochen (2016); Beacon, Visual Arts Network of South Africa, Johannesburg (2015); Ab Initio, Davidson College, Davison, North Carolina (2013).
Selected group exhibitions include: Silence Calling From One Continent To Another, Goodman Gallery, Johannesburg (2021); Fathom, Goodman Gallery, Cape Town (2021); Everything Fits To Our Daily Needs, Goodman Gallery, Johannesburg (2021); Did You Ever Think There Would Come A Time?, Goodman Gallery, Cape Town (2020—21); Born in Flames: Feminist Futures, Bronx Museum, New York (2020); Multiple Transmissions: Art in the Afropolitan Age, Wiels Contemporary Art Center, Brussels (2019); Carry Over: New Voices from the Global African Diaspora, Smack Mellon, New York (2018).
Pamela Phatsimo Sunstrum is represented by Goodman Gallery.
Phoebe Bradford | Ocula | 2022