Cyprian Shilakoe’s inspiration – according to his friend, the artist Dan Rakgaote – came from clouds moving across the sky, wind in the trees, stains, splashes of paint. In these shapes he could see forms that suggested loneliness, poverty, broken promises and grief. His figures seem to have evolved organically, as if from doodling – some elongated, others not; some with huge heads, next to others with tiny heads. This adds to the sense of pathos and heaviness that many of them seem burdened by.
Shilakoe worked mainly in black and white, using different kinds of printing. He explored the techniques of etching, using soft, painterly, blurred aquatints. Look again at the images and notice how he seems to allow his images to grow out of the darkness – parts of the image staying submerged in that mysterious darkness.
He achieved the velvety blacks by applying the aquatint selectively, in multiple, layered applications – some parts of the print more so, some less. He created a subtle language of textures and tones, from very deep darks to very light.