John Phalane was born in Tzaneen, Limpopo 1957. John went to Mogoboya School in Tzaneen (1965) and completed his formal schooling in 1974. In 2004 began with his art making after having read Winston Churchill’s six volume history of the Second World War. Before becoming a practising artist Phalane was as driver for the Inanda Polo Club from 1980 to 1996. He then became a taxi driver between Polokwane and Mazina until 2003.
Phalane now lives and works in Mmamaabolo, Limpopo as a full time artist making pencil colour drawings of maps.
John Phalane is a cartographic artist, making map art, however through his art he aims to transcend the purely diagrammatic or semiotic. He embellishes his images with artistic elements, attempting to shift the relationship between maps and art. Phalane’s interest lies in mining cartography’s rich vein of concepts to upend its original intentions, mapping the individual experience of the world.
His main medium is coloured pencils and paper. He began with drawing maps of Limpopo and the streets of Johannesburg where he once worked. Like many cartographers, Phalane knows that embellishing maps with artistic elements can enhance their effect, making them more compelling through sheer visual creativity. He uses maps to further his own artistic purposes. Cartography provides Phalane with a bountiful avenue of concepts and imagery to explore and unfold. Conventional maps can do no more than point the way to unpredictable, individual experience, while Phalane’s maps embody the experiences of those traveling the spaces.
In his recent works he is looking at international locations and interestingly focusing on monuments, spaces where many have travelled.