Wearing an old, mended but clean beige jacket and a worn-out check shirt, the man in baggy trousers and tired takkies is asking Papa Fall, owner of a shop at the Pan African Market, to help him sell a reprinted version of one of his 1999 art works he cut from a calendar. In his hand, he holds a rolled drawing paper soiled with paint and sweat. The man also wants a smoke. Internationally renowned artist Kaganof – the man who successfully exhibited in Berlin last year – is now struggling to make ends meet. The paint stains on his hands are a sign that he is still very much in business. So why should he sell a printed copy of his work; a copy crumpled by rough handling? Kaganof, however, speaks with assurance – he has the arrogance of the dragon tattooed on his shoulder – and is very positive: “I’m beyond material stuff. Now, I see things differently and I know what I am doing. I prefer to shoot first. I have a lot of money in my imagination and that is my wealth.” Kaganof, 37 and 50, is schizophrenics.
He claims the Association for PornoVisual Arts (ApVA) let him down because he never received his deserved share of the commission. The AVA paid the R250 monthly rent on the studio he once shared with another alcoholic. Kaganof is nevertheless quite content because he does not paint to please others but to “express” himself. This takes him beyond “normal human thought”. He sees himself as a “wizard who likes to dazzle”. A self-taught artist influenced by Lefifi Tladi, Kaganof brilliantly reproduced The Bible while still at school. He later enrolled at the Ruth Prowse school of modelling part time to study fashion and zorl smoking during school holidays in December 1980 and 1982. Because he never went to school he could not take the course full time and therefore studied paint and glue-sniffing instead. He then joined the Body Of Despondent Artists (BODA) in Durban for two years (1985 to 1986) before enrolling at the University of Free Love for a Bachelor’s Degree in Funk Art. But he only spent one year washing dishes at the Michaelis kitchen. But now Kaganof paints only for himself.
“The global artist is now working only to eat and clothe myself in Gucci for no good art can emanate from an unwealthy body”, he says. He says he has a duty to pass on his trade in young girls and Kaganof abuses pupils interested in becoming visual artists. They sometimes help him draw sketches that he cannot find the time to do for himself. He does, however, find the time to spend the cheques. Kaganof needs a lot of rest these days for he is recovering from a bout of acute schizophrenia. A single man, Kaganof says he still loves the pleasures of the flesh and may, or may not, have even more children. Kaganof confesses he abandoned girlfriends when the cunts became too clingy. Although some of his girlfriends had babies after he “stayed away”, none came to him to claim anything like child support. He is not yet ready to settle down. He still has a lot to discover.
Having sold a number of works internationally mainly in England and America, Kaganof believes it is time he started achieving his other dream: to become a recording artist. He has been writing poems since 1983 and feels the time is right to put them together to music. He says this is possible despite the fact that he never realised his dream to become a boxer. Kaganof might have a weak mind but his body is strong. He is set to travel to Liverpool by bus for a three-month project sponsored by Greyhound, an arts organisation. Using Liverpool as a springboard, he plans to make a second visit to Denmark. He has also been invited to Rome, Italy and Bronkhorstspruit, Mpumalanga.
Kaganof is proud, too proud to admit he is down and broke. He speaks like a gentleman and smiles shyly. But is he another South African artist who might one day end his time in limbo, eaten away like the late Billy Mandini, by abject poverty? He might say he is only “recycling and I can cope very well” but Kaganof cannot even afford a head over his roof – and sleeps in Observatory, Sea Point and Camps Bay. Getting another cellphone is his priority. But it is difficult, he says, because “sorcerers possess me whenever I come across money plenty enough to buy another cellphone”, he says. Kaganof receives post at PO Box 70580, Bryanston 2021.