Colleen Alborough

Colleen Alborough is a Johannesburg-based interdisciplinary artist and creative life coach. As an artist, Colleen is interested in the intersection between traditional art media and digital technologies. Thematically, her work explores the relationship between sense and place: namely, how a place can influence a person’s sense of self and wellbeing. In considering how historical, social, political and subjective factors shape the complex city of Johannesburg, Colleen constructs fantastical artworks about this urban metropolis. She explores themes around the relationship between real and imagined fears, and the threats posed by a perilous urban environment and the psycho-geographic baggage tied to it. She interrogates her relationship to the city in her work, making art that is born of fears but also presents the mechanics for overcoming these fears.


Colleen uses multiple media in her creative practice, creating both 3D and 2D artworks, as well as video installations. Some technical practices include video installations, stop frame animation, interactive technologies, printmaking, and drawing.


She has exhibited extensively in South Africa, as well as in Italy, Germany, USA and Cyprus. Her work is part of a number of corporate collections, including Unisa Art Collection, Sasol Art Collection, Graskop Art Collection and 12 Decades Hotel Collection; as well as private collections in South Africa and internationally. Colleen completed her BA (Fine Arts) and Masters in Fine Arts (both with distinction) at the University of the Witwatersrand. She lectured on a contract basis at Wits University Fine Arts Department and the Unisa Visual Arts Department from 2003 – 2014, and is represented by Galerie Seippel in Köln, Germany.


Throughout my artmaking practice, I have explored the relationship between sense and place: namely, how a place can influence a person’s sense of self and wellbeing. Having grown up and lived in Johannesburg my whole life, my work interrogates the complexity of this town. I am interested in how historical, social, political and subjective factors shape the nature of cities, particularly Johannesburg.

Gauze, thread and mesh are the materials and visual symbols that I use in my work to represent the metropolis. Mesh can represent the fabric that forms and delineate our lives. Cities are grid-like, and we move through a mapping of roads, places and land. Communication networks, seen and unseen, thread their way between our lives and enable us to stay connected. We live within these towns, and society at large, that have rules, regulations, conventions and structures.

These interconnected grids offer us a sense of security through their familiarity and predictability. Or so we think. Just as a piece of gauze is fragile, and a tug at the threads can pull and distort the grid, the societal mesh structures that define our lives are just as tenuous.

The inherent nature and structure of the grid of any city is loaded with historical and economical contexts. The artworks on exhibition are a selection of works done over the last 10 years and examine the legacy of mining in Johannesburg; how this industry has had a geographical, socio-political and economic influence on this urban metropolis. My works engage with how the historical ghosts of Johannesburg’s past still influence its urban living today.

Johannesburg is viewed as a dangerous destination. Given the very real data and experiences supporting negative perceptions about this notorious place, it makes sense that this city should instil a sense of fear. Perhaps a degree of fear is necessary to survival in Joburg. But at what point does this psychological state become irrational and out of sync with reality? When does fear become unhealthy and dysfunctional, distorting your perceptions? These are questions that my monoprints and ink drawings prompt, as I interrogate my relationship to Johannesburg.

Nationality: South African
Residence: Johannesburg