Living in Johannesburg, South Africa, Ilka van Schalkwyk obtained her degree in Fine Arts from the University of Pretoria in 2009, with a distinction for her practical component.
In 2010 she won the coveted Absa L’Atelier prize with her work Reading Colour. The prize included a six-month residency at the Cite Internationale des Artes in Paris from July 2011 to January 2012.
In 2012 she held her first solo exhibition entitled Yesterday at the Absa Gallery in Johannesburg.
She has an Honours degree in journalism and completed her master’s degree in art at the University of Johannesburg in 2018. Ilka participated in the Booknesses Colloquium in 2017, not only exhibiting in both exhibitions held at the colloquium, but also presenting a research paper on synaesthesia and art.
Ilka often uses her own grapheme synaesthesia, where she associates letters of the alphabet and numbers with colour, as code in her artworks. Her work combines issues of freedoms and othering as well as historic references particularly to the music and lifestyle of the 1960’s and 70’s.
Ilka is a book and installation artist, and her works are represented in the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Jack Ginsberg Collection, as well as several University collections in the USA.
The paradoxical nature of freedom, where one person’s freedom is not another’s freedom is the theme of the work. Being a grapheme synaesthete, associating letters of the alphabet with colour, Ilka van Schalkwyk encodes the work with synaesthesia: the coloured images are placed in a particular sequence spelling out ‘Throwing Stones’. The accompanying speeches relate to each other in pairs, but also upon further examination reference the counterpart coloured image. The work is inspired by counterculture, artists from the 1960s and 1970s, particularly musicians. Although rock music represents the anti-establishment and the leaders of freedom the establishment, they share a commonality in their belief in fighting for freedom. Politics and history are also referenced as well as the circular structure of human nature, causing the work to relate to our time as well as historic time. The title of the exhibition ‘Throwing Stones’ is a pun not only on the saying that people in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones, but also on the Rolling Stones.