Gaby Desmarais

Gaby Desmarais

Artist Statement

My art survives on inspiration. Over the years my art has come and gone, surprising me in a beautiful, overwhelming way. I have no control over art’s arrival, which can be terrifying, however also liberating. Time out is simply time for the soul to have rest before a breakthrough. When I paint, I paint with my gut, mind, soul and heart. There is nothing left after a completed work and always a resolution.

What is my art about? I have only one aim: that is for the viewer to look deeper. An aesthetic can be pleasing. We can say: “Wow, I like the look of that painting/ photograph/ sculpture/ drawing.” I do not feel that there are enough paintings out there at the moment that speak for themselves, without being surrounded by long, theoretical concepts. The fact of the matter is that Art has the honour of being an invitation.

Art can lend itself to poetry. Art has a way of speaking that communicates in the language owning no words. Painting, when stripped to the core, has the ability to wrap you up in a story of your creation, combined with imagery and substance. We all look at the world differently and, I believe, a successful artwork welcomes your differences and is lucky to be part of a number of new stories.

I cherish the period of time when painting comes back to me. I do not possess the skill of painting. Rather, the skill chooses to grace me when the time is right. I studied at Michaelis School of Fine Art, at the University of Cape Town from 2006-2009, majoring in Painting and, more specifically, oil painting. There I learnt about the scent of oil paint, which delights me, and I will always be covered in paint when I work. I love painting with my fingers.


I was born into an artistic family with four older siblings. My brother was fascinated by photography and two of my sisters by art. Currently my third sister has her own jewelry range: Madame Delicious. My grandmother on one side and grandfather on the other were both very creative people. My siblings used to enjoy teaching me about the arts and by the age of seven I wanted to be an artist when I grew up.I have lived in Cape Town my entire life, close to my family, and as I grew older I started picking up a camera, enjoying being behind the lens and not in front! It is an interesting way to see the world, but I felt that there was a barrier between me and all that I wanted to see. Painting has always been a different story. Yes, the interpretation is very wide, but one sits, or stands, with a brush and paint and marks a ‘translation’ directly onto a canvas. Of course it was my sister who introduced me to oil painting. She said I probably had more patience than she did. In high school, oil painting came naturally. In fact, it felt like a relief, and I fell in love with its smooth texture. That is when I started getting messy! I have ruined far too many clothes to count, to my mother’s absolute dismay. In Grade 12, I loosened up and went a contemporary route. At the last minute, everything fell together. It was one of those intense times, when the soul speaks through art, where the physical nature disappeared and art became deep and therapeutic. I retreated into my personal space to find the energy I needed to express a very particular way of thought. Sometimes I have to gather energy, by relaxing for period of time. Other times, energy pours out. I try to explain to others and I believe that they are starting to understand, that for me an artwork is entirely about capturing the precise energy needed to work with a particular piece. Time went on and I was accepted into Michaelis School for Fine Arts at The University of Cape Town. It was an extremely challenging degree and it was only in my final year that I re-learnt how to paint in oils. The lecturers encouraged me with new techniques and I have taken a lot of this with me, in the way I paint today. At the Graduate Show, a collector for the University committee approached me. This has been the hi-light of my artistic career thus far. I have spent the last year working and decided to quit by the end of October. Of course, this was when art came flooding back to me, for which I am very thankful. I will think carefully when embarking on my new journey in 2011, choosing a direction that leaves me with the energy I need to create art. If I could do anything in the world right now, I would study Art Therapy, but unfortunately the course is only offered overseas, making it extremely expensive. One day!


Michaelis School for Fine Arts 2009 Graduate Show