Which new trends or South African artists do you find inspiring at the moment?
I’m very excited about the rise of Contemporary African Art on the global art scene. There is so much exciting and groundbreaking work coming from the continent, not only presenting the continent to the world in fresh new visual ways, but also propelling previously overlooked artists and art communities to center stage as the new leaders and innovators in the art world.
Which South African deceased artist do you most admire and why?
Andrew Verster. Apart from loving his entire body of work spanning 5 decades, I had the pleasure of getting to know Andrew before his passing in early 2020. His natural tendency to reinvent his visual language several times throughout his career and in later years, his ability to reference his own oeuvre in new work is inspiring. Over the last few months my work has come to increasingly incorporate pattern as one of my primary motifs, something that Andrew used masterfully in his work, as such I have a revived interest in his work and techniques.
If you could only have one piece of art in your life, what would it be?
?This changes very often, but for the last year I’ve been obsessed with the piece “Initiation” by Polish painter, animator and muralist Robert Proch. I had been watching his work develop with great intrigue and fascination for several years, until his sudden death at age 33 in July 2019. This specific work was directly referenced in several of my own pieces during the spring of 2019 as an acknowledgment to his brilliance and influence.
Pick three artists who you would be honored to exhibit with – and why
MJ Lourens, Wim Botha and Frikkie Eksteen.
Although I hold them all in the highest regard as artists and adore their work, this list might be more sentimental in nature. We have a shared experience, having all studied at the same institution at the same time. Something magical was brooding at the University of Pretoria Visual Arts Department in the early 1990’s. Many of our most formative experiences on our creative journeys were at the hand of the same lecturers at the same time. It would make for an intriguing exhibition.
How did you get started? Did you always want to be an artist?
I think I was born an artist, it’s my default setting, much to the annoyance of many people along the way. My parents hoped for a Chartered Accountant and my grand parents saw me as a Pastor, alas it was always going to be some sort of creative path. ?There’s been many little detours into other creative industries from clothing designer, graphic designer to web designer, but I could never get rid of the oil and turpentine in my blood.
What are some of the key themes you explore in your work?
For the larger part of my career I’ve been exploring the concept of identity through my work. How the sense of self interacts with gender, orientation, religion and society as a whole. In recent years there’s been a shift, which I think is becoming even more prevalent in my new work. The new focus is more on perception, how we process sensory information and to what degree we rely on information to make sense of ourselves and the world. It’s the age-old adage of who are we, what are we doing here, why are we here with the added complications of algorithms, social media and tons of other white noise interferences.
What should people know about your art that they can’t tell from looking at it?
You’re not looking at the answer – you’re looking at the question! My works are more conceptual as opposed to mere documentation or storytelling. They are by the nature of their construction more metaphorical and sometimes even allegorical.
Tell us more about your creative process.
This is something that changes often. Every time I embark on a new body of work, my process gets adjusted to suit the concept or look of the work best. It can be as small a change as a new primary pigment selection, or a complete overhaul of the studio and how the workflow is structured.
Currently creating a painting starts with reference photos taken in the studio or on site. I print out the image and cut it up in vertical strips, like the effect a paper shredder would have on a photo. Some of these strips are then removed from the image leaving only sections of the original image behind. This fractured image is then scanned and printed out in various formats, full colour, black and white etc. They are stuck on the wall surrounding the canvas and each serve as a reference in some way, be it tone, hue or temperature for a certain part or motif in the image. The final reference photo thus only contains sections of the original image, it is roughly drawn on the canvas and once the painting process starts each omitted vertical strip is painted in as a mirror image of the previous strip. It’s a complex process of reproducing the visible strip in the reference photo and creating a mirror image of it, while maintaining a visual continuation with the following strip in the image. Parts of the image will get changed or broken down to mere pattern, for which I often source wrapping paper, op-art or wallpaper as inspiration. Work is mostly done alla prima with little or no changes or additional layers at a later stage.
Do you believe an artist should use their platform to influence society? Why?
No. It would imply that artists are somehow on a higher moral ground, or that we have the answers to society’s problems, when we do not. I have no delusions about what I do: I spend 12 to 16 hours a day making pictures, this does not qualify me to solve the world’s problems. A Contemporary artist’s job is more about asking the right questions and promoting critical thinking and triggering debate and conversation on the problems facing our civilization.
Do you have a favourite or most meaningful work?
There’s been many movements or phases in my work over the years and I have a favourite from each of those phases. They normally represent the moment when the series or phase reached its resolution and I started to explore new modes of expression.
What is your greatest achievement as an artist to date?
That I still love what I do! Everyday is a small victory. I’m just taking delight in every day that grants me the opportunity to live my dream.
What are your aspirations for the future?
To make my practice more sustainable by cutting down on wastage and working towards using materials that has a more ethical and environmentally friendly supply chain. Generally growing my practice and taking part in more exhibitions. I am aiming for opportunities and representation in the Northern hemisphere.