South African visual artist John Roome

John Roome

Durban | 0 artworks for sale

My work is grounded in my experience of the world around me. I use drawing as a way of understanding, interpreting, and expressing my response to people, places, and things I come into contact with on a daily basis. Drawing provides a direct and immediate interface with the world. Drawing is not only a vehicle for recording the visual stimuli I encounter, but it is also a way of processing and expressing my thoughts and emotions.
I also favour the printmaking process, particularly relief printing. Whereas drawing is immediate and direct, prints are the result of an indirect process. I am fascinated by the element of surprise when, after a lengthy and time consuming process, the print finally rolls off the press. I am fascinated by the way the printmaking process can transform and often strengthen the original idea.
My subject matter ranges from cityscapes to portraits. My aim is not to provide a photographic replica, but rather to explore and express my psychological and emotional response to ‘reality’.
In the words of one of my favourite artists, Max Beckman :

"My heart beats more for a rougher, commoner, more vulgar that offers direct access to the terrible, the crude, the magnificent, the ordinary, the grotesque and the banal in life. An art that can always be right there for us, in the realest things of life."
M. Fine Art (Rhodes University)
Doctor Technologiae: Design (Cape Peninsular University of Technolgy)
Roome obtained a Master’s Degree: Fine Art from Rhodes University in 1975 and a Doctor Technologiae: Design from Cape Peninsular University of Technology in 2014.
Roome retired from full time lecturing in 2016. He lectured in Fine Art at Durban University of Technology where he taught drawing, and printmaking and assisted in the co-ordination of the Fine Art Programme. He is still involved in the Masters in Fine Art Programme as a supervisor. He has successfully supervised numerous Masters Students in Fine Arts and other related Programmes over the last ten years.Roome’s own research interests are focused around Creative Practice Based Research Methodologies and Creative Drawing Research. He currently works in his studio concentrating on printmaking and drawing.

Roome has held 12 solo exhibitions and participated in numerous group exhibitions in a career that spans 40 years. His creative work includes a variety of media such as painting, printmaking, hand papermaking, drawing, digital drawing and animation. He has works in a number of public art collections including the Durban Art Gallery.

Solo Exhibitions
2018        COMMUNITY ZA, Durban
2008        artSPACEberlin, Berlin
2007        art SPACEdurban, Durban
2004        K. Z. N. S. A. Gallery, Durban
1997        K. Z. N.S.A. Gallery, Durban
1996        Cité Internationale Des Arts, Paris
1989        Elizabeth Gordon Gallery, Durban
1987        Strack von Schyndal Gallery, Johannesburg
1986        Grassroots Gallery, Westville
1984        Cafe Gallery, Durban
1982        Gallery 567, Technikon Natal, Durban
1978        Stable Gallery, Durban
1977        N.S.A. Gallery, Durban

Public Collections

        Campbell Collections, University of Natal, Durban
        Durban Art Gallery
        Durban Local History Museum
        Durban University of Technology
        Kwazulu-Natal Provincial Museum Service
        MTN Print Collection, Johannesburg
        Oliewenhuis Museum, Bloemfontein
        Tatham Art Gallery, Pietermaritzburg
        University of Durban-Westville
        University of Orange Free State, Bloemfontein
2014         KZNSA Members Exhibition, “Urbanity”, 2nd Prize
2007        Cosmonauts Online Teaching Development Grant
1993        Natal Arts Trust Biennial 5                               
1992        First Prize, Vrye Weekblad Poster Competition

Which new trends or South African artists do you find inspiring at the moment?
Trends come and go. I am more interested in art that is honest and authentic.

Which South African deceased artist do you most admire and why?

I actually have two: one famous and one not so famous. The famous one is Walter Battiss. I love his non-conformist approach, the fantasy world he created, his brilliant drawing skills and his vibrant use of colour. The less famous one is Thomas Mathews who was my mentor when I was a student. His rigorous work ethic and authentic dedication to art making, whilst keeping a low profile, inspired me.

If you could only have one piece of art in your life, what would it be?
Hard question. Probably one of Vincent Van Gogh’s pulsating, vibrating landscapes.

How did you get started? Did you always want to be an artist?
I had fantasies of being an artist when I was very young - probably before I even knew what that meant. As a teenager I filled my walls with drawings and posters that I made. However I had no lessons or training until I enrolled at Rhodes University to study Fine Art. That was when the real journey started.

What are some of the key themes you explore in your work?
At the moment my key interest is in the relationship between nature and the built environment. Trees that either just survive or in some cases even seem to flourish in a pretty hostile urban setting, seem to talk to me.  In a way my prints are portraits of trees. I use titles like Sentinel or Hardiness to emphasise this anthropomorphic approach.

What should people know about your art that they can’t tell from looking at it?
I use a technique called Reduction Cut to make my colour relief prints. This is a process whereby a single block of wood or lino is used to create a multi-layered print. It is sometimes called suicide printing because once you start printing the first colour there is no going back as the printing surface is cut away with each successive layer. You also do not know exactly how the different layers of colour will interact until you have printed them. Thus there is a strong element of chance and surprise, which I enjoy. From a collector’s point of view a reduction cut  print is limited to the edition size decided on at the start. No more prints can be made as the block is effectively reduced by the end of the process. Also, because of the process, each print in the edition is similar but never identical. Therefore each print in my relatively small editions is entirely unique.

Tell us more about your creative process.
I respond on a gut-level to the world that I interact with on a daily basis. Many of my ideas come to me while I am walking or driving to my studio. I usually start by taking photographs of things that catch my eye and intrigue my mind. I then interpret these images by drawing them - usually fairly big charcoal drawings. I also make small sketches directly from life. Using these drawings as well as the photographs to guide me, I use the relief print process to produce limited edition prints. As I explain above, this process is quite risky and full of surprises. The sense of not being in total control is an important part of my creative process. I see myself as collaborating with the process. Each layer of colour results in a surprise, and it is only when the last layer is printed that you know whether the print is successful or not.

What drives you as an artist?
Something deep inside. I get a deep sense of satisfaction from making images that I hope will have meaning for others.

Do you have a favourite or most meaningful work?
My most meaningful work will always be the one I am still going to make.

What is your greatest achievement as an artist to date?
I lectured art for almost 40 years before retiring 3 years ago. I think just surviving all those years is quite an achievement! Now I have achieved my dream of having my own studio where I can devote all my energies to being creative.

What are your aspirations for the future?

I just want to keep on making art and exploring new ideas.


Read more about John Roome in our studio visit and interview with the artist here.