South African visual artist Ruan Jooste

Ruan Jooste

South Africa | 8 artworks for sale

  • Mzansi Princess - Digital Art by Ruan Jooste Mzansi Princess
    Digital Art / 88 x 123 cm
    R18 800
  • Lekker Bubblegum - Digital Art by Ruan Jooste Lekker Bubblegum
    Digital Art / 88 x 123 cm
    R18 800
  • Mama Jozi - Digital Art by Ruan Jooste Mama Jozi
    Digital Art / 88 x 123 cm
    R18 800
  • Boss Lady - Digital Art by Ruan Jooste Boss Lady
    Digital Art / 123 x 88 cm
    R18 800
  • Braai Boy - Digital Art by Ruan Jooste Braai Boy
    Digital Art / 88 x 123 cm
    R18 800
  • Phuza Lockdown - Digital Art by Ruan Jooste Phuza Lockdown
    Digital Art / 88 x 123 cm
    R18 800
  • Ok Marike  - Digital Art by Ruan Jooste Ok Marike
    Digital Art / 88 x 123 cm
    R18 800
  • Khaya Kween - Digital Art by Ruan Jooste Khaya Kween
    Digital Art / 88 x 123 cm
    R18 800
Jooste celebrates the quirks and idiosyncrasies that mishmash into our shared commonalities, memories and nostalgias in a riot of fun, colour and wit. At a time when so many felt divided, he boldly reminds us that there is a uniquely South African joy that binds and connects us.

"I am inspired by my country, my continent, and the wonderful people who call it home. The vibrant colors of our landscapes, cities, and towns, and the rich cultures that make up this rainbow nation. There is energy and grit in our urban and rural landscapes, from downtown to the township. Opposite ends of the spectrum can be seen all around us and what always amazes me is how very different people can come together. Our people are lekker, they have a sense of togetherness and ubuntu. I started this series in a time where we as a country have gone through tremendous strain and sadness. We have lived and seen devastation day after day during this pandemic and as I struggled with my own state of mind in making sense of it all, I wanted to remind myself of the joy this country also has to offer. Adding elements of fun and fantasy resulted in imagining another version of our reality. One that reminds you to smile. Not only for myself, but to share.”

There is a charm, sass and attitude in the artist's series of fictional portraits that allude to Magic Realism, but with a local, urban grit. The subjects convey an unapologetic sense of pride, freedom and self-love. Jooste crafts a real world context around these created characters informed by the backstory imagined for each subject while creating and composing the image. With many of the images employing principles of classic portraiture, there is also an unapologetic self-assurance and playfulness that grounds the work in the present. A composition and pose at once acknowledge the Classic tradition, but similtaneously embrace the ‘selfie’ culture of today.

“I want to continue to invite you into my world where anything and everything is possible, where old meets new , where no one is bound by the shackles of societal pressure.”

Ruan Jooste (b.1988) was born and raised in Nigel, a small town in Gauteng southeast of Johannesburg. As a young child, he was always drawing, seeking creative outlets. Initially pursuing a passion in fashion design, he achieved great recognition as a young designer following his graduation, but soon turned his focus to photography, teaching himself the necessary skills that eventually saw his photographic work featured in international publications Huff Magazine and The Advocate.
Jooste had always edited his photographs with a pen and pad, so it was a logical transition to painting digitally. The process is essentially similar to traditional painting on a canvas, starting with drawing outlines, layers are then painted with various ‘brushes’, layered, details added. Unique to Jooste’s approach is the playful blending of luxury fashion elements and South African brand iconography. The nostalgia these well-known local brands hold for so many of us a reminder of our shared memories and associations, a connecting device.

“We as South Africans so often focus on what makes us different that we forget how much we are alike. In my mind I want my subjects to form a part of a united tribe, one of courage, positivity, and joy.”

Selected Exhibitions:

2021
Solo exhibition Kiff Khaya at Deepest Darkest Gallery, Cape Town

Which artists, books or music have inspired your work?
I’m generally very inspired by other digital artists that have made a big impact in the art world. I especially like Ignasi Monreal with his work he has done for Gucci, creating a magical world mixed with modern fashion. It takes you on a journey. I generally like any art that takes you on a journey, that tells a story, that sparks joy. When it comes to music, I’m inspired by anything South African, from the past especially, Brenda Fassie, Mariam Makeba, Anneli Van Rooyen, Mango Groove and Lebo Mathosa. I like to be transported to another time and feel the nostalgia. That’s a very important aspect of my art.
 
If you could only have one piece of art in your life, what would it be?
Self-Portrait as a Tehuana by Frida Kahlo.
 
Pick three artists who you would be honored to exhibit with – and why
The first one would definitely be Kevin Mackintosh. I really admire his aesthetic, the way he is able to convey Africaness with such chicness, classic iconography and that’s very much my own aesthetic.  The second one would be Chéri Samba. His work remains fresh and modern, it has the ability to make you think about certain ideas.  
And thirdly, Tracey Rose, the way she portrays people is amazing. I really admire anyone who can make you connect with the subject in their work.
 
How did you get started? Did you always want to be an artist?
Growing up I was a very lonely child, since I was a little boy I was always drawing, always knowing that I loved art and always dreaming up my own world. Coming from a small town there weren't many resources, and I sometimes went to the neighboring town for art classes. I went to study fashion design, as fashion has always been something that I’m very passionate about. I worked in many different fields, fashion, corporate, photography, but I never stopped making art, I just never thought it could be something one does for a living. During Covid is when I decided I really must give it a fair shot, life is too short, and that’s when I officially decided to put myself out there as an artist.
 
What are some of the key themes you explore in your work?
There’s two main key themes in my work, one is that it should always spark joy and happiness, I always want my subject to have a sense of pride, I want to put positivity out there and show the colorful side of life and South Africa . The second would be that I love representing the different people of South Africa. Although my subjects are made up, I feel they represent the people of SA. That’s why I love playing with nostalgia and classic South African iconography, things we can all relate to, and all have memories about.  

What should people know about your art that they can’t tell from looking at it?
That it is all digitally painted, digital art is fairly new and some people still don’t fully understand it. It takes many, many hours to create it, many different layers and brush strokes to create the same effects real paint does. There’s a lot of careful thinking that goes into an artwork. I spend a lot of time conceptualizing the perfect look and accessories with the background.

What are the most essential items in your studio and why?
Well, with digital art I don’t use much materials except for my computer and my digital drawing pad.  The one thing I can’t have enough of is digital memory. Due to the size of my digital work and the unpredictability of technology everything needs to be backed up and saved on the cloud.

Tell us more about your creative process.
The process starts with a lot of research, I usually start with one simple concept, and then put my thinking cap on, who is this person, what do I want to convey, how can I celebrate them. Then I do the research portion. I love going on fashion websites and getting the right clothing, accessories and glasses. It is very important to me that I have my concept down, and really know the character in my art. From there I start building the character, with elements and color to convey who they are and the joy they convey. It's truly a wonderful experience and exciting to get to know these made up characters that’s part of the world I’ve created in my mind. For instance with Lekka Bubblegum, I knew I wanted to portray a man with a chicken, only that, then I started playing around with his outfit, found the perfect Gucci suit that I loved. Obviously this man won’t be wearing just a normal suit, he needs something to stand out, that’s when I decided what could be more fun than a chappies print suit. Then I start looking for the perfect accessories to compliment this distinguished gentleman. Already in my head I can see who this man is. I want him to stand in his humble living room. So basically it’s like building a person, but the subject starts being the inspiration.  
 
Do you believe an artist should use their platform to influence society? Why?
Definitely. I think we all have that responsibility, whether you are a florist, plumber or artist. The way you work and deal with people on a daily basis can make a big difference.
 
Do you have a favourite or most meaningful work?
Wow this is a very difficult question, because they all have their own special meaning behind them. If there were to be one that really stands out for more personal reasons, it would be Braai Boy, because that’s a piece that represents myself in a sense. It’s a slightly feminine man with a braai ‘rooster’ in front of a butchery, it’s a story I can relate to as I come from a very small conservative town, also the butchery in the background is one from my hometown. So in a sense it’s very much inspired by my own story.  
 
What is your greatest achievement as an artist to date?
I must say the biggest achievement by far is the fact that people resonate with my work and that they feel the joy I intended it to have. It’s truly a great feeling when people share the feeling of your art and the happiness behind it and share the same feelings.  
 
What are your aspirations for the future?
I would just love to continue as an artist and really reach people all over the world with my art. I feel just being able to have an exhibition is already a privilege.  I would love to have more exhibitions and even an exhibition somewhere abroad.