Which new trends or South African artists do you find inspiring at the moment?
I see an increase in artists using their art in ways that help people heal or cope, either by creating art around difficult issues and emotional experience, or by offering workshops that allow people to access deeper spaces of their own mind and body through art-making. I also find it heartening that more and more artists are having a hard look at their materials and its environmental and health impacts.
Which South African deceased artist do you most admire and why?
Judith Mason’s work is just always inspiring to me. Just the other day I visited the home of a friend’s parents, and I saw a Judith Mason artwork of a wing, with layers of paper cut to add depth – an art piece of hers that I have never seen before in books or on the internet… Her use of soft lines and sensitive details that work together to create something bold and impactful is one of the things I enjoy most about her work. The juxtapositioning and metaphors in her work are equally inspiring!
If you could only have one piece of art in your life, what would it be?
I own a beautiful little artwork by Elrie Joubert entitled 2365 Eie Woorde which is my current favourite piece of art.
Pick three artists who you would be honored to exhibit with – and why?
I love the sensitive earth revering works of artists like Lindy Solomon, Leli Hoch, Hanien Conradie, Ellie Irons, Mel Chin, and Margaret LeJeune. It would be an honour for me to exhibit with any of these artists because of their deep connection to nature.
How did you get started? Did you always want to be an artist?
As a child I was constantly drawing, colouring in, and later also taking photos, so it seems art was destined to play a big role in my life. During my teenage years I had an incredible art teacher who exposed me to the work of Strijdom van der Merwe, Willem Boshoff, Lien Botha, Chris Diedericks, Judith Mason, and Walter Battis. She arranged field trips to galleries and her enthusiasm was contagious. Art is also a way for me to make sense of my feelings, a mode of self expression, and it’s easier for me to make sense of the world when I am creating something with my hands (and heart).
?What are some of the key themes you explore in your work?
I am inspired by the concepts biomimicry and deep ecology, and our place within the web of life, and the cosmos. Spirituality is a theme that I’m exploring quite a bit, which is leading me into new modes of expression – e.g. I’m using my voice much more extensively than I’ve done in previous video work or performance art. Sense of place, and journeys, are a theme that can be seen clearly in my work, as is a simple appreciation for ecology, biology and the plant kingdom.
What should people know about your art that they can’t tell from looking at it?
I am inspired by more things than what you see in my art. Random places and situations often inspire me. Doing shopping, taking a walk, or ironing clothes are just as ideal for sparks of inspiration than taking a hike in the mountains, on the beach or sitting under a tree. The patterns oil make on the surface of water, cracked tiles, popcorn shapes, tire treads, the colour of someone’s eyes, the speed of nail growth, and random pieces of wire found on a sidewalk…all of these can be inspiring sparks for new art, photographs, or doodles.
Tell us more about your creative process.
My art practice is very versatile or diverse - as I apply a lot of different techniques. My ink drawings are very detailed and intricate, while my mixed media works are textured, often abstract or semi-abstract. Some of my digital artworks lean towards photo-realism (because I use photographs in them!), while my performance art is inspired by Dada and the happenings of the 1960’s and 1970’s artists. My art is representational when I depict animals, landscapes or plant matter; but abstract and contemporary when I'm focusing more on a concept. I have been told that my art in general has a very earthy, raw and African character. This can be best seen in my colour choices - which are often browns, sepia, ochre and rusty tones. My work is very very often very intuition-driven, experimental and process-based.
Do you believe an artist should use their platform to influence society? Why?
I used to think so. Now I think that it’s more about giving something of yourself to others. Through art, through being true to one’s own inner compass, listening to your own intuition, and in this way (by changing yourself, being true to yourself, by healing yourself) we automatically influence society from the inside out. By living our most vibrant and courageous selves, we help to improve life for others by inspiring them & giving them hope.
Do you have a favourite or most meaningful work?
Yes, I would say ‘Forces of the Soil’
(SOLD). It’s an artwork that succeeded beyond my expectations to express what I aimed to show (which is the epic geological power of the Earth)
What is your greatest achievement as an artist to date?
I’m unable to pinpoint one pinnacle achievement, but I would like to say that each art residency that I have participated in have deeply impacted my art-making abilities and my core experience of being an artist. Each residency, project or collaboration allows me to embody more and more of the artist and person that I truly am.
What are your aspirations for the future?
Big milestones include my next solo exhibition (planned for March 202), my first published book of my art and poetry, the Tankwa Artscape 2021 residency, and using art to contribute to environmental projects like Greenpop’s Reforest Festival on the Garden Route or social projects in my community.
I am also looking forward to collaborative projects that include art retreats, workshops and large-scale installation art.
Learn more about Janet in our interview and short film with the artist here.