Q&A with Gallery Award Finalist: ANINA DEETLEFS

We asked the Ten Gallery Award Finalists some questions to help you get to know them as we prepare for the special Group Exhibition at StateoftheART’s Cape Town gallery from 06 – 22nd September 2018 and the final round of judging. The winner will be awarded a R10 000 cash prize and a solo exhibition with the gallery in 2019.

See more about the Gallery Award here.


Tell us about yourself. Where are you based and where do you get your inspiration for your work?

I am Anina Deetlefs. I am a born and bred Capetonian. I live in a 70's style beauty in the leafy suburb Eversdal in Durbanville with my husband Johannes and my three children, Nicholaas, 12, Christiaan, 10 and Anna-Sophia, 5, together with our three Scottish Terriers: Mungo, Bonnibelle and Fin. I am a lover of all things beautiful and have many passions from beautiful shoes, fashion, flowers to books, but my biggest passion is definitely painting and creating art.

I obtained a Degree in Graphic Design at the University of Stellenbosch. My husband and I then spent a number of years living and working overseas, both in New Zealand and in Holland.  We returned to SA 13 years ago.

I worked in the fashion and the interior design industry but have spent the last decade honing my painting skills. I was a finalist in the Sasol New Signature Competition in 2011 and had solo exhibitions at Rust en Vrede Gallery and Youngbloods Gallery. In 2017 I was a finalist in the top 60 Sanlam Portrait Competition. For the Sanlam Portrait Competition I had entered one of the Skin works, titled ‘Beautiful’. This work has since been sold and is currently residing in Germany.

What inspires me?
In reference to my work, I see my style as diverse which is a reflection of the diversity of my inspiration. For my portraits I definitely draw inspiration from loved ones and relatives. Our shared experiences are a constant motivator for deeper thoughts surrounding certain matters. During the creation of the ‘Skin’ works, we were in the process of renovating our home and ended up living in a building site for a couple of months. Hence these works reflect a much deconstructed style.

My more commercial fauna and flora works are far looser and range from very large to very small works portraying SA birds and flowers. These works range from pencil sketches to works  on canvas using mixed media technique of oil, pencil and pen. I am part of a boutique design company called Tjirpie. We use my images of flowers and birds on textiles, graphics prints and ceramics. For inspiration in this range, I only need to feast my eyes on the riches that South African nature provides.

Do you have any rituals or habits involving your art-making that you can tell us about?

I do not know if I would call it rituals or habits, but I definitely do have a work process. I usually contemplate and think about a theme for quite some time. Once the theme is established, I tend to plan the finer details, the number of canvases, colour palette, size of the works etc. I take all my own photographs and tend to have some sort of story board. Since life is quite busy, I have to be disciplined as to when I set aside time to paint, this is essential. I wish I could say I paint to soothing classical music in the background, but sadly the BBC Home Channel seems to work best for me.

 I am fortunate enough to have a studio space at home and have the luxury to paint in front of a large window overlooking a beautiful garden.

Which new trends or South African artists do you find inspiring at the moment?

I am not so up to date with the latest trend but at the moment I am following Artyfisheel, Visualatelier8, Contemporary Paintings and Mirtheferous to name a few on Instagram.These sites offer an amazing selection of the latest in digital art, photography and art in any other form. As for South African artists, I love the work of Bastiaan Van Stenis.

How is your work relevant in a South African context? And globally?

I think my art is relevant both in a SA context and a global context since I try to tell a story within each art work that is not just relevant to my subject that I am portraying but to the person viewing the art work as well. I explore issues that are deeply personal but universal at the same time.
In ‘Skin’, I touched on many of these universal aspects. Here are a few: The skin is the outer shell containing and protecting the fragile spirit within. From the day we are born till  the day we die, our unique skin is ever changing, shedding and evolving as we as human beings are forever growing and changing whether in body, mind, emotion or spirit. I touch on first impressions and how that changes as we get to know and love someone. These works are left unfinished as we are at all times, in a state of incompleteness. I explore the notion of living in a digital world where there is no filter as to what you share and where there is no eye contact anymore. We are constantly in contact/ face time, yet it is all “skin- deep". We have lost the ability to look someone in the eye, rather the image we portray we can manipulate into what we want the world to see. We often use a peer group, public figure or celebrity as an indicator of how we should portray ourselves. This whole process is stripping us of our own individuality and ability to think for ourselves.

What do you think South African artists can contribute to the global art market?

I think we can greatly contribute to the global market by providing undervalued SA artists with the right exposure on an international platform. The diversity of our SA culture is reflected in the diversity of the rich, fresh and controversial art the SA artists are producing.
What do you think of the StateoftheART Gallery Award as a platform for emerging artists in South Africa?

I think this award offers an incredible platform for artists. I like the fact that it is open to all artists specializing in all forms of contemporary art.

How do you think selling art online and marketing through social media is valuable?

In this day and age it is extremely important to sell and market on-line. ‘The world is our oyster.' The internet is a great opportunity for emerging and established artists and buyers to enter the visual art market and of course shape its development. I do however believe that working with an established art gallery is still of the utmost importance and that the on-line selling space should never replace the off-line selling space.

How do you feel about the upcoming group exhibition and the other shortlisted finalists’ works?

I am very excited about the upcoming group exhibition. This is a group of incredibly talented artists. Each one of us has a strong, individual, signature style to bring to the table.

Do you have any plans for the coming year?

Oh there are many plans. As always I am actively working on my paintings. My business partner and I started a small boutique design and homeware company a couple of years ago called Tjirpie. We design and supply prints, textiles and ceramics to upmarket gift shops. For this coming year we have a couple of projects that involves custom designed items for some of our clients.

If you win the Gallery Award, tell us about what you have in mind for your solo exhibition in 2019?

If I win the Gallery Award I can either continue with the 'Skin' range, since I have many more faces to put to canvas in order to tell their stories. Or alternatively I can continue to work and complete my new range called 'Mask' in which I further explore the theme of losing your identity in our modern day society.

Anina Deetlefs was born in 1973. She obtained her Degree in Graphic Design at the University of Stellenbosch in 1995. While working in the fashion and interior design industry, both locally and internationally, Anina pursued her painting career part-time. Since 2006 she has worked as a full time artist, developing her own colour-rich technique of oil painting. In 2011 Anina was chosen as one of the 73 finalists of the Sasol New Signatures Art Competition.