Contemporary painter Janna Prinsloo

Q&A with Gallery Award Finalist: JANNA PRINSLOO

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 grew up in Pretoria, and studied Fine Arts at the University of Pretoria, but moved to the Eastern Cape after graduating. After about 9 years I made the decision to become a full-time artist, and soon after decided to move to Cape Town, where I am still based and working from a studio at home.
I draw inspiration from various sources. One source is the works of other artists’ work, which I respect and admire, and which challenges me to try new things, experiment with style and technique, and to improve my work in all aspects.
Another source of inspiration is people. I am at times drawn to a specific person because of the way they move, their body language, posture, the way they carry themselves, or just the way they look wearing a particular colour. Then I do a photoshoot with that person and from there see how I can creating an artwork with them as subject matter.
And sometimes ideas and images of possible paintings just pop into my head.

Do you have any rituals or habits involving your art-making that you can tell us about?
 I definitely like knowing what I am going to paint before I start, and to have good reference material. So that process of distilling the idea, and getting the right images to work from takes quite a bit of time. Concerning the painting process itself I seem to like working from a rough and quick technique , and then move towards detail and refining. So the first layer is always most fun. At this stage it is most dangerous to enter the studio, as there is wet paint everywhere: several palettes scattered around, huge brushes leaking and dripping, and the painting surface - either vertical or horizontal - being covered with thick paint, then thin paint, paint strokes, then just splashes and drips of paint.
After the first layer is dry it is a matter of carefully and accurately drawing out the figure or portrait. And then another burst of rough, quick and instinctive painting. Once that is dry I bring in some carefully crafted detail where the painting seems to need it.
That is a rough outline of how I go about creating a painting.
Which new trends or South African artists do you find inspiring at the moment?
 I would say in the last two years the South African artists who have  influenced and inspired me most are: Michelle Adlard, Simon Stone, Mary Visser, Corne Eksteen and Matthew Hindley. Michelle Adlard in her approach to composition and layering of images, as well as paint application. Simon Stone in his combination of figures and seemingly unrelated objects that tell a story, as well as his interesting use of colour fields. Mary Visser in her bold approach to colour, and a fearlessness in paint application. Corne Eksteen in his fresh approach to portraiture. And I love Matthew Hindley's technique of very expressive and bold paint application, large scale, and yet such recognizable images. I also find his combination of the figure with objects, nature, or interesting animals very intriguing.
How is your work relevant in a South African context? And globally?
My work often deals with identity. Identity is a huge issue in South Africa and globally in our generation and it seems to be growing in intensity. I therefore believe my work is relevant in both contexts because it addresses the issue of "who are you really", and uses symbols, landscape, and figures to speak about identity; and also because I paint people of all colour, age and economic status. I also at times use the South African landscape to form pictoral language for inner realities, and have found many of my fellow citizens identify with my artworks because the landscape speaks to them.
What do you think South African artists can contribute to the global art market?
There might not be as much funding available in South Africa to embark on very large and impressive projects that have a real "wow" factor, but I have always been proud of how South Africans display incredible creativity. For example in the discipline of sculpture I have found South Africans to display extreme resourcefulness in the medium they use and in the creative way in which they marry the material and the message. As far as excellence and technique is concerned I believe we definitely have artists of high callibre that can hold up against any other nation's best, and I therefore think we can offer very creative, excellent artworks that will be enjoyed and also be solid investments.
What do you think of the StateoftheART Gallery Award as a platform for emerging artists in South Africa?
I think it an excellent platform. I am impressed with the level of excellence and professionalism with which the competition has been presented and advertised. And I believe the fact that we could submit work digitally and that there was no fee made it very accessible to anyone wishing to participate. Everyone therefore has a fair chance of making it into the finalists exhibition. 
StateoftheArt always exhibits such professionalism, and is continuously active in marketing and show-casing their artists, which means that any artist who is linked to their gallery will only gain by the support, marketing, input and exposure that they offer.
How do you think selling art online and marketing through social media is valuable?
 It makes art just so much more accessible. The volume of people you can reach on social media to create awareness of an event, artist or to give exposure to specific artworks just cannot be compared to the Pre-Social Media Era. Before online galleries existed potential art buyers were a small number of people who had to be very intentional, with a lot of pre-thought, planning, and time commmitment to physically visit several art galleries before choosing which artwork they would like to purchase. With the internet and online galleries all that has changed. The ease with which one can browse through limitless artworks and galleries makes it firstly really easy to choose something, as the options are so much more, but also allows people who would never have entered a gallery to buy artworks. It also makes the art accessible to anyone anywhere in the world. What an amazing and valuable platform.
How do you feel about the upcoming group exhibition and the other shortlisted finalists’ works?
 I am very excited to be part of the upcoming group exhibition! I have seen some of the other finalist's other works, and am very impressed with the high standard, creativity, and the variety of the works of the selected artists. This will indeed be very steep competition! I feel very honoured to be part of it.
Do you have any plans for the coming year?
 In the coming year I would love to be able to continue building a body of work. Either one body of work for a solo (maybe for SotA, or for another gallery), or alternatively three or four smaller bodies of works to explore the different ideas I have, and with the option of any one of them to be developed into a full solo.
If you win the Gallery Award, tell us about what you have in mind for your solo exhibition in 2019?
I would explore one of two ideas. The first being large paintings of strong movement and strong colour. The other being a further development of the theme started in the works submitted to the StateoftheArt Gallery Award: working on wood, and with the figure, a limited pallette and weaving interesting symbolic elements into the works.

Janna Prinsloo is a professional artist who was born and raised in Pretoria, the capital of South Africa, where she also graduated with a BA Fine Arts from the University of Pretoria in 1998.
Janna works from her studio in Cape Town and has participated in numerous group exhibitions across South Africa, as well as two solo exhibitions in Cape Town. In 2010 she was awarded the Vernon John Design Merit Prize as part of the Vuleka Art Competition. Working in the traditional medium of oil painting on canvas or board, her subject matter is strongly figurative, accessible and recognizable. Her images are of vibrant figures that come alive and seem to leap off the canvas.