This engaging interview takes you into the world of an artist who, against the backdrop of laid-back Fish Hoek, finds inspiration in the simplest and most profound aspects of life.
Explore the influences, materials, and captivating process that underlie his artwork. Step into the realm of an artist whose current project unveils the vibrant essence of Sea Point, a place he holds dear and a never-ending source of inspiration.
Tell us a bit about yourself and how you got into art!
A homebody loving the laid-back rustic vibes of Fish Hoek, my place of residence these past thirty- plus years. Born in Lagos, Nigeria in 1951, my late mother, the artist Mary Hart, encouraged me in my early artistic endeavours. Moving to Cape Town in 1955 my most viable means of communication is through my painting. A passion for music, the spiritually uplifting works of early composers in particular, is a vital adjunct to my creative process. A mystic bent favours a slight remove from the ‘madding crowd’ though I hesitate to brand myself a recluse! Loving my own company, however, has been a blessing these past few years.
How would you describe the art you love creating?
A misleadingly challenging request: I execute my work sprawled out on the floor, my canvas flat before me, Music, an ever-present accompaniment, usually of spiritual ilk, coaxes me towards a more reverent state of being. An aspirant Michelangelo in reverse doubling as postulant at a Sistine chapel in need of more than a good paint job! Having painted full-time for fifty years it is surprisingly hard to grasp what indefinable something affords my work it’s indelible signature to others.
Dreamlike, metaphysical, pastel-hued, lyrical all apply, although the observer’s immersion is my prime goal. Thereby the artist becomes a conduit of something of true value.
What influences your artistic vision and style?
Ben Shahn, an American artist, observed that the work of art is a product of the human spirit, who’s essential nature is celebratory. Surely words of timeless purport, and I have to get out of my own way in order to pay obeisance to them. Hence while immersed in creativity, I avail myself of guidance beyond my beleaguered self. Both the art critics Lloyd Pollack and the late Eldred Green saw a kinship with Christopher Wood in my paintings, no doubt acquired somehow through books from the library, his joyful paintings so at odds with his tragic end by suicide at 29. Aside from echoes of Wood my work has always had a singular stamp, requiring no deliberate effort on my part. Energy on the other hand is essential and avoiding that which readily drains it a gauntlet worth running.
Are there any present-day artists whose creations resonate with you and that you find particularly compelling?
As with music, my passion is ignited by luminaries of yore. Apart from surviving the test of time they have bountiful fodder for the soul to offer, something I find sadly lacking in current times.
Among the various materials you engage with, which one do you find the most fulfilling to work with, and what draws you to it?
Acrylics, initially through an aversion to turpentine, but also as a natural alternative to watercolor which was my prior medium of choice. Working flat I can use copious amounts of water without the paint running down the canvas. Likewise, it’s notoriously fast-drying nature can thereby be remedied and it’s malleability lends itself to relief.
Can you walk us through your artistic process, starting from the initial spark of an idea to the realisation of the finished artwork?
I seldom do separate sketches, but rather lay the blank canvas flat on the floor as I kneel before it, making a cursory drawing directly on it. If representational, such as a landscape, a general outline/layout suffices prior to painting. Having the basic structure set I’m now at liberty to incorporate elements from my imagination. Whatever I initially paint triggers what ensues and if less objective the subject matter allows freer rein to improvise. All the while the music pervading my studio encourages a lighter grip on the wheel and I become as much a passenger as the tour guide on another magical mystery tour.
Could you share some insights into your current creative endeavours and projects?
Sea Point has been a source of much inspiration since my first one man show in 1975 at the Goodman-Wolman Gallery, Cape Town. Currently I’m embarked on a series focused on it’s promenade. Always regarded as a figurative artist it caters with much that defines my vision coupled with innovatory elements unheard of at the outset of my career. Drones afford one a new vantage point and the carnival atmosphere is contagious. An irresistible microcosm of humanity, all the more so after the cautionary covid years. Oh I do like to be by the seaside.