This week we had the opportunity to speak with an incredible SA artists doing amazing things both creatively and for the community around him.
Here’s what Janko had to say with us:
When did you first discover you had a passion for the arts and what would you say was the first project you remember working on?
I was born in 1980 in a little town called Villieria in Pretoria, South Africa before permanently relocating to Cape Town in 1997. I grew up in a family that appreciates art, my parents have always collected art and we attended many exhibitions when I was growing up. I was especially inspired when my parents took me to visit the artists at their studios where I was able to watch them hone their skills in their personal space. There are also several talented painters in my family and my great-grandfather, Dr. Theo Wassenaar, was a renowned poet.
I always practiced art, even as a child. For high school, I went to Pro Arte a well-established art school in Pretoria, where I was exposed a variety of art forms. However, after school in 1997, I decided to study law. I was a practicing advocate for more than 10 years, while maintaining a passion for art and continuing to create.
To pursue any career successfully, I believe one must give 100%. I reached a point in my art career where I had to fully commit, so I stopped practicing law to pursue art full time in 2016. My formal career as an artist began with sculpture, but I now balance both the practice of painting and sculpting equally. I believe that as an artist it is your duty to explore all creative avenues during your artistic career. I believe that you are not only a sculptor or a painter but an artist equally deserving of both.
Having such a unique mastery of your craft how you describe your style as a sculptor/painter?
I believe it was Picasso who said, “Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist.” I try not to be governed by preconceived notions of what is popular or critically acclaimed in art. In the end I believe this could result in a monotonous duplication of the same thing over and over. I have learned that it is better to be guided by the process, rather than to force it one way or the other. The result, I have found, is much more fluid and stimulating. If I create something that I personally find beautiful, without over-thinking it too much, other people will also appreciate it.
My sculptures are visually stimulating, bold and dramatic and influenced by the precepts of contemporary futurism in sculpting. I believe that they convey the history of the medium through strong individual characters, with a subtle touch of surrealism. I do all my own sculpture patinas by hand, using both conventional and unconventional methods, which result in unexpectedly rich and unusual colours.
For me the process of applying the various patinas to the raw sculpture is very similar to the process of applying paint to canvas. My paintings usually start with a colourful abstract defined against a solid backdrop that establishes a base for the overlaid image of a face, figure or bust. When I paint, I also try to be guided by the application of the paint, rather than to force it one way or the other.
2019 has been a year of growth in painting for me. My current body of work is a two-dimensional expansion of my sculpture series titled “Subjectivity – to be in the mind of a subject”, which relates to our consciousness and portrays the idea of how internal thoughts are shaped by perspectives, feelings, choices, beliefs, and symbols in our everyday lives.
The series consists of mixed media paintings done on both canvas and archival paper. All my paintings are also available as limited, personalised Giclee fine art prints .
Could you take us through your artistic process when starting & completing a project like “Ambivalence”?
“Ambivalence” forms part of my series titled Subjectivity, and portrays the idea of how internal thoughts are shaped by perspectives, feelings, beliefs and desires. The series was inspired by how our subjective consciousness and the brain interact to shape our objective reality.
My artistic process usually starts somewhere in nature. I love the ocean and the mountains and spend a lot of time outdoors, I believe that it is the time spent outdoors that best influence my work both in sculpture and in paint. It is necessary for the mind to see new things if it is to create new things. When sculpting, the shapes occurring in nature inspire me and I attempt to build my armature in accordance with the flow and characteristics of the material.
I often see figures and faces in the natural objects I collect. I will then use these found objects, in combination with conventional sculpting methods, to create my sculpture. The result is then cast into limited editions of resin and bronze using the lost wax casting technique. All my sculptures are hand-finished – I especially like working with bright, contrasting yet complimentary colour schemes.
How has being from South Africa defined and moulded your unique, colourful sense of expression?
Being from South Africa, one needs to look at the African diaspora. All the people who came before us contributed to our identity and had a vast impact on what we consider our African identity to be. Indigenous cultures, immigrants from neighbouring countries, adventure seekers, even the power-hungry colonizers at one stage made the African continent their home. They all left behind small remnants of their own personal and cultural heritage, which over a period interweaved with one another, and collectively contributed to what I consider to be our African identity today. It is this unique African flavour that translates back into our colourful sense of expression.
So yes, it’s exciting being an artist in South Africa especially at this moment. SA art is definitely attracting collectors from overseas, many of them with deep pockets. Big names and up-and-coming artists alike are doing well – most of the clients who collect my art are also foreigners.
I think there are a few factors that contribute to this popularity. Globalisation is definitely one of them, there are expats from SA everywhere. I also think there’s heightened interest in art from all emerging markets, not just SA. What I find really exciting, apart from all the foreign investment, is that young South Africans are also spending money on art. Because they can’t generally afford the more established names, they are supporting young, exciting artists. Just look at the turnout one gets at events like First Thursdays and pop-up exhibitions all around our country.
Who would you say locally & Internationally are your biggest influences in the industry?
Except for the obvious industry influencers like Vermeer, Kandinsky, Picasso and Warhol to name but a few, I love collecting art myself and supporting emerging artist locally. I have a wide variety of influences. I would like to think that the art I buy and hang on my walls somehow influences me.
The term “international artist” is not as clear cut as it used to be. Just take into consideration what some of the social media platforms like YouTube, Instagram and Facebook have done for artists and collectors on an international scale. You can now post an image of your painting or sculpture and instantly reach hundreds of thousands of people across the globe. With that level of art influencing going around I suppose I get influenced daily, whether it be nationally or internationally.
What can we expect from Janko in the future?
I would say that my aspirations and goals as an artist is to be able to wake up passionately, with the drive to create art every day. My future goals are to explore more, to increase the quantity and quality of art I can produce, to better my international exposure, to maintain financial success and to enjoy a balanced lifestyle.
We would like to thank Janko for speaking with us and sharing his story if you would like to get in touch with him please use the email below or find him on Social Media :