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JAMES DE VILLIERS ARTIST

 

I have been active as an artist, since about the age of 19. I have followed a path of continual exploration, experimentation and self-education.

 

Over the past ten years or so my painting style has undergone several radical changes although the expressionistic style is one I had in the 1980s. I have been influenced mainly by the Dutch, German and Flemish masters and have produced a large body of realist works which include landscape, still life, portraits and skyscapes. A small part of my output in the 1990’s includes paintings based on South African history, namely the Anglo Boer War and the Zulu War. I work between realism and expressionism, emphasising the particular style when the need demands it.

 

My work is concerned with change, decay, destruction and the passage of time. It also specifically deals with the vulnerability and recovery of nature. At present my paintings, though stylistically different from much of the past works, still derive from the same themes. I have found I prefer nowadays to be more energetic and spontaneous. I also experimented with using pastels, a medium whose unique qualities I only discovered later in my artistic career. So from about 2010 onwards pastels feature prominently along with powdered pigment and layering with varnish. I also started using acrylics for abstract work as well. I am presently working simultaneously in both abstract and realist modes I find moving from one mode to the other keeps my attention focused and my vision fresh. Each mode or style of art making enables me to express myself in suitable ways.

 

A large part of my present work comes directly from the study of Gericault’s “The Raft of the Medusa” and working in my garden. I was studying the painting and found the original plans for the actual raft online and built a scale model. I was fascinated by the grid, the way a grid was used as a life support mechanism and what that raft can represent conceptually. It led me to think of birds’ nests and at the same time I happened to be doing a lot of trimming in the garden, ending up with piles of twigs and branches.

 

The chaotic grid patterns that the branches formed, the idea of man shaping nature to conform to aesthetic ideas, the wastage and the whole question of ecology soon began to inform my art making. The grids also reminded me of maps and the chaos of the layering of history on the landscape through wars and disasters. My study of World War 1 trench maps and comparisons with present day terrain is used extensively in a number of interpretive works.

 

My other influences include William Blake, Gerhard Richter, Anselm Kiefer, Christian Boltanski, Marc Rothko, Brice Marden, Turner, Constable and many others.

My main themes are derived from a study of military, art and social history, an interest in archaeology, science and music.

 

Artist’s statement