A new gallery launched last week in Cape Town is set to shake up the local industry through inclusivity, colour and inspiration. Steyn du Toit from the Pink Tongue chats to renowned artist Reno Horn to find out more about ART IS ART.
PT: It’s been just over a decade since you returned to South Africa and set up your studio and gallery. What have been some of the most significant trends and/or changes you’ve observed in the local industry since then?
RN: I have observed that photography as a digital art form has developed tremendously. Many artists in this field like to refer to their photography as digital art. There have been amazing new techniques and a lot more mixed media used in creating art. Myself, for example, I paint on my photographs with oils and acrylics to add new dimensions or make the artwork more artistic…to look more like a painting. I have also noticed that more artists are expressing their darker, more intimate sides in their work. Simple use of darker, moodier colours and the use of black or similar dark colours are making an appearance everywhere. I guess it is a reflection of the times or the psyche of the individuals. Portraits are becoming more abstract, with faces that are distorted or lacking recognisable features. But on the other side of the spectrum, I can also see that some portrait paintings, for example, are extremely colourful and bright, often with bold streaks of solid colour covering parts of the face.
The most popular trend though is running streaks of paint, creating a dripping effect all over, or at least in big parts of a painting. There is definitely an increase of fantasy, anime/animation and tantric elements and symbolism. Interior design and decorating are bigger than ever as well. Many artists can now work hand in hand with this industry to create larger scale work or bigger quantities of their work for these purposes. Many artists have become incredibly successful through corporate companies, decorating offices or whole hotels. Bigger companies have a bigger demand. One of the biggest increases in art is the recognition of African art or subjects. African portraits have never been so popular.
PT: Could you please talk to me about how the idea behind ART IS ART came about, and what its name means?
RH: The name represents the many forms of art there is to be found all around us. Gone are the days that art is just paintings or drawings. Art comes in so many forms and really is in the eye of the beholder, or what one perceives the art to be. Whether it is sculpture, pottery, paintings, photography or even beautiful embroidery, at the end it is the artist’s expression of their form of art. Through the gallery, I wanted to create a platform or space where each artist can express themselves freely. The idea behind ART IS ART is to give these artists, no matter their background, a platform to exhibit their art. Many artists have never had the chance to exhibit their work, or due to financial or socio-economic circumstances wouldn’t normally have the opportunity to ever have their work shown or acknowledged. There are a huge amount of very talented local artists, and they all deserve to be given the same opportunities to break into the industry. With help and guidance, hopefully they’ll get to work towards becoming successful artists.
PT: In layman’s terms, how and where do you believe ART IS ART will fit into both the local community as well as the larger industry?
RH: Locally I hope to open up more doors for artists here and to give them that stepping stone and exposure they need to be recognised by the art industry. I really hope that local artists will be supported locally, or even internationally. We have such a beautifully colourful story and heritage in SA, and the world is very hungry to see more of our cultures and country. But local artists can’t reach success if no one knows about their art …and that is where I like to think my gallery can make that difference. Through exposure.
PT: I believe ART IS ART will have a different, less capitalistic approach to exhibiting work by emerging artists that don’t yet have a track record of earning huge sales (and commissions for the respective gallery representing them). Why the decision to adopt such a vision?
RH: I know how hard it is to be an artist in today’s economy, as well as how much work and costs goes into simply creating an artwork. Many of the artists I represent are full-time artists, and their only source of income is through art sales. Most galleries charge 50% commission on each work sold. That does not leave much for an already struggling artist. My commission rate is 35%, which hopefully gives my artists a little bit more breathing space. I do have a business to run, however, and unless we get the support from buyers, neither my artists nor I can make a living. I am happy with the art in my gallery and the pricing as well. The art is very affordable. It is therefore possible for most people to buy something in my gallery that suits their pocket. I want people to realise it is very possible to own original art and that it is not just for the wealthy. Art should be accessible and should be enjoyed by all.
PT: Mind briefly chatting to me about each of the current artists represented, who they are and what their trademark style is?
RH: We are currently a collection of 10 artists. They are
Bettie Coetzee Lambrecht: Photographer and digital artist. Soulful photographic work, expert use of incredible digital techniques.
Hein Reinders: Big, bold colourful mixed media, abstract pieces and amazing large portraits.
Charl Juan Solomon: Large colourful oil portraits and mixed media like gold leaf used in his beautiful portraits.
Barend Paul Barnard: Lots of colour, expressive male nudes, haunting portraits and the most incredible plastic and wire abstract angels.
Theo Deneys: Very detailed pencil drawings, portraits and male nudes.
Oliver Whyte: Incredible large detailed gouache and ink drawings.
Sebastiaan Theart: Amazingly talented oil painter and illustrator. His work ranges from classical to fantastical, and always with an artistic twist.
Monique Loeblich: Playful and colourful abstract, pastel-coloured pieces.
Beljohn Dean: Stunning colourful celebrations of symbolism and imagination. Abstract as well as beautiful realistic landscapes.
Reno Horn: Dark, moody theme-based photography and oil and acrylic beauty-based portraits.
PT: In the future, how will new artists be selected and featured through Art is Art? Will emerging artists also be able to approach the gallery with their portfolio?
RH: The gallery definitely has a lot of colour, and we seem to express ourselves in a modern contemporary genre. I would like to keep this theme throughout. But I am very open to different styles and extremely happy to see new work all the time. Any artist is very welcome to contact me and come show me their work. I get very excited by the prospect of adding another artist to our existing team. The more art we can promote, the better!
PT: Lastly, for first-time visitors to Art is Art, what advice can you give patrons for the best possible experience?
RH: Just come to the gallery with the expectation to be wowed. As soon as you walk through our doors you will be greeted by joyous, colourful art everywhere. We are a fun gallery, not another white clinical room where you feel like walking with your hands behind your back. We are inviting and friendly, you will be received with a smile and you will leave with a bigger smile. Come in and have a chat, a laugh and interact with us and the art. You are welcome here, anytime.