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Featured Artists

  • Zaan Classens
  • Shimmering Light - 48 x 60 - Oil on Canvas
  • Walking on Water- 40 x40 - Oil on Canvas

Zaan Classens

Where you were born and raised

I was born in South Africa in 1970. As a child we moved from Pietermaritzburg to Pretoria, to Rustenburg, to Jeffries Bay, to Stellenbosch, to Harare and finally settled in Cape Town. I spent my last year of school in Oxford, Ohio as an exchange student and then returned to Stellenbosch, where I completed a BA Degree in Graphic Design. For the next decade I lived in Northern Alberta, followed by a couple of years thawing out on the Island of Saipan. Thereafter I returned to South Africa via Ireland, and a few more years in Canada.



Where you currently live

I currently spend my time between South Africa and Canada.

In South Africa I live in Cape Town next to the Atlantic Ocean in a suburb nestled between the Twelve Apostles, Table Mountain, Lion’s Head and the Ocean. It is truly one of the most beautiful places on the planet.

In Canada I live next to the Thames River that meanders through London, Ontario and into Lake St. Clair. A beautiful place of peace and solace.

Art school or self-taught?

I’ve had a healthy mix of both. Art was my favourite subject at school in both Zimbabwe and South Africa. I spent 1988 in the USA as an exchange student where I took a course at Miami Univeristy in Textile Design with Susan Christopherson. I returned to South Africa in 1989 and in 1992 completed a BA in Graphic Design at the Universiy of Stellenbosch. Here some of my lecturers included, Paul Emsley for drawing, Pienaar van Niekerk, Victor Honey, Sue Williamson. After graduating I’ve always taken Life Drawing classes, wherever I found my self in the world: Keith Howard in Peace River, Canada 1994-1997; The Art’s Project, London, Ontario 2001-2004. I’ve also explored some courses in Arts Business and found these to be particularly helpful. My sculpting has been entirely self-taught except for a mould making course with Brendahan Dickerson at Ruth Prowse Art School in Cape Town in 2011. Because I am an adventurous and curious individual I continue to explore new mediums and techniques. The most recent being stainless steel.

Your artistic influences and where you draw inspiration

I grew up in a home with arts and crafts. No one ever sat idle. My Grandmother painted and carved the yellowwood furniture that my Oupa made. My mother also paints and makes beautiful ceramics. As a child I was fortunate enough to be taken to Europe to see the archeological sites and museums. It is here that I first developed a love for art both Ancient and Modern.

During my teens I was in love with Vincent, Ansel Adams, Escher, Gauguin, Goya and Gustav Klimt. My infatuations also included Vassily Kandinsky, Miro, Pablo, Rembrandt, Rodin, Egon Schiele and finally Frida Khalo, Georgia O’Keeffe and Louise Bourgouis. I became absorbed in their lives, their loves, their quests, their pain and their passion. In more recent years I’ve been exposed to the works of Norwegian artists, Vigland and Odd Nerdrum.

As an adult I am in love with the detail and beauty of the natural world. There exists a pure aweand adoration for the creative process, from first contemplating something beautiful, be it a thought or a thing, to analyzing it, to capturing, reproducing and recreating its essence.

Nature continues to inspire me and my current focus is on water and light and the interplay between them. I find magic in water. It is the detail within the detail, that which is below and that which is above, that which is reflected and that which is real, that draw me in and enchant me.

Your medium(s)/technique(s)of choice and why 

My work is diverse because I am an exploratory, experimental and adventurous individual. I find it thrilling to discover the unique possibilities of different media. Oil paint, bronze, wax, gypsum are all grist for my mill.

I mainly move between the mediums of Oil Painting, Sculpture & Photography, however I have also explored collage, pastel, charcoal, ink, pencil, mixed media and textiles. Each medium, in turn, lends itself to different subject matter. No matter what the subject, quality is of the utmost importance to me. It is my intention to create beautifully crafted and highly detailed artworks. The quality I aspire to create is not only one of technical excellence, but also one of emotional elevation. I find there is so much pain, heartache, suffering, stress, misery, fear, violence, unrest, and horror in the world, that we should make our homes and sanctuaries places of beauty, filled with beautiful art. I hope that those who view my artwork will be uplifted by it.

Generally I work explosively. The duration is usually a function of how large the piece is. For the highly detailed paintings of 1.5 x 1.2 meters I usually require six weeks to complete.

I source nature. I take many reference photos and collect object and with these I move into the studio where I analyze, select, and digitally manipulate my images, working with saturated colours, finding details in the shadows and adding brilliant, shimmering light until I arrive at a mood or atmosphere that closely resembles my experience and that which I wish to share. The final image is printed and then drawn onto the canvas. I start with the whites and work my way to the deep shadows, but sometimes a particular colour or shape will draw me into play.

Sometimes I mix a thick paste of a particular mix of oil colours, linseed oil and artist’s turpentine. I then start to apply layers of the paint selectively over the canvas surface. At other times the paint is very thin and water-like and I find this particularly relative when I’m painting water. My canvas surface is generally smooth but shimmers with oil paint and reflected light. Hours and hours and days and nights are spent at the canvas. It’s a magical process almost like the development of a photo in the dark-room, only this takes so much longer, thus prolonging the pleasure.

Years of analyzing shapes, colours & textures and their subtle interplay allow me to quickly enter a meditative zone while creating. Being in this zone is serene, peaceful and tranquil. It is what I imagine spiritual enlightenment to be. And so the creative process is food for my soul.

Over a decade ago, I painted a series of The Four Elements: earth, air, fire, and water; however, in recent years, I have gravitated to the specific element of water. I spend much time in, on, or near it, and the Indian and Atlantic Oceans in South Africa, and the many beautiful rivers and Great Lakes in Canada, inspire me. I observe the interplays between light and water, and water and sky, and find them mesmerizing. The ebb and flow of water provides me with a continuously changing picture: the constant movement of the water combined with the ever-changing light and its reflections results in renewed and limitlesssources of creativity and perceptions. Are we looking at water or sky? Are we seeing what is above or below? Whatever appears in the water is no longer what it originally was (a fish, a tree, sky), but has become something weird and wonderful. In other words it has become re-contextualized. It is this re-contextualization that can make us aware of nature’s majesty.

I make use of natural reflection to abstract reality. Through the water, light transmutes recognizable objects, and this transformation creates the appearance of new objects and shapes that, when seen together, is greater than the sum of its parts. I call this approach Abstracted Realism --- Abstracted because the work is not merely an attempt to replicate a real life object, and, Realism, because the work always makes reference to the natural world.Within this approach, I consider myself a formalist artist, as my main concern always lies with the use of colours, lines, shapes, and rhythms that, together, form the essence of thework. I want to use these artistic elements in beautifully-crafted and highly-detailed ways, in order to stimulate an awareness of different levels of reality and of being, ultimately eliciting in viewers an elevated emotional response.

In its totality, my art is a celebration of life. Please celebrate with me and enjoy the show.

All Images are subject to copyright law and cannot be reproduced or copied.
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