Jordan Sweke‘s unique body of work could be simply described as aesthetic reflections on the connection between man and nature. For the artist, the act of creation is tantamount to life itself. His paintings have a sense of serenity and sadness: a homage to something beautiful that is slowly disappearing. His photographs exalt our experience of being in nature, with nude figures expressing the freedom of our natural state. Working in multiple mediums, Jordan says he aims to create “a marriage between the mathematical and the abstract, the geometric and the organic.” In that pursuit, he manages to reflect a beautiful synthesis of life, death and the sublime.
We spoke to the recent Michaelis graduate about what inspires him to create.
How did you become interested in art and what drew you to it?
My great grandfather was a passionate sculptor and painter and his works have inspired me from a very young age. I feel that to create is to live. The only time I feel truly alive and connected with everything around me is when I am creating. Well, that and when I am in love.
Your work clearly draws on nature, what made you choose that as your focus? Where else do you find inspiration?
It was never a conscious choice to focus on nature as my subject. When I am deep in a forest or alone on an island I feel at home. If there is anything that I know for a fact it is that I am a part of nature and channeling that connection visually makes me feel really good. I have always produced art as both a creative outlet and as a means for impacting the world; as a way to touch the minds of others. My love for natural environments has driven me to make art which urges environmentalism.
Nature is a problematic word. We understand it to be something other than ourselves. Through my work, I strive to re-align notions of nature and self. Detachment from nature is a destructive force on environmental behaviour and I believe that this relationship needs to be reconstituted.
I also find inspiration in exploring ways in which to represent and distort reality. I am very interested in spatial perceptions and how they relate to geometrical patterns. Science has always been a major interest and source of inspiration for me. Especially counter intuitive consequences of theories such as quantum mechanics.
How would you describe your style, and how has it developed?
I sometimes describe my painting style as a form of ‘abstract impressionism’, but simply put I can be described as a contemporary landscape painter.
My style has developed rapidly since I started painting landscapes and abstract works in enamel and oil around the age of 13. I have chosen to never place myself in a box by creating just one type of art and I believe the opportunities for meaningful creative expression are infinite.
Tell us about working in different mediums…
I work in a wide array of visual media and differing approaches. These being; video, oil and enamel paint, wood and bronze sculpture, Indian ink, analogue and digital photography, printmaking, land art, text art and various forms of installation and emerging media.
Working with new mediums is exciting and allows for a different perspective on one’s creative concerns. It forces one to rethink one’s attitudes and challenges one to perfect new techniques. I cannot do the same thing for too long or I go insane.
However, oil paint is a true love of mine. It is a medium I cannot live without and one which I plan to continue practicing regularly as long as I live. Paint allows for a visual agency that I believe many other artistic media cannot offer. A tactile emphasis on materiality is helpful in breaking illusions and revealing certain truths.
What, other than a beautiful aesthetic, are you trying to communicate with your work?
I like to view my own work as an ode or a homage to something beautiful and meek that is dying in silence.
My recent paintings explore the undeniable marriage between the mathematical and the abstract, the geometric and the organic. Most of my paintings are large as scale is important to my work as a means for accessing the sublime.
As well as imbuing a dialogue regarding instinct and consciousness as apparently opposing binaries, each of my pieces serve to create an accumulative conversation between the peaceful and the dreadful, the holy and the tainted.
Having just graduated, do you have any big plans?
My plans at this point are to produce as much work as possible in order to become well known within the national art market and to the collector base in South Africa before spreading my work around the globe. My long term goal is to own several private galleries in art capitals such as Paris, New York and Berlin, selling work which I will produce from a large studio at home in South Africa.