Swain Hoogervorst is an artist based in Cape Town. Having studied Visual Communications at Vega, Hoogervorst is interested in how art can be used as a form of communication. He uses his feelings as a tool to create work that ‘transcends the barriers of class, race, and language.’
To start, please tell us a bit about yourself…
I currently work as a painter from Eastside studios in Salt River and have the opportunity of sharing this space with 11 really unique and inspiring artists. I matriculated from Rondebosch Boys High School and went on to graduate from Vega in Cape Town majoring in Visual Communications. I am also an avid supporter of the ugliest yet most comfortable pair of new balance shoes ever made, and own a jacket that does not seem to get cleaner the more you wash it. I also do boxing three times a week.
How did you make the transition from completing your studies in 2010 (BA Creative Brand Communications) to your current position as a working artist?
After studying at Vega the only thing I knew was that I didn’t want to go into advertising or sit behind a desk. I spent the year searching for alternatives by getting involved in different projects and experiences. During that year I started to develop a keen interest in colour which led me to explore the colour grey. This interest coincided with the fact that I could not enlarge a certain photograph and me wanting to give my parents something special for Christmas, a painting felt like the right thing to do at the time.
Since graduating, you’ve worked with a number of artists – assisting, interning and the likes. In what ways did this benefit you in your own growth as an artist and help you to become more established? Was there anyone that you’ve worked with who stood out for you as a mentor?
Two people, three actually, and many more. I am fortunate to have been taught by Andrew Putter as well as had the opportunity to work with him on his project called the Sketch Assembly in 2010. Working on the this project reminded me of the importance of making something as a way of learning and not necessarily always thinking about something before you make it. Andrew has had a fundamental role in my life as a mentor, but more importantly as a teacher.
The eleven artists I share a studio with have contributed to an environment which has lent itself to breaking down my preconceptions about what I thought painting was and what a painting can be. Being a part of this studio has provided me with insights and opportunities which would not have been possible had I been working in isolation. Liza Grobler is just one of the artists whose experience and way of thinking has influenced and affected my own approach to my work as well as Elize Vossgatters’ unique way of working and thinking about oil painting. Lastly Paul Ward, who is a close friend, is also a major source of inspiration due to his phenomenal cap collection but more importantly because of his incredible work ethic and his commitment to what he does.
Most of your work falls under the categories of painting and photography. In your opinion, how do these mediums overlap and how do they differ?
I am currently searching for the answer to this question… I use the camera, as I would a sketchbook, to capture thoughts and ideas for future paintings and other possible projects. Both mediums I feel in most cases, force the artist to translate what they see onto a flat surface. The photograph has the ability to flatten a 3D environment yet still create the illusion of depth if we want it to. I personally find painting a better medium for me to convey what I feel as opposed to photography. The process of using the photograph as a reference to create a painting is what I am trying to explore and understand through my work at this stage.
How would you describe your style as an artist? Does it differ depending on the medium you’re working with/in?
Style is a difficult word. It can immediately be dangerous in the sense that it confines an artist to one specific way of working, yet at the same time we search for a ‘style’ that embodies who we are or maybe sets us apart. I think style is something that shouldn’t be defined and should always be developing and changing, as cliché as it sounds. I think it is the different elements, such as the artists way of thinking for example, that should tie the different genres and bodies of work together not just one specific medium. Ultimately the work he/she produces should be a reflection of their personality. This, I think, is the defining aspect.
You say that you use beauty as a way to persuade people to look below the surface. Looking below the surface of your paintings, what can we expect to find?
What do you think enables a visual medium to successfully communicate a verbal message?
It depends on the aim and intent of the picture we come into contact with. An advert and painting for example have very different roles to fulfil obviously, the painting if any at all. In my opinion I think it is important, and this could be my influence from Vega, that a painting should have something that draws the viewer in. Paintings are often misunderstood because people do not spend enough time with them. The more you sit with a painting the more you start to see and the more you begin to understand.
What are some of the things that influence and inspire the work you do?
Colour and form. Everything around us can be broken down into these basic elements. Cape Town and the landscape of South Africa never really fail to inspire either.
Can you name some of the artists and works of art that have impacted you in some way?
I recently had the opportunity to go overseas to Europe. In Amsterdam at the Stedelijk Museum, I came across a big blue painting approximately 6 or 7 meters long and 3.5m tall. The painting had a solid white line down the centre and a somewhat broken more subtle turquoise blue line down the right hand side. I entered the room, stared at the painting for a while, had to actually leave, and then come back into the room. I’ve never been affected by a painting like that before. The painting was called Cathedra by Barnett Newman. Other artists though are David Hockney, Gerhard Richter, Mark Rothko, Barnett Newman as well as Gaugain, Van Gogh, Mondrian, and Xander Blom most recently. I also admire the work of photographers Fulvio Bonavia, Stephen Shore and Edward Burtynsky to name a few.
What’s the most valuable advice you’ve ever received?
“Maybe you should just go to a karoake bar and see what happens” Liza Grobler on looking for love
What are you currently working on, and what do you have planned going forward?
I have a show coming up in March next year at the AVA gallery so this is my main point of focus at this stage. From there, we shall see.