23 Sep Featured: Elize Vossgatter
Elize Vossgatter is an artist who lives and works in Cape Town. Creating works that are both playful and haunting, Elize works primarily in oils but often incorporates glitter, hair, varnish, gold dust or anything else that the painting requires. She had her first solo show, “Sterntaler” at the Association of Visual Arts last year.
To start, please tell us a bit more about yourself and what you do…
I am a painter.
What did your early art education consist of?
I was a scholarship student in a posh all-girls boarding school. We had a big beautiful art room where we were given a lot of freedom – being able to work at night without teachers supervision etc. It is where I felt at ease, where I started smoking and where I made my friends. I drew then – very detailed and precise. We were taught in oil paints but I hated cleaning brushes. I then went on to study art by default at Michaelis, UCT. I majored in painting but decided that I was too young to paint. So I played with photography, installation and sound pieces – but I thought like a painter.
When did you realise that you wanted to be an artist, and how did you go about pursuing this?
After university I fell pregnant, got married, became a high school art teacher, had another child; and after 6 years of teaching I realised that if I didn’t start painting again that I would die miserable. So I quit my job, got divorced and haven’t stopped painting since. I became a part time student with teacher Julia Teale – she has been my mentor ever since.
How would you describe your work?
Honest and deceptive.
What are some of the most important thoughts or ideas that you wish to convey through your artworks?
What it means to be human.
It’s evident that you have a rather experimental approach to painting. When did you start working in this manner?
As a teacher, I taught myself to understand paint because I had to be able to put it into words for the students. Once I understood it as a concept; all I wanted to do was undo these rules in my own time. I am not good with facts and rules and would always forget what I was meant to do – so I made them up and played with new solvents and oils and solutions to see how they reacted to oil paint. I was also encouraged by Jeanetta Blignaut in the “Creative block” program: a monthly commission based project, painting 8-10 paintings a month at 18cmx18cm. The repetition of this size and surface made me experiment a lot to keep myself stimulated.
Do you believe that a solid foundation of knowledge and skill is essential before experimenting, or would you encourage a more playful approach right from the start?
Rebellion is only worthwhile if it’s done with intelligence. It’s the same with painting. Sometimes one needs a long period of sound knowledge, other times the knowledge is instinctive – but yes, I do feel that a foundation of knowledge is necessary no matter how solid it is. I am grateful for my traditional high school art teacher (She just won the SPI portrait award) and my sober University training. It taught me strategy, endurance and art history. I am a big advocate for understanding art history. Art theory is helpful but the story of art’s history is essential to painting; in my opinion.
Do you do preliminary sketches or drawings for your paintings?
Very rarely, and when I do it generally turns out to be a very bad painting – over controlled and precious. I get an extraordinary kick out of bending the accident.
Could you name some of the people and describe some of the things that influence your work?
What like the superstars of my art history? Hmm, well there are many artists in history that I admire – a lot of them are German/Austrian – perhaps coincidence: Paula Modersohn, Egon Schiele, Kathe Kollwitz, Otto Dix, James Ensor, some Marlene Dumas, Rothko, Yves Klein, Paula Rego. My favourite local artists of repute are Anton Karstell and Robert Hodgins. Oh, and Michelangelo – studying him taught me everything I needed to know about combining heart, hand and mind.
Looking back on your journey so far, what advice would you give to a young artist?
If being an artist doesn’t consume you completely, if chasing the answer to a constant riddle exasperates you, if you are afraid of financial instability, if working isn’t more exciting than having sex – then go corporate. We need more corporates, they keep the ball rolling.
What’s the most rewarding thing about what you do?
The freedom and the independence that it allows me. The extraordinary joy I feel when the accident is true.
Tell us more about your upcoming show at the AVA Gallery, and the work you’ve created for it…
It is only my second solo show. It is entitled “Once there was and once there was not”. The body of work began on my return from a 3 week residency in Istanbul, Turkey in August last year. The work is suffused in folklore, excess, cross cultural amorphisms and glitter – there is a lot of glitter!
Elize’s Solo show, “Once there was and once there was not,” opens at the AVA gallery today (23 September). Some of the works showcased below are part of the exhibition, which runs until 17 October.
“Fascinated by folklore and the cautionary tales of old, Elize Vossgatter paints a story with no beginning, or end, somewhere between the alchemy of materiality and the gesture of hand – characters are birthed and morality is reflected on. The beautiful and the grotesque, stand within the picture plane as monuments and memorials to humanness, painterly contradiction, social success and failure.”
View more of her work here: www.elizevossgatter.co.za