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Featured: Landscape Paintings by MJ Lourens

Furtherup-Verder Op-70cmx80cm


MJ Lourens is a Cape Town-based artist who paints in photo-realistic detail comped landscapes of places and things that he sees in his day-to-day life. MJ was born in Pretoria, and the huge, dreamy Highveld skies recur throughout his work. These vistas are more than mere views – they are studies of the human condition, which MJ believes is experienced at the point where humans intersect nature.



Were you a creative child or was this something you discovered later on? Please tell us a little about your journey as an artist.


Since I can remember I have always loved to draw, but I think my first real creative endeavour was to build an airplane out of an old wheel barrow, all fixed with wooden wings. This was around the same time the space shuttle Columbia was launched. I decided to build a space shuttle of my own. Being a pilot was no longer enough I now wanted to know what it would be like to venture into space. I realised I needed to be flat on my back looking up at the stars for take-off. Needless to say I ran into some construction difficulties. I decided the easier option was to go back to drawing.



Has your style and aesthetic changed over time? How so?


I think style and aesthetics are closely related to one’s technique. The more one focuses on expression, one’s technique improves to give style and aesthetics an equal chance to develop and grow.



You have said that your paintings explore the link between human consciousness and landscape. Can you please tell us more about this?


My landscapes reflect the human impact on nature, and therein lies the human condition. The way we plot ourselves on our surroundings has underlying tension and beauty, which constantly fascinates me. The way telephone poles and wires stand in stark contrast to surrounding trees, silhouetted against a dusky sky, creates an almost surreal feeling that is firmly grounded in what is true and real.


Night Shift i-Nagskof i-180cm x200cm Nightwatch-Nag Wag-30cmx80cm Memories of Now-Herhinderinge van Hier-40cmx45cm


Who and what are some of the people and things that have influenced you artistically?


Before I became a serious artist I was obsessed with the world of Salvador Dali. The lovely melancholic scapes he created resonated with me. After finding my own language in my work, I have also been influenced by various South African artists, the likes of Pierneef, Preller and Keith Alexander.



What is your creative process?


Most of what I do is born out of observation. I spend a great deal of time just looking and remembering what a certain time ‘felt’ like. I then use all that information to create an original scene from memory. At any given point I have numerous works in my studio that I work on simultaneously. I start by doing the background first and after spending some time with it I decide what ‘theatrical players’ should be in the foreground, whether it is a telephone pole, factory or simply city lights.



Besides the environment, what other themes and ideas do you explore in your work?


I love industrial structures. There is a kind of mythical quality to these structures that we rely on every day. I also have a deep appreciation of graffiti that decorates our cities in conspicuous places and derelict sites. The use of these existing artworks affirms the importance that these artists have on the character and make-up of a city.


Ode to the Unknown Alchemist ii-150cmx120cm Ode to the Unknown Alchemist i-150cmx120cm


How do you choose which vistas to paint? Please also tell us about how the paintings in a collection fit together to tell an overarching story.


Initially most of the vistas I painted were inspired by the Highveld where I grew up. When I moved to Cape Town in 2006 I was confronted by a different kind of landscape which I gradually began to incorporate in my work.



Where do you look for daily inspiration?


I don’t have to look very far for inspiration it usually finds me due to the nature of my work. It can be anything from clouds to horizons, oil rigs or churches, factories, sombre organ music or sunsets.



Does your filmmaking influence and inform your painting, and vice versa?


No they are two distinct entities, each with its own unique identity.



How does sculpture fit into the mix?


I initially trained as a sculptor at University but I have always been drawn to painting. I concentrated on bronze casting and that is still something that I find very fulfilling. For me as a landscape painter, sculpting gives me a different kind of outlet more connected to the human element.



What can we look forward to seeing from you soon?


I am currently working on a solo exhibition opening in March 2015.


Weekend Return iii-70cm x80cmWednesday-Woensdag-40cmx45cmSlipping away-150cmx200cmPlant iv-70cmx90cmBridge over waters-70cmx200cm What lies beneith-150cmx200cm  Downhill ii-180cmx200cm

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