Anthony De Klerk

Stops, starts, twists, turns: Anthony de Klerk, Fine Artist, story to date.

In retrospect, it seems to me that my journey as a fine artist has been defined by a stop, a start, a twist and, recently, a turn.

As a young adult, I was initially inspired to become an artist when I studied Graphic Design at Wits Technikon. My influences were my lecturers – great up-and-coming young artists of the day like Willem Boshoff, who taught me to think conceptually, Mark Enslin, who awakened a love for painting, and Ryno Swart, who showed me the seduction of life drawing.

Then followed the “stop”; a hiatus of sorts. Although I never gave up painting, my energy was, for the next 30 years, mostly consumed by a demanding advertising career. Despite it being a successful and award-winning career during which I produced much loved and well-known work for famous brands, I still felt unfulfilled creatively and constantly yearned to return to my original passion: to be a painter.

The “start” of my artistic career therefore overlapped with the end of my advertising one. I began to commit more energy and intent to being a painter. I picked up brushes again, slowly but surely becoming more impassioned and prolific.

In the “twist” a few years later, I unexpectedly and serendipitously found myself back in touch with my old lecturer, Ryno Swart, who was by then a well-established impressionist artist and teacher. I studied with him again for three years until I felt I had become an accomplished modern impressionist. It was around this time that I joined Bright Day Studios (founded, in another twist, by an old advertising competitor turned compatriot), which I now run with a business partner and from where I paint, exhibit and teach.

The “turn” was a process, a kind of series of life events, the first of which was a realisation that I wanted and needed to unlearn the recognisable impressionist style that I was working in. I felt an intuitive urge to develop a more contemporary and uniquely expressive style that I would identify with and that would identify me – though I had no idea what that style would be.

My search found real answers in 2017 on a trip to Greece, during which I visited several highly inspiring galleries. It was on the aeroplane on my way home, however, that I had the strong sense that my life was about to change.

When I arrived back in Cape Town I started to see, in my mind’s eye, very strong images of dreamlike portraits and figures, in a style that came to me as if by divine intervention.

Instinctively, I swopped my brushes for palette knives, spatulas and rags. Oil paints were replaced with undiluted acrylic colours and a Gesso base.

Then, young faces started finding me, literally and figuratively. I began to meet new people who moved me from all over Africa, and I felt compelled to tell their stories. They don’t have much by way of worldly possessions, but they have much spirit, inspiring dreams, an abundance of optimism and an inspiring outlook on life. The emotion they continue to evoke in me also leads me to want to depict those who might inspire them: heroes like Steve Biko, Nelson Mandela, Chris Hani, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King and Barack Obama.

These are the faces of my latest series, “Dreamers, Heroes and Monochrome Dreams”.

This exciting and ongoing new body of work will follow me into the future, and buyers into their homes and offices around the world. My work hangs in private and corporate collections in Germany, France, Ireland England, the US and Canada. And, of course, around South Africa, including my home town, Cape Town.

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