Arts & Crafts

Capturing the essence of nature

Capturing the essence of nature

Multidisciplinary artist Anna Kirsten’s fascination with the natural world, its cycles and interconnectedness is reflected in everything she creates. We find out what makes her tick.

When Anna Kirsten was eight, she moved to South Africa with her mom and sister from Holland. She remembers the change being radical, and how extremely pale she and her sister were, posing in their Mbombela Penryn Prep uniforms. The new environment she found herself in, was in stark contrast to the urban world she had come from, but her affinity for it was almost immediate. She felt a connection she didn’t entirely understand, but loved.

After finishing high school, she returned to the Netherlands to study fine arts at Minerva Art Academy in Groningen, completing her degree in 2012. Africa, however, never left her blood and the influences of nature continued to play an important role in her paintings. She returned in 2014, eager to be close to nature and to gain more insight into the bush. In 2015 she completed a professional field guide course through Eco-Training, combining her two greatest passions: art and wildlife. “Without knowledge,” she says, “a painting doesn’t have context and is just a pretty picture.”
Her contemporary living space at Mataffin doubles as a studio from which she offers art classes. It reflects not only her interests, but an ordered, systematic mind. An antique display cabinet houses a collection of natural finds, including stones, insects, shells, shards, beetles, teeth, lichen, wings and flowers. Lovingly collected and curated, it is in itself a work of art.

“I’m fascinated by the natural world. I marvel about the existence and mysterious role every living and non-living thing plays in our universe.” Her paintings often feature lone animals against an abstract backdrop, capturing not only the subject’s majesty, but also its vulnerability. Although executed in bold strokes and colours, there is a fragility and ethereal quality to her work. She works in many different mediums, which include painting, drawing, film, photography, sculpture and installation.

Her most recent exhibition took place in Groningen at the end of last year, a collaboration with artist Koos Buist. In it, parallels between the plains of South Africa and the micro-wilderness of the Dutch city were drawn. At its centre was the screening of a short film called N/OM (a San Bushmen concept, referring to the supernatural force embodied by all animals, including human beings), conceptualised and produced entirely by the pair. It also included projections, installations, sculptures and wall paintings.

Described as a “poetic approach to nature” by Anna Kirsten, the exhibition encouraged visitors to examine the tiny parts of what make up our natural world, concluding that even in an urban environment, nature is still interconnected and part of a much larger whole.
“I paint from my direct environment; the artworks evolve in my studio using the sketches and photographs I make outdoors. I believe that to experience the diversity of life on planet earth is an important component to understanding the self and I try to communicate this through my paintings.”

To see more of her work, visit or on instagram at annakirstenpaints

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