Arts & Crafts
It’s all about perspective
Gerrit was only a schoolboy in 1965 when his family moved to Barberton but in those years his father, an art lecturer, became his mentor as well as tutor.
He was one of the first pupils ever in South Africa to have an extra subject in his final school year when the Department of Education granted permission for him to have art as a seventh.
He nowadays lives in Elardus Park in the eastern side of Pretoria, but the Lowveld is still very close to his heart. Every year he brings his wonderful paintings to Innibos Lowveld National Arts Festival.
“If you have tasted the water of the Lowveld, you will always come back for more. I find a lot of inspiration for my art and photography in this beautiful region,” he says.
Gerrit has keen memories on the way his career as an artist started in Nelspruit many years ago. “I had my first solo exhibition on a smallholding in the Plaston area in 1971. Soon after that I also had quite a few exhibitions at Gallery S that was later taken over by Ingelsby Gallery.
“I had the privilege to be part of exhibitions where well-known artists like Zakkie Eloff, René Eloff, Leigh Voight and Kobus Möller also displayed some of their magnificent artwork. In those days art was alive and well in Nelspruit and people liked to come to the exhibitions,” he adds.
At the start of his career, it was Gerrit’s watercolour paintings that made him quite famous. He mastered this medium rather well in beautiful clear paintings with great depth and atmosphere.
Many of these were commissioned by the National Parks Board. Nowadays he seldom works in this, as the new trend in South Africa is oil paintings, he explains.
“Watercolour paint is definitely the most difficult to use, but for me, it is such a beautiful, pure medium. I think people were misled by certain art traders telling them that watercolours are not long-lasting art, but that is absolute nonsense.
“I love to use the medium, but because it became unpopular on the local market, I only use it for my European or American clients,” he says.
I was born with a talent to be a good observer and I use that skill whenever I am busy with my art
Gerrit’s art is described as both expression-istic and cubist, and some people see a touch of Pierneef in his art. He explains that he likes to paint the umbrella thorn acacia that was also very big in the art of Pierneef. Not only was he influenced by him, but also by Gregoire Boonzaier and Pieter Henning.
The Namib Desert, specifically Sossusvlei and the Kalahari, are popular themes in his work. According to him, you must know your subject very well to manage the right atmosphere.
Therefore, he often travels to the Kalahari and the Namib to find inspiration. He regards the ability to make a good drawing as paramount to success.
“Many artists use projectors to splash an image on the canvas but that is not the way I work. When you look at a painting you can immediately see if the artist can draw or not.
“That is why I regard Zakkie as one of South Africa’s best wildlife artists. He knew his animals and he was able to portray motion in his paintings with his beautiful drawings,” he says.
This man is a keen photographer who also did a fellowship in this field. When he was still living in the Lowveld, he liked to drive to Kaapsehoop early in the morning to take pictures of the beautiful sunrise over the De Kaap Valley. Although he nowadays works with a digital camera, he prefers film and film cameras.
Gerrit is married to Gené, who helps with the marketing of his artwork. She is also an artist. Gerrit’s first wife, Alida, was a well-known artist who died in 2014 after numerous strokes.
“I am really blessed to be happily married for the second time,” he says and adds jokingly that his first wife did all the maintenance and repairs to the home. When she died he was quite despondent, but luckily Gené also likes to be the household handyman.
His work decorates offices, lodges, embassies, state buildings and the walls of many art lovers. He is also the designer of Laerskool Laeveld’s school emblem as well as that of the old Nelspruit Technical College.
Despite a successful career spanning more than 40 years, he remains modest about his artwork but at the same time, is still excited about the talent that he has received. “Our heavenly Father gives something to everyone. I was born with a talent to be a good observer and I use that skill whenever I am busy with my art,” he says.
“For me, success in an artwork lies in several things: perspective of depth, colour balance, and atmosphere. I don’t just want to paint a picture. I want my artwork to portray a message.
“The observer has to find something specific in that piece. Whenever I have achieved that, I am satisfied with a job well done.”