It was during my last visit to Cape Town that interior designer, Sue Bond introduced me to a few artists, one in particular, Abe Opperman. I’ve had quite a lot of interaction with Abe and great conversations on Instagram where I asked Abe to do an interview with me.
How did you find yourself becoming an artist?
I have very little choice, I’m driven by a force or energy that stems from a need to constantly express a language that’s unwritten until my brush or pen touches canvas or paper. I crave the tactile feeling of paint and brush on the canvas and the language that then unfolds.
Do you have a particular process that you follow or does this change organically depending on the piece you are creating?
I work best when my desire to express creatively is allowed air and freedom. I don’t impose a specific process or pattern, it flows from my inspirations onto the canvas. I rarely however work without the presence of an observer peering over my shoulder. I have very little agenda when I paint or the need to convey profound messages.
My technique evolves the more I work and the more I paint, the bigger challenges I set myself. I’m never satisfied with any piece or body of works.
The desire to express creatively never leaves me. It’s a constant gnawing. Inspiration can be triggered by uncountable sources and the process is never ever the same. Perfume and smell is a huge creative trigger as well as fashion. The theatrics of fashion is a massive trigger in many a creative endeavor while flowers and the privilege we humans have to their magical beauty will never stop to fascinate and challenge my artistic eye.
I am constantly challenging myself and through this I find when I step back after a period, little by little, I sense and feel a progression taking place. I’m never satisfied with the size of my work. I want bigger and bigger all the time. I always feel the canvas is too small.
Tell us a little more about your background and how you started creating.
I count myself extremely fortunate to have grown up on a beautiful farm in Africa. This has above all the most profound influence on my work. For 18 years I was surrounded by endless landscapes of African beauty, a proper English garden and no boundaries. The high and majestic mountains of the area brought to me the easy implementation of grand scale proportions in my work. This was my most powerful schooling. I left the farm to study art in Pretoria and eventually opened my floral and interiors company called Hoy p’ loy with my business partner Ben Theron. I started expressing myself seriously through paint 15 years ago.
What is integral to the work that you do, how do you convey a message through your work?
It’s very important for me that I challenge myself technically and artistically every time I stand in front of an empty canvas. I often wonder at the end of the piece how I manage to still maintain the integrity of my style and language. It’s always there however and before I realize it, it reveals itself to me and it’s almost as if some outside power takes over and controls my hands and heart. I never set out to convey messages other than wanting to share particular moments, experiences, stirrings that moved my spirit. There may be fleeting visions that have passed my sight and heart that I wish to share in my language with whomever is open to receiving my expressions. I hope in this way a message gets delivered. A message mostly of love.
What role does an artist have in society and do you feel you contribute to a society’s dialogue?
I hope I myself and other artists understand that it is our duty and obligation to share and make people from all walks of life aware that art today has the responsibility to mirror not only the vile political shenanigans but also the long forgotten simple beauties that we so often take for granted. I have always wanted my art to be a subtle and loud reminder of the beauty that is over-looked so easily in our hunger for the next and the next. I feel my role here and now as an artist should be to lift up beauty. To shine the light on positive love.
What is your favorite artwork?
I have so many favorites. Gerhard Richter’s Candle, Picasso’s Boy leading a horse, many or all of Rothko’s as well as Cy Twombly’s works. But my ultimate love is Zhang Xiaogang “My hope” 2003.
Abe Opperman Gallery:
Johannesburg: Abe Opperman Gallery, 6a- 7th ave, Parktown North
Cape Town: Abe Opperman Gallery, 5 Hudson st, De Waterkant
Tel: + 27 825519708