ARTIST BIOGRAPHY – LANA VENTER (de Villiers)

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I am an artist with a traveler’s heart – I absolutely love a good adventure! I have an inner longing for peace and quiet; for the serenity of a landscape stretching out in front of me, for the sound of birds and the wind playing with my hair. Through art, those places can come alive again in my studio – these memories travel with me to the point where they find expression on a canvas and are hung on a wall where they can continue to stir and evoke an emotional response from the viewer.

I’m a South African professional artist (BSc. L. Arch) who works primarily in acrylics on canvas. At the beginning of 2016 I took the plunge to pursue my lifelong passion of being a full-time artist, but was soon met with an unexpected and challenging situation. A very aggressive infection got hold of my eyes, with some major long-term repercussions.

In my art I love to recreate the illusion of depth, to capture intricate details and to celebrate beautiful scenery through creative means. I enjoy using colour, light and texture to create perspective and has now become my passion.

I got married in January 2018 and consequently moved to Richards Bay where my husband started working the previous year. This adventure loving girl now finds herself in the ideal location to explore ocean and coastal forest scenery that just begs to be captured in the form of art!

WHILE GROWING UP

I was born in 1989 and grew up in Pretoria. During the holidays, my family and I traveled through unique landscapes to reach both well known, remote and unfamiliar destinations. We rarely visited the same place twice. While on the road, I spent countless hours staring at the passing scenery. Thinking. Dreaming. Drinking in the landscape. We camped often and thus I felt very much a part of the place where we were. And so my love for the land and nature took shape.

As a little girl I distinguished between my left and right hand by testing with which one I could draw a flower. I took to drawing from a very young age. Even though I grew up in the city, I was a child of the outdoors. My siblings and I spent countless hours climbing trees and playing in the backyard. From a young age, I enjoyed expressing my fascination and love for nature through drawings.

An aunt and uncle of mine were both professional artists, and the walls in our house showed that my parents really liked their work. Their artwork was a constant inspiration to me. Tragically my aunt and two cousins died in a car crash toward the end of my primary school years. Today her work still catches the eye. It also provides a means of connection to who she was and is a window to how she saw the world.

EDUCATION IN ART & ARCHITECTURE

In high school I took Art as a subject and was exposed to acrylics for the first time. The fact that it dries fast and does not have a strong smell encouraged me to keep on using it as my main medium for artistic expression. I found art to be particularly exciting as I could experiment with techniques and figure out how to recreate recognisable images by hand. In 2007 I represented my school as their chosen candidate to exhibit at the Tshwane Youth Arts Festival at the Pretoria State Theater. By the end of that year I matriculated with a distinction in Art (93% on Higher Grade level), along with 5 other distinctions.

I completed a degree in Landscape Architecture (BSc. L.Arch) at the University of Pretoria. This greatly expanded my creative skills, the way I approach life, and overall enriched me as an artist. I completed my degree with distinction and top of my class.

I enjoyed working in this field, but always felt a longing for the visual arts. I think my heart was already stolen by it many years before I went to University. I became more aware of depth and line, but found that the use of colour didn’t play enough of a role to my liking.

In 2013 I had a successful solo exhibition in Route 21 Corporate Park, Irene. There were nearly 100 people and I sold many pieces, convincing myself that just maybe I would someday be able to pursue my childhood dream of being a full-time professional artist.

MY BATTLE FOR SIGHT

A visual artist needs vision. Sight is such an integrated part of how one perceives the world and how one functions in it. Eyes are the gateway to appreciating the visual arts and is of the essence in creating it!

In February 2016, a rare disease called Acanthamoeba keratitis broke through the defenses of my eyes and started eating away at my corneas (the transparent layer at the front of the eye). After half a year’s battle, the right eye recovered fully, but the left eye was left with a prominent, central corneal scar that included the visual axis. By February 2017 the eye was stable and ready to be operated on. I had my cornea transplant and the stitches were removed in March 2018. After consulting an optometrist and my consequent glasses the severe astigmatism* I experienced before was reduced drastically and my vision itself increased from around 40% to 70%.

During 2016 I learnt to paint without normal depth perception – If you have ever tried to catch a ball while keeping one eye closed, then you know what I’m talking about. It was a serious challenge at first, but I have adapted to the situation.

When one goes through something like this, especially if it requires a huge amount of endurance, you become increasingly aware of what you value in life. My battle for sight has made me even more determined to create art. I have become more passionate about details, colour and depth.

*Astigmatism: a defect in the eye or a lens caused by a deviation from spherical curvature, which results in distorted images as light rays are prevented from meeting at a common focus.

ARTISTIC APPROACH, STYLE & MATERIALS

I am a representational artist: My aim is to create artwork that is representative of the original imagery or scene, more than perfect realism. Art has become the way I can relive and express the way I experience the world around me, such as recreating lush vegetation in a beautiful landscape or capturing the reflections off the walls and windows of buildings.

Art taught me to become a keen observer, to see the shapes and colours beyond the obvious. I’m an introvert and can spend countless hours working on an artwork in my own company. A beautiful new place heightens my senses, in particular, my desire to see. I end up analysing the scene that lies before me, de-constructing it into its various components, layers and colours. These components become the building blocks that I use to reassemble the envisioned imagery onto a canvas. I am methodical and organized and that has inevitably spilled over into the way I approach creating artworks. I compartmentalise the scene and then work systematically from the “back” of the image to what is perceived to be the foreground, transforming the original scene into a unique work of art.

I mainly use contemporary box style canvasses, but also work on flat canvasses when customers want to frame their custom ordered artwork – especially those who live overseas.

The texture of the canvas forms an integral part of the technique I use. I usually work with brushes that range in size, being charged with either very diluted acrylic paint to create a wash or watercolour effect, or I use a dry brush with undiluted paint to create a more opaque layer. When my work is viewed from up close you will notice that it is made up of little brush-marks, dabs and spots.

Light is celebrated through a colour pallet that can range from soft and mysterious pastels to clear and crispy brights. To contrast with these colours, I use rich and dark browns, purples and blues. In my art I seek to highlight the interplay between light and colour and how they are actually two sides of the same coin. My aim is to capture the atmosphere of a place, to invoke an emotional response through representative textures, and the interplay between light and colour.

I am fascinated with creating a believable illusion of depth on a two-dimensional surface. I achieve this by using elements such as line, receding shapes and changes in detail and colour. I have been using palette knives more and more the last few years as I am able to be more expressive and bolder in my application of paint.

INTENSE & PLAYFUL

My personality is a combination of intensity and playfulness. Consequently, some of my works are more realistic, while others have a stronger focus on colour and light. For me the delight is in the details. My art flows from what is within me, it reflects how I experience and perceive the world.

I am part perfectionist and part explorer. The more analytical side of me is responsible for the perfectionism and sense of depth in the landscapes as well as the strong strict lines found in my more architectural art. The explorer in me is what got me drawing and painting in the first place. I love figuring out how to do things by myself. I am analytical by nature, but live from the heart.

I believe that art has the power to capture the hearts of people – their attention and imagination. I want to use my art as a means for people to experience beautiful and inspirational places and scenery from within their homes and offices.

I want artworks to be like a window into the world that it represents. When someone looks at it, they should catch a glimpse of what it would be like to be there. I want the viewer to move beyond the knowledge of it being an “artwork” as such, towards the place and feelings that it represents. The viewer should be able to reminisce on an old memory, envision their own experience in the depicted place or just be able to get lost in a random thought as they stare at it.

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October 3, 2018

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