10 Questions with Adele van Heerden
Posted on 1 December 2022
Human-made spaces and built environments come to life in Adele van Heerden's artworks where nature works in symbiosis with our everyday world.
"Increasingly my work has become preoccupied with our connection (and disconnection) from living through the Anthropocene. It has made me deeply aware of how vital nature is to being human. As urbanisation intensifies, so does the need for green spaces and finding ways to connect to the wilderness. Nature is at the heart of our psychological and physical well-being," says Van Heerden.
After exploring her surroundings, the images are translated onto drafting film through drawing and painting on both the front and the back of the translucent substrate - a technique of reverse-painting she developed herself.
She is one of our selected 10 Art.co.za Watch List artists to follow in 2023. The new annual list of the most on-the-rise artists in South Africa features the artists across various media and subject matter who are gained momentum in the past year and who are reaching new heights in their art careers.
If not art, what would you do?
I really can't imagine a world in which I'm not an artist. I think if I didn't end up in fine arts, I'd have likely pursued design or animation.
Where does your inspiration come from?
My inspiration comes from my life, and the things I see around me. I rely on both observation and imagination, taking in and processing what is around me. I love walking and cycling both in the city and in nature. It enables me to get around see different places. I always have a camera on me to capture interesting places and compositions, which are later translated into paintings back in my studio.
What's your secret obsession?
There are many ongoing obsessions and themes that seem to come back to over time: unusual architecture, greenhouses, plants, animals on beautiful Persian carpets. It all comes down to the tension and juxtaposition between the urban and natural environments.
Do you have a creative muse?
My dog, Vala, is my creative muse and studio buddy. She brings a lot of love and routine into my life.
Which creative medium would you love to pursue but haven't yet?
I inherited all Fanie Buys's oil paints when he moved to the UK recently, so I've been threatening to pivot to oils at some point in the near future. I haven't used oil paint since studying at Ruth Prowse, but there's good karma on these oils so I'm sure it will work well.
Favorite time of the day?
I'm a day-walker. I find I am clearest early in the morning, so I like to get a good chunk of focused work done before 10am in the morning.
What is your most important artist tool? Is there something you can't live without in your studio?
I love my William Barker architect's drafting table. I use it every day.
Favourite or most inspirational place in South Africa?
I recently started mountain biking, so I spend a lot of time on the trails of Table Mountain. I enjoy visiting the same spots throughout the year, observing plants as they change throughout the seasons.
What, in your opinion, is the hardest step in creating an artwork?
I think a lot about this. There is always an element of self-doubt and uncertainty in the creative process, and being an artist in general. Success is not guaranteed, and you need to come to terms with it when things don't work out as expected. I think it's important to become comfortable with that uncertainty, holding your nerve when you're not sure, and making the work you want to make anyway. Unpredictable outcomes can lead to surprises and take you into unexpected directions. A lot of magic comes from trusting that process.
What's the best creative advice you've ever received?
Find your community of artists and work together to regularly make your own opportunities and exhibitions. Have a support and feedback system, it's vital. Stay up late and talk about art with your friends.
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