Artist, Antoine de Villiers will be exhibiting at Art San Diego 2022. Get to know the artist below.
Q: Who are you and what do you do?
A: I am Antoine de Villiers, figurative and abstract painter.
Q: What is your background?
A: I am from a small town in the northern part of South Africa. After a challenging childhood with both parents struggling with mental illness I was in a devastating motorcycle accident at the age of 17 and saw my friend/driver pass away. I needed an escape. This was when art became an emotional outlet as well as a lifeline.
The next 20+ years I spent working as an artist while traveling the globe looking both for adventure and belonging. I meditated on the dunes of the Namib desert, backpacked Europe and did my first international exhibition in Notting Hill, London. I studied marble sculpting in Marble, Colorado and added thousands of miles to my motorcycle’s clock crisscrossing North America. I scuba dived on the coast of Mozambique and studied underwater photography to take the subjects of my paintings underwater. I camped in the Himalayas, and taught art to the children of India’s underworld –from the brothels of Old Delhi to Maharashtra’s slums.
Q: How do you work?
A: My journey as an artist began purely as a form of release, putting emotions on canvas and paper. I never imagined that this would be the start of my life’s work. I find it is the vulnerability of the nude human figure that I am most drawn to. The culture I was born into views emotionality as weakness, while I admire and am drawn to sincere vulnerability.
I am unable to plan work far in advance and I struggle to work on the same piece for an extended period of time after the mood changes. I aim to make every piece a sincere expression of that moment. The British philosopher, Alain de Botton once said ‘Art can make us feel less lonely’ and that is exactly what it does for me. However, my work also often leaves me feeling vulnerable & exposed.
Q: What art and artist do you most identify with? How have they influenced you?
A: As a teenager I discovered the work of the South African artist, Judith Mason, and even today, I often go back to her delicate drawings, admiring her technical virtuosity. Several of her works deal with the atrocities uncovered by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa that occurred during my childhood years. It was perhaps her figurative drawings that influenced my fondness for that same subject for years to come.
Q: What has been your favorite experience so far as an artist?
A: After a childhood in a small, rural South African town, at 21 I relocated to London. First stop: Tate Modern. Experiencing masterpieces that I’ve only seen in textbooks now in real life was exhilarating. I danced in front of Pollock’s ‘Summertime: Number 9A’ and cried with Rothko’s Black on Maroon.
Q: What is the best advice you have received?
A: ‘Your life is your responsibility’. I can remember the exact moment. I was 21, sitting in front of an easel in the corner of my studio blaming those around me for my misfortune when these words sunk in. At the time, my phone had been cut off and my rent was in the rear. I had not eaten for two days and my parent’s home had recently been foreclosed. It was at that moment that I stopped waiting for someone to come and bail me out and took charge.
Q: When you are now working, where can we find you?
A: I currently work in my studio below my home in Savannah, Georgia.
Q: How has your career as an artist shifted during the past two years? And did the pandemic have an influence on your art?
A: Initially, my work became completely abstract. In the past I dabbled in abstraction but always recognized these works as subpar. However, during the Covid Isolation, while political tensions in the US peaked, it seemed like the world no longer made sense. Representation seemed unequipped to express my state of mind. I thought of my travels and nature’s ability to heal. This was the inspiration of my organic abstraction series of 2020.
A year later figuration returned to my canvas and a new series emerged, “The space with” which is a reaction to the effects of the Covid pandemic and the turmoil we have all faced over the last two years. They are a response to events; acquaintances passing, covid related conflict in my neighborhood, polarization due to politics, the media and perception. Simultaneously, like many others in these extraordinary times, I’ve been struggling with a dire need for connection physically and emotionally.
Pieces from my ‘Space within’ series will be on exhibition at Art San Diego, September 9-11. They are reflections on the space within our minds and thoughts. The space within our relationships. Spaces within our homes and work that changed over the last two years.
Don’t miss Antoine at Art San Diego 2022!