Publication:  Visi

Interviewed by Michaela Stehr for VISI, 29 Nov 2022 – In Association with Nando’s Creative Exchange, AVA, and BASA.

Nando’s Creative Exchange (NCX) aims to recognise emerging South African fine artists who demonstrate exceptional ability and help them take the next steps in their careers.

The programme offers four artists mentorship opportunities, with art materials sponsorship, culminating in a group exhibition. This was showcased first in October at the Basha Uhuru Freedom Festival at Constitution Hill in Johannesburg and then at the AVA Gallery in Cape Town. We chat to Tanja Truscott, one of the four chosen local artists.

How did you get involved in art?
From a very early age, we were encouraged by my mother to draw, construct and make things on our own, during the long winter months spent indoors in Holland, with craft supplies. I remember the exploration and just seeing where it would lead, it suited my curiosity. Later I studied graphic design at Stellenbosch University and after many years in the publishing industry, and teaching at high schools, I had a yearning to develop my own art practice. While continuing to work in publishing I slowly started painting more and more until I turned to painting full-time in 2017.

How would you describe your work?
Painterly, and abstract.

What does being a part of the Nando’s Creative Exchange Program mean to you?
It has been a privilege to be part of the Nando’s Creative Exchange Program this year, it has put me in touch with a diverse group of artists while we worked towards a group exhibition under the guidance of an experienced mentor. She kept us on track and in touch with one another as we worked towards a common theme and towards a common goal. It was fascinating to see how different our approaches were as artists!

How do you feel about mentorship and learning through an experienced industry professional?
There is so much to learn from a seasoned professional – to have someone on your side to guide you and ask the right questions or prompt new thoughts. We have been lucky to have Pippa Heatherington on our side – she has been an incredible resource and practical support as we worked towards our exhibition.

What would you like to gain both personally and professionally through this experience?
This experience has pushed me to create a bigger body of work over a year than I have managed before, which is incredibly satisfying. I’m looking forward to seeing it all together at the exhibition at the AVA gallery on Church Street. The opportunity to exhibit here at such an established and well-regarded institution is a boost on my career and a huge honour.

Where have you been looking for inspiration for your pieces?
At the beginning of this year, I thought and wrote about my experiences with water, focused on water in the news, I explored sounds made by water in mark making, investigated the many colours that water can take on, the names given to the different shades and hues of blue. I love doing this kind of research – even if it does not always translate directly into my work, I can see all sorts of connections.

What does your creative process look like?
I usually start intuitively and work quite quickly at the beginning without any preconceived ideas. In fact, I try to keep any ideas well away from me! I try to stay with and in the painting process as much as possible, in the colours I choose, the textures the brushes create, the energy in the marks, and the layering transparent and matt. At this early stage, as the layers build up, I keep on turning the painting around and around so there is no particular right way up. At a certain stage, however, I see something that I like or draws me in and from there the painting process slows down as I consider things more carefully and an idea starts to form. It is sometimes a word (like ‘crossing’ or ‘seep’) that I focus on as I slowly pull the painting together into a cohesive whole.

Any other interesting things you’d like to add?
I am immensely grateful to businesses and institutions like Nando’s and the Spier Arts Trust who support and help promote the careers of creative artists. Artists contribute to the economy but the art ecosystem needs support to thrive.

A selection of their work will be on show at the Association for Visual Arts (AVA) Gallery in Cape Town from 01 December 2022 to 12 January 2023.

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