South African contemporary artist Hennie Niemann Jnr brings movement and energy into each of his distinctive artworks. Painting predominantly in oil on canvas, Hennie has gained considerable attention in South Africa and further afield. He has had solo exhibitions in London, Cape Town, Johannesburg, and other destinations.
His work takes abstract to a new level, through a fragmented style that makes use of hard, angular forms. Early works were inspired by the cultures, creatures, and people from his travels through Africa. A trip to Spain saw a shift in inspiration to the people and interiors of Catalonia.
In this Q&A with Hennie Niemann Jnr, he shares some of his influences and thoughts as a contemporary artist in South Africa.
My father had a huge impact on my art education as a young artist – not just the technical skills but also my love for art. He taught me that art is possible as a career, giving me the confidence and encouragement I needed to grow. When most of my friends were at varsity, I was being tutored in the styles of Rembrandt, Tiepolo, and Daumier. I began to sell works at a small cost to my father’s clients, and later, to Johans. He also had a huge influence on my career as an artist. Although success did not happen overnight, it happened after a consistent drive to create good art and careful management from Johans over the years. Every single person who has dealt with Johan can attest to his integrity as a dealer. Having his influence has been a gift in this industry.
In a way, I am an internal student of the arts. It is impossible to not take influence from art that I love. At the same time, creating my own unique style and my own voice has been essential. I use my own style as well as my inspiration. To quote Picasso, “Good artists copy, great artists steal.”
My style has been much the same for the last decade. What has evolved is the way that I apply my style. This means that my work continues to change – sometimes more obviously and other times hardly noticeably. My style is therefore always evolving. Another thing that helps my style adapt is the way that I see my subjects. This perception greatly changes, manifesting in the overall atmosphere of my work.