Artists We Love: MJ Lourens

WORDS Amelia Brown

Artist MJ Lourens has a new body of work entitled Views on Entropy, currently on display at the Barnard Gallery in Cape Town. Here, he shares what inspires him, painting with Bovril and what’s next.

How did you develop your technique and style?

I began sketching at a very young age. I drew things that fascinated me like helicopters, planes, tractors, people, etc. The more I sketched the more I could make sense of the world around me.

How do you choose your subject matter?

It was never a conscious choice – the subject matter just seemed to find me as it resonated with my emotional landscape at the time.

Is there symbolism in the compositions?

I understand symbolism to be the unrelated relevance between opposite things. Painting is burdened with a kind of flatness and in there I try to create scale and place.

What are you inspired by?

I am inspired by things around me that have nothing to do with art per se. I seem to have a kind of internal camera that captures my experiences, even those that may seem unimportant or trivial to other people. In a chaotic place, it enables me to find a sense of order.

If you weren’t an artist, what would you be?

I recall that someone said that no one becomes an artist because you want to – you become an artist because you have to. I’m dyslexic and never excelled at school; actually I found it quite traumatic and often thought at the time that I would never amount to much. But when I am painting I feel competent, so it was a no-brainer really. To answer the question: a fighter pilot. Obviously.

What time of day do you prefer to work?

I work throughout the day and spend a solid 9am – 5pm at the studio. Even when I am not there it is difficult to switch off my gaze, so I feel as if I am constantly processing whether I’m working or not.

If you could collaborate with any South African artist who would it be?

I’d like to collaborate with someone in a completely different discipline, rather than a fellow artist, as I believe that that would give me a different perspective. Filmmaking, music and poetry all contribute to my interpretation of the world.

The last time you travelled, what did you buy, where and why?

I bought some Bovril as a medium to paint with because it was all that was available at the time!

Are you on Instagram?

Yes, @mj.lourens. I appreciate the wealth of imagery that is so readily available; it captivates but depresses me at the same time.

Highlight of your career?

I am still waiting for that “highlight”, but I feel blessed that I had an amazing art teacher at a terrible school that made me believe in art and in myself.

What’s next for MJ Lourens?

I like to live in the moment and find it difficult to plan. Ideally, I’d like to branch out into filmmaking and maybe getting back to my roots as a sculptor.

Visit Barnard Gallery in Cape Town until 29 May 2018 to view MJ’s exhibition. View his films here and stay up to date with his work on Facebook