Between Chaos & Order - Business Media MAGS

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Between Chaos & Order

A desire to experiment and try new things underpins Stefan Smit’s art and led to his interest in mural painting.

There’s unbridled freedom that comes from mural work and the vast expanse of a four-story building that I’ve been told I can create whatever I want on! However, the challenge can also be the size and trying to plan out a painting that takes foreshortening into account or working in dangerous areas, like the time I had to paint with two armed guards in the heart of Johannesburg CBD for a few nights to make the deadline for a commercial with India’s cricket captain, Virat Kohli. Oil paint also has its list of loves and frustrations for me, as I’ve noticed I enjoy painting smaller works less and less, often leaning towards the larger canvasses to add that element of expression and unique mark-making that is characteristic of my work.

What themes or ideas are you currently exploring in your work?

My most recent solo, Bound at Abend Gallery in the USA, dealt with a fascination I have with an irony that develops in urban areas around increased feelings of disconnection within densely populated cities and how the opposite is true for people staying out in the country who will often know most of their neighbours and have more of an intimate connection with those around them, despite physical distances being so much greater.

This also led me to enjoy the process of slightly abstracting the figures in my work, sort of acknowledging just how ghostly existence can be for some at times. I have observed how with so many people around all the time we often disappear into each other’s peripheral vision.

Have you always worked figuratively? What keeps you interested in people in your work?

I love this question! I was just thinking yesterday about how wonderful the human brain is to be able to piece together information to form faces, and how I can get away with abstracting so much of the features I paint but still have my portrait be discernible. I guess to answer your question, I’m still fascinated by the line between chaos and order in my work and where that boundary draws itself between abstract nonsense and a really well-painted portrait.

In addition to your art you collaborate with brands on commissions. How does this influence your practice?  

I really enjoy it! I always rebelled at school when being told what to do but in my artistic career I’ve enjoyed having the balance between choosing exactly what I want to create and being able to let go of the creative reigns from time to time.

Through this process I’ve had my mind opened up to styles, techniques and ideas that I otherwise wouldn’t have been aware of – like painting three-dimensional boots for Nike’s Sandton store or pushing my creative limits to design and paint Sony’s entire head office. As an independent artist, these experiences also offer some entrepreneurial lessons that have proven to be valuable in my career growth.

As an independent artist, what are some of the ways you market your work and reach new audiences? 

Instagram has always been a powerful platform for me, leading to most of my international opportunities in fact. Something new I’ve been doing is Live Instagram streams every Thursday evening at 20:00 where I paint something from scratch and chat with the audience while doing it. I’ve really enjoyed the interaction and I think people like seeing something take form that they’d usually only otherwise see as a finished artwork.

I make a lot of video content as well to advertise on my digital platforms. It is a lot of work to be the artist, marketer and business manager – I have to wear many hats! The long-term goal is to eventually build a team to support me, it’s just about finding the right people who share the vision.

What do you hope people will take away from your art? 

Art is such a deeply personal experience and I’ve had people tell me SO many different perspectives about just one of my works, which is both amazing and sometimes strange to experience. If my work is able to move you or make you feel something, regardless of whether it’s love or loathing, I’ll be content.

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