IN: Inspiration

DIANE VICTOR ON REAL INSPIRATION

Diane Victor is one of South Africa’s most highly acclaimed artists. Describing herself as ‘part drawer and part printmaker’

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Diane Victor is one of South Africa’s most highly acclaimed artists. Describing herself as ‘part drawer and part printmaker’, Victor has garnered international recognition for work that comment predominantly on political and social issues. We met with her at her quirky studio in downtown Joburg to talk about her life and work, what inspires her and her views on other disciplines.

Where do you get your inspiration from?

I get my inspiration partly from the people that I know and the interactions I have with them. I’m somebody who responds very strongly against things that are negative, things that are damaging. So my inspiration comes from the world around me, from the guys collecting waste on the street to what happens on the news and my immediate environment.

How do you feel that you personally take responsibility for social problems with your work?

It’s not so much taking responsibilities as an artist, as being an early warning system. One of the biggest problems in all societies is that sense of indifference. Once people are comfortable they tend not to give a damn about anything that doesn’t affect them. Art is a way of communicating with those who would rather ignore the ills. It’s really about being a small, fluffy watchdog that snaps and barks. You keep on reminding people and keep on trying to push them out of their comfort zones in some way or another.

Are you inspired by other artists?

The rarefied air that art institutions live in is not the same air that people on the street tend to breathe. It’s the real world that is far more important to me than the people for whom I’m producing a product. We’d like to hear your opinion on the other categories within the PPC Imaginarium Awards. Let’s start with architecture. Jeremy Rose and Phill Mashabane are architects that I think of most positively. One of my general issues with architects is that I think a lot of them have egos. They use that as a way of imposing themselves on the general populous and sometimes producing buildings that aren’t necessarily the correct structures for the environment.

And in terms of industrial design?

The Industrial Design department at UJ has nice display cabinets at the entrance and I’ll always find time to stop and go, “Wow!” It’s thinking about objects in a way that I don’t, because I’m not a very consumer driven person. I don’t buy objects for the love of objects; they’ve got to be purely and utterly functional and practical. Though, I do appreciate the idea of taking a simple practical thing and making its aesthetically pleasing too. It always comes as a bit of a shift in my head, which is great.

Tell us about your thought on fashion design?

I think it’s wonderful though that people are bringing different materials into fashion. Look at Suzaan Heyns, who has been bringing concrete into her clothing. The last time I was in in the United States I went to an amazing exhibition at MoMA. They were talking about all sorts of protein-based materials that were being incorporated into cloth.

And film?

I think that the crossover between film and fine arts is finally occurring… and it needs to occur. You always wonder why it hasn’t happened yet. It was in the 1930s that abstraction came into the fixed Fine Art world, but it’s yet to move into mainstream moviemaking. I also think great things are going to happen in South African filmmaking because, at long last, it’s exploding internationally.

Why do you think it hasn’t?

I think the Fine Arts audience is a narrower and more educated group. They were able to respond to that. Though, there was still a lot of resistance from the man in the street. You still hear today (about abstract art) that “a child could have painted that.” If it’s not realistic, it’s not accessible and I think the problem is that the movie industry is so geared towards the broader population. Someone can easily come up with an alternative approach to sequence image making, but no one is doing it. It’s frustrating.

Is there an opportunity in the PPC Imaginarium Awards to break those rules?

Yes, I think so. I speak with my students in the art department and they are petrified that they are not going to produce work that won’t sell. What if it doesn’t, and they don’t make money? It tends to make them play in the safer market. It’s part of our reality, but I wish more people could resist it. I wish the filmmaking world could fight it more than anything else. I think it has more potential.

How do you think concrete can be best used as a medium or inspiration for sculpture or fine arts?

I think the best way to use it is by approaching it in a different way. When I think of previous years during the Young Concrete Sculptor Awards, often the ones that challenged concrete were the best. We all know that concrete can be used for casting and modeling. But it’s the people who have tried to take it into printmaking or use the medium out of its expected boundaries who succeeded. For me, the most exciting thing is people who have approached concrete in the sense of not understanding what it’s used for.

If you’re feeling inspired, register for the PPC Imaginarium 2015 Awards.

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