realism and abstract online art from Clocktower Art Gallery  

About the Artist

Derric van Rensburg, internationally known for his superb impressionist paintings, is rated as one of South Africa’s top artists.

“I was born in 1952 in Cape Town, South Africa, but it was not the Mother City and its surroundings which impressed me. As a young boy I regularly visited my father’s family on the farm in De Vlught, between Knysna and Uniondale. My father, his eleven brothers and sisters were born on this farm and I grew up on a diet of De Vlught tales – some true, some tall – but the story that fascinated me most was the one about the ghostly female hitch hiker on the Uniondale road who would appear out of thin air and make herself comfortable on the backseat of your car while you were driving! The unspoilt beauty of that region of the Langkloof.

My school years were spent in Cape Town where I completed my education at Art school in graphic art specifically. My career followed the commercial and manufacturing world of the creative arts, but something was missing. I felt the desire to be an artist but lacked the courage and conviction until 1986 when my wife persuaded me that it was not only possible but also necessary.

At first I taught art, but longed for the day when a painting career alone would be sufficient to put not only bread, but also cheese, wine and fruit on the table. That wish happened, when in 1990 we decided to move to Greyton in the Overberg. This tranquil town lies in a valley between Riviersonderend Mountains and the river itself. It is a sprawling patchwork of mainly wheat, oats and barley fields, each season bringing with it a variety of ochre, red, orange and green, punctuated by blocks of neon yellow canola fields. Weather conditions in the Overberg can also be extreme, allowing heat, snow and a wide colour variety of skies, resulting in an ever-changing canvas.

I am forever grateful for the six years spent in an area that might just as well be the South African version of the Provencal region of France, now doubtlessly famous after Peter Mayle’s book, “A year in Provence.” Living in the Overberg, has had a great impact on me and the incredible beauty of this area is, and always will be, evident in my work. This perhaps explains why my Overberg paintings are referred to as my “trademark”!

In 1996 we moved back to Cape Town. My eyes were opened to new perspectives of this beautiful city. One such wonderful example is the wonderful architecture and people of the “Bo-Kaap” (Malay Quarter) and I just could not resist the temptation to translate this old part of Cape Town onto canvas. The result was unexpected and I am enjoying the journey.

back to earlier days and an important part of my growth as an artist. I was once advised to desist from the use of that modern, plastic product, called acrylic in favour of watercolour. Doing so, I immediately sold my first painting, a watercolour! At that time I was 18 years old and very pleased with myself. Watercolour became my signature until I returned from a joint exhibition in Portugal in 1988 where a friend influenced me to buy a huge brush and change back to acrylic.

This newfound freedom caused me some frustration for about a year when, as if woken from a dream, I remembered two or three paintings I completed during my school years and passed on to my parents. Yes, they were acrylic! I still cannot understand how I was so easily seduced away from a medium that suited me just fine.

Blues, oranges, reds, greens and ochre are the colours I love and these feature prominently in my work, reminiscent of a true African image alive with vibrant colour.

I started my career as a wildlife artist, painting in watercolours only, and at that time was recognised by critics as a highly talented artist. Switching from watercolour to acrylic as a medium for wildlife brought about another paradigm shift for me, my own experience of Africa and its wildlife are reflected in my work. I enjoy the human element that I incorporate into my wildlife paintings, such as an African woman or a symbol; a hut or the indigenous Nguni cattle; something that represents the mystique of this continent, which has made Africa different from the rest of the world.

The beautiful bright colours and contours of the autumn vineyards of the Hex River Valley, as well as the winelands of Stellenbosch, Paarl, Worcester and Robertson, are the favourite themes for me and my team of huge brushes, acrylics and canvas. Together with the changing seasons, and the simultaneously changing light, these subjects delight me and will do so for years to come. After examining one of my paintings, INTERNATIONAL ARTIST magazine had this to say: “In this painting of almost juicy colour and exciting juxtaposition of dark mountains and warm clouds, the painting provides so much entertainment and food for the imagination. I also like the way the foreground has been left out of focus allowing free access…”

Another magazine described me as follows: “An elusive enigma, Derric van Rensburg is nonetheless one of South Africa’s most popular landscape and wildlife artists. With his characteristic, spur-of-the-moment style, he carves an impressive niche in the art market. His style is free, yet subtly contained, combining both abstract and realistic elements, with the abstract being reflected by a wash effect.”

People often ask me, “what inspires you and how do you handle criticism?”

My inspiration comes from the desire to express myself, from what I have seen, from what I would like to describe in my medium on canvas.

Sometimes it is a photograph that I have taken during my travels and sometimes it is from memory. I don’t always take my camera with me, and believe me, this is something I have regretted many times.

Quite ironic that you always come across that special moment, that special mood, when you have no camera at hand, then I have to rely heavily on recall.

Of the Old Masters it was Van Gogh and Rembrandt who inspired me most. Van Gogh because I enjoyed his life stories and the visual dairy he left in the world, and Rembrandt because he was a craftsman and draughtsman of huge proportions. On the South African scene my favourite artists are Pieter Wenning and Hugo Naude, who have been a great inspiration to me.

Turning to criticism; at first I did not handle criticism too well – after all I am only human! As one grows older and wiser, one learns to deal with it. I now welcome constructive criticism. My wife, Sharmaine, has always been my greatest critic and I value her input, sometimes straight, but always honest.

Sharmaine and I live in one of Cape Town’s old suburbs at the foot of Rhodes Memorial, in a cosy Victorian house. My studio is an integral part of the house and is functional, but is very much the engine room. The most important part of my studio is probably the lemon tree next to the French doors, but I actually regard the outside world as my real studio. After all, it is there where the data is captured.

I am extremely content with what I am doing and what I have achieved, but will never become complacent.

My first exhibition was held in 1978 in Cape Town and was sold out within a few days. Since then I have exhibited many times in South Africa, and also in Portugal, England, Italy and Australia. Most of my commissions are placed by multinational corporate clients, which include First National Bank, South African Airways, Transnet, Liberty Life, Price Waterhouse Coopers, Reebok, Ernst & Young, Alexander Forbes, BP and Mobil as well as a number of South Africa’s best known hotels.

My work is represented by selected galleries throughout South Africa and many of my paintings hang in homes and in major companies in Australia, England, Switzerland, Portugal and Germany.”
Copyright © 2009 Clock Tower Gallery