Art and Design

Christiaan Conradie: Oil brings breath of art to life

Jessica Hunkin

Working predominantly in oils, though most of his pieces are mixed-media, artist Christiaan Conradie likens his process to that of CPR.

Working predominantly in oils, though most of his pieces are mixed-media, South African-born artist Christiaan Conradie likens his process to that of CPR.

Working predominantly in oils, though most of his pieces are mixed-media, South African-born artist Christiaan Conradie likens his process to that of CPR, saying: “The moment I feel like I’ve breathed enough life into a piece I leave it to live on its own.” 

This approach is most visible in his portraits, which are often presented in various stages of completion. Though certain sections are painted with clear lifelike detail, others are left entirely up to the viewer’s imagination. It is this ambiguity, in part, that makes his emotive artworks so intriguing.  

“I had always wanted to be an artist,” says Conradie, whose decision not to study fine art was very deliberate. Instead, he studied art direction and design at the Red & Yellow School. “I figured at the time that in order to sell work I’d have to compromise what I was doing creatively, which is something I’ve never wanted to do. The plan I had then was to continue to paint without having to rely on selling work in order to generate an income.”  

After two years of working in the advertising industry, Conradie came to the realisation that, “firstly, one doesn’t necessarily have to compromise what it is one does creatively, and secondly, in order to be the type of artist I wanted to be I had to give myself over entirely to painting.”  

And this is what he did, by quitting his job and starting to paint full-time. Soon after this he began to attend Julia Teale’s life drawing classes at Spencer Street Studios. This experience had a hugely positive influence on the way he has developed as an artist.  

Also influenced by artists from Rembrandt, Rothko and Cy Twombly to musicians Cocorosie, Bright Eyes and Bob Dylan, Conradie is most inspired by seeing or listening to someone else create an incredible version ?of whatever it is they’re doing. This, in turn, motivates him to put everything he has into what he’s busy with. The most fulfilling part of being an artist for him is that ?it feels as though he’s doing something worthwhile. 

On his process, which is at different times led either by intuition or forethought, he says: “Sometimes I have a very clear idea of what it is that I want to do, and other times I’ll just start out with one element that will lead into the next.”  

Currently living in Mexico, and also having spent some time working in Spain, Conradie has noticed that his location has a definite way of moulding his work. 

In some cases it’s quite subtle, with other things only revealing themselves over time, but he believes that his work is richer as a result of the different cultures he has been exposed to.  

Though naturally his aesthetic is continually evolving, it has always been important to him that his style was born out of an honest process. “When I first started out I had to improve my technique and I had to learn how to handle paint so for the first few years, although I was trying to make work that was ‘my own’ and interesting, I was aware of the fact that I was still very much in training. Now I feel that I’m occupying my own little space in terms of what it means to be a painter.” 

For more information, visit christiaanconradie.com?

This article is adapted from an interview with the artist that appeared on the creative showcase site Between 10and5 10and5.com

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