Artist Spotlight #16: Karlien van Rooyen

     Screen Shot 2016-05-11 at 12.46.27 pmKarlien van Rooyen

It’s probably an understatement to say that Karlien van Rooyen is a fan of sustaining the environment and ecology. Her unique artwork, consisting of watercolours and ceramics, is absolutely teeming with her ardent passion for the wilderness and its diversity. In our latest artist profile, Karlien informs COLLAGE on her childhood and her affinity for the outdoors that inspire her work.

Q: Hi Karlien! Can you tell us a bit about yourself?

A: I was born in South Africa on what is known as the Wild-Coast at the tip of the Cape Peninsula, where the Indian and Atlantic Oceans meet . We lived in a old rustic colonial house verging on the ocean and backing onto a mountain teaming with all kinds of wildlife. Our house was frequently broken into and raided by the baboon clans and I had plenty of wild tortoise pets that came and went as they pleased. My dad was a bit of a Clint Eastwood- Tarzan character, so I grew up as feral as possible. My earliest artistic endeavours, which I realise totally encapsulates what I do today, involved smashing up all kinds of muddy botanical concoctions, getting stuck in meditative crafts of weaving or etching stones, and even hiding jars of wildlife poo in my bedroom and making dangerous mobiles from shipwreck flotsam. I still retain this ad-hoc experimental approach to making art to this day. If I can’t play or feel the thrills of leaving things up to chance, I don’t consider it worth doing. It is for this reason that my main attraction is to ceramics and investigational watercolour painting.

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Q: What (or who) inspires your work?

A: Any person that retains childlike joy or audacious expression in what they do, regardless of their medium, inspires my work. Mostly I like the art of children, dogs and elephants but am also fond of the Dutch-Indonesian performance installations of Mella Jaarsma and the primal shapes of Japanese-American sculptor Isamu Noguchi.

Q: Do you have a preferred medium?

A: Ceramics, foraged plant and animal materials and watercolour paint.

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Q: How would you describe your style?

A: I can be quite a shape-shifter, but I think the undercurrent theme is what I call “deep ecology”.

Q: How do you usually get from an idea to a finished piece of art?

A: By not having a very solid idea to begin with! I like the notion of practice-led-research (by Barbara Bolt) and am a religious believer in the revolutionary pedagogy philosophies of Reggio Emilia’s early childhood anti-education.

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Q: If you could recommend one artist who would it be?

A: Yourself!

Q: What’s your favourite gallery?

A: I like exhibitions that marry pushing the boundaries of perception whilst doing something good for the planet and humanity. I think my favourite exhibition of sorts would be radical community gardens or kitchens, protest blockades and mass acts of solidarity. I don’t get that much of a thrill from walking around in buildings filled with glorified craft where the makers aren’t home. Don’t get me wrong, I love great artists, but I like to be where they are and when they install or do performances. Though I like the dead horse at the Art Gallery of South Australia, mainly because I always sneakily pat it.

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Q: Where do you see your art practice taking you in the next five years?

A: I hope my art practice takes me further into connecting with my community where I am. I have done enough surface traveling and would like to get to the bones of feeling like I have relevance in a place with such an ancient yet superficially recent history. I enjoyed living with some of the Goolarabooloo family in the Kimberley and am quite fond of arid places. So perhaps the outback is my next frontier.

Q: Where can people go if they’re interested in seeing more of your work?

A: Great question. Feel free to come and visit me in my studio space – I am on the fourth level of the Dorrit Black building in Uni SA City West. I always like visitors! And then you can help me carry around clay and animal carcasses! I also sell work through Phase Space, but a website is under construction. Add me on Facebook and send me something silly!

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Photo credit: Danielle Morton

Q: If you had a time machine, which period (past or future) would you go to?

A: Ooooh. I would like to visit the first race on earth before they were corrupted. I’d like to feel what it was like to be a telepathic peaceful breatharian who bares animals as children.

Matilda Handsley-Davis

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