In the studio with Mandi Potgieter

Tell us about your studio. Location, clean, cluttered, big, small, etc.?

A studio will always be too small for me, I think. I'm a messy worker and, in my studio, the last thing I need is to be conscious of is being careful not to mess on the walls, floor or furniture. It's the one place I want to be able to work freely, without inhibitions. I converted the rumpus room into my studio, so it is always part of our living space. When I'm in the kitchen, cooking for my family, I often find myself gazing at an unfinished painting. Looking at it from a distance,is how I solve most of the problems in my paintings.

Mandi Potgieter art studio

Do you have any pre-work ritual that puts you in the right mindset to create art?

I sometimes find that if I plan a painting too much, my artwork turns out too picturesque, lacking energy and creativity. The best thing for me is to just jump in and get started. This can be a long and painful process, going back and forth until I find something that resonates with me and then slowly finding my way to a completed artwork. Sometimes I can work using a photo to guide me a little, but other times I don’t. I don’t really have a ritual or structure; I start from chaos and work towards order and meaning.

What themes do you explore in your work?

Creation is my inspiration!
In my atmospheric landscapes, colour and light provoke sensation and emotion. It doesn’t matter how many times I walk the same route, look at the same landscape - it always looks different! This diversity is fascinating to me as an artist. The vastness of space, the drama of light and dark symbolizes the emotional implications of opposites in our personal lives. I have learned to be guided by the painting itself rather than forcing it into existence. The diverse range of mediums, paints and tools used in my painting as well as layers of unsuccessful attempts, plays part in the development of my technique which seeks to include important elements of my surroundings. The creative process is such a humbling experience when you draw your inspiration from God’s beautiful creation. I stand in awe!

What is your favourite medium and why?

I work primarily in oil paints, sometimes choosing to combine them with cold or hot wax . Layers of oil paint and wax provides thick impasto textures. I work with a large range of tools to scratch and draw into the paint, adding a depth and authenticity to the painting that cannot be found in a print. My style is very experimental, with no method in mind. Sometimes I spray, spatter, scratch, paint, roll (to add or wipe paint away), sometimes I only work with brushes. I find that experimentation combined with intuition captures the creative process of creation. It is in bold experimentation that a painting becomes alive with energy and emotion. The minute you start to fiddle with detail it loses its energy.

What should people know about your art that they can't tell from looking at it?

My art consists of happy accidents, serendipity. I never plan a painting; I simply grab a blank canvas and cover the surface with paint as soon as possible. This breaks down barriers and helps me to overcome fear. From there I start with the painting process. I don’t find painting easy or fun at all. It is hard and can be very frustrating and challenging. What I do enjoy is looking at the world through an artist’s eye. That, to me, is a privilege! To be able to enjoy the visual world on such a high level and to constantly have ideas and inspirations popping into your mind, is an incredible joy and honour to me!

Do you prefer to work with music or in silence?

The only time that I really like to listen to music is when I am alone in my studio and I can really focus on the music. I don’t like music playing in the background at a social event because I find it very distracting. Music plays a very important part of my creative process and I do listen to a huge variety of music from Bocelli to Pink Floyd to gospel music.

What does your creative process entail?

The freedom of the painting process intrigues me. I do not enjoy too many rules and love to push boundaries. And if you know what you're doing, you can break the rules and still create a successful painting. As Picasso said; “Learn the rules like a pro so that you can break them like an artist.” I am drawn to atmospheric landscapes that capture the emotions and moods of nature. Change is, and will always be, the essence of our world. Natural laws will always be the untouchable, stability that will never change. These opposites excite me. Light versus dark, order in chaos, soft against hard are but a few of the many tensions in nature that inspire me to create and are always the underlying theme in my work because it’s personal; we struggle with the same tensions in our human nature. A painting must have its own dialogue with the viewer. What the artist may be attempting to communicate becomes irrelevant. If everyone sees something different in my painting, then I have succeeded in what I set out to achieve. The artist is simply the vessel.

If you must choose one artist whose work inspires you, who will it be?

Picasso will always be the greatest artist that has ever lived!

Mandi Potgieter art exhibition

What other interest do you have?

I am a very philosophical person that loves to listen to philosophical debates and podcasts. I also enjoy going for long walks and listening to ancient or biblical history audiobooks. I love to think deeply about things and always question everything around me.

How do you know when an artwork is completed?

That is the most difficult question to answer. Sometimes I am happy with my painting, only to get up the next morning and find so many faults. Usually if I am still happy the next day and the day thereafter, I know the painting is complete. It can sometimes be helpful to take a photo and edit it, or to see what it looks like in black and white, but I have often times ruined a painting by going back and fiddling with it.