Artist Statement

I started painting, not with a very clear understanding of why, but rather driven by a firm belief that I should. I started shortly after the turn of the century with solid determination to establish myself as quickly as possible. It made sense at the time, instead of spending many years in formal training and then many more in trying to find a foothold, to simply start. All of life is a journey in learning and discovery and that never ends, so I just picked up the brushes and started to paint. Now, 15 years later I do not regret that decision at all.

From the beginning my work had elements that linked it to the surrealist movement of the early twentieth century, a movement in which the emphasis rested on freedom of the imagination, exploration of dreams and the subconscious mind and an obsessive attempt to portray these visions as realistically as possible. Illusionism, more so than Automatism, resonated with me at that stage. I never had an obsession with the great surrealists, nor a need to become a surrealist, but rather a strong persuasion that I will try and find my own voice, style and niche eventually. It was clear from the beginning that I will follow my own inner guidance and therefore did not compromise my creative output in accordance with the commercial trends and as a result made things quite tough for myself during the early years.

I work mainly in the traditional medium of oils on canvas. The subject material for my paintings I draw partly from dream revelations or meditative reflection, but mostly from conscious ideas resulting from a sensitive interaction with the world around us and a strong awareness of the undercurrents and trends that shape society.

My paintings usually have a realistic but imaginary landscape which sets the stage for the objects and drama in the foreground. I have developed various devices over the years which I use to create the illusion that the front layer of the painting crumbles, peels, blows away or open in some way to reveal the layer beyond. I use this illusion to bring different realities or layers into the narrative.

I make the experiential statement that there is so much more to life than what is initially taught to us and commonly known. There exist many layers of reality, all equally valid, and we are free to perceive as many of them as we will, to broaden our understanding of the complex world we live in.
Through painting I explore these layers of reality and through these paintings I share what I find. Through these paintings and the creative process of each I learn vastly and they help me to better understand my relationship with people, concepts, social constructs, ideologies and other realities.

I am inspired by the fascinating times we live in. I live, I experience, I feel, reflect and process and through the paintings give something back for others to enjoy, learn from or treasure. I hope to capture something of the joys and tribulations of mankind's passage in this day and age.


pieter van tonder surrealist