Writing Art History Since 2002

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Thriving art career through Sasol recognition award.

The Sasol New Signatures Competition is one of the bestplatforms for emerging contemporary artists to showcase their pieces, believesMJ Lourens, the 1994 winner of this prestigious award. The Pretoria-born38-year-old today boasts an abundance of solo and group exhibitions, awards andcollections of his work on display at high-profiled companies. One of Lourens’exhibitions titled Expectations encompasseshis fascination with the landscape, particularly that of the Highveld where hegrew up. Sasol New Signatures is an annual art competition that isone of the longest running and most prestigious in South Africa. Thecompetition offers emerging artists a platform to showcase their passion,capability and creativity. “I was still a student when I won the competition and sincethen, have focused more on exhibiting my work in galleries. Winning the Sasolcompetition created an interest in me, my artwork and cemented my career as anartist,” says Lourens, Lourens who recently moved to Cape Town, is inspired by ‘thebeauty in chaos’ and is fascinated at how traditional mediums like painting isstill very much alive in contemporary art. “I think that there is a renewedadmiration for art that is crafted from emotion and technique. I personallywork in various mediums that feed off each other. I love using photographs asreferences as it sets my creativity levels into overdrive,” laughs Lourens.Every painting has its own unique energy, that can only be realised with theright technique and attention dedicated to it. Society is drawn to Lourens pieces as his work ranges frompaintings to sculpting to film, showcasing inherent acceptances of people’s ownsurroundings. He is also captured by the sadness and the fundamental lonelinessof human existence. A hidden talent that was unearthed by Lourens after winningthe competition is his ability to direct and produce short films such asPA/Father, Prognosis (2008) and Die Rit (2009) that were screened at theCommonwealth Film Festival and was the official selection of the AfricanInternational Film Festival in Spain. Lourens encourages young artists to enter the competition asapart from the recognition that comes from an award of this magnitude, one’s workwill be highlighted to a broader audience. “When I first entered the Sasol NewSignatures competition, my art was rejected. I did not let it deter me andcontinued to work on my art and entered the following year, which I won,” addsLourens. He advises artists to not lose sight of their goals anddreams and emphasises that rejection is a part of life and one should not bedeterred by it. “Forget about theaudience while you create art, and don’t be afraid to question the norms of theday,” concludes Lourens.

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