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Collage artist Eleanor

Tur­vey’s por­traits

Cape artist Eleanor Tur­vey uses collage to add layers of mean­ing to her por­trai­ture

Where did your love of art orig­i­nate? I’ve al­ways loved art-mak­ing. I went to a new school when I was 15, which had a fab­u­lous art depart­ment and a won­der­ful teacher. It was in her class that I was first given proper brushes and acrylic paints. One day, she took me aside and said to me, “If I could paint like you, I would do noth­ing else.” Those words have stayed with me ever since.

You’ve been de­scribed as one of South Africa’s most in­no­va­tive collage artists. Why collage? For the first Na­tional Por­trait Award com­pe­ti­tion in 2013, I cre­ated a por­trait of Arch­bishop Des­mond Tutu, build­ing his im­age from his words. It was cho­sen as one of the fi­nal­ists and my love of collage be­came firmly rooted.

How would you de­scribe your tech­nique? I cur­rently cre­ate the com­po­nent parts by hand us­ing a va­ri­ety of me­dia, in­clud­ing acrylic, wa­ter­colour, ink, can­vas and pa­per, which I cut out with a scalpel. I then con­struct the por­trait by as­sem­bling and lay­er­ing the com­po­nent parts, which gives a sculp­tural, re­lief ef­fect that adds fur­ther dimension.

What is your pre­ferred sub­ject mat­ter? My first love is por­trai­ture. I en­joy ex­plor­ing other sub­jects, but I al­ways re­turn to por­traits. I have a long list of peo­ple I would love to por­tray, from all walks of life.

The ma­jor­ity of your works are of fa­mous fig­ures. Why is this? I’m inspired by those who strived to make a difference and have changed the world. These great thinkers span a vast range of dis­ci­plines: art, hu­man­i­tar­i­an­ism, sci­ence, phi­los­o­phy, po­etry, mu­sic, en­vi­ron­men­tal­ism – to name a few.

Do you see a link be­tween art, sci­ence and tech­nol­ogy? Yes. I’m fas­ci­nated by the way sci­ence and tech­nol­ogy are ad­vanc­ing ex­po­nen­tially and chang­ing the world. The search for in­no­va­tive ways of art-mak­ing is a con­stant inspiration. What ad­vice can you give to as­pir­ing artists? Revel in imag­i­na­tion. We’re so lucky, as artists, to get to hang out in our imag­i­nary worlds. Al­bert Ein­stein said, “Imag­i­na­tion is ev­ery­thing. It’s the preview of life’s com­ing at­trac­tions.”

Each of us has a unique per­spec­tive, voice and con­tri­bu­tion to make. Follow your in­ter­ests and cel­e­brate your tal­ent and in­di­vid­u­al­ity. Don’t worry about what other peo­ple think and strive con­stantly to do the best work you can.

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