Collage artist Eleanor
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.