John Pace, Sanlam Portrait Award winner for 2015, talks to HL about winning this prestigious prize and his hopes for the future.
What’s the story behind the winning piece ‘After the match’?
It was towards the end of the Cape schools rugby season that our son Jack aged 11, was playing a game against SACS and whenever his team plays SACS it always rains. And on this day, it poured and poured but the game went on. The field was a mud bath. Needless to say, back at home the contrast between a sparkling clean bathroom and my son was fascinating and so demanded some pictures.
What made you decide to enter the Sanlam Portrait Awards this year?
My wife Sue has always been a great believer in me (more so than myself) so it was her idea that I should enter. I was very hesitant, as I had seen the calibre of the work from 2013 competition which was simply superb work in my opinion. The SANLAM National Portrait Awards is to me the epitome of art competitions in the country. It is the “Academy Awards” of this style of art. Incidentally, Sue did everything from printing out the entry forms, filling them in etc and instructed me to drop them off!
What artists inspire you most?
Lucian Freud and Edward Hopper. Lucain Freud seems to paint what is under the skin; the sinews, the blood vessels, and more with just the most confident of strokes. He uses Flake White and Impasto to create bulk in his work.
Edward Hopper can make even a white wall look interesting with layers and layers of colour. His work is quite melancholy …but I find it very interesting.
How do you think winning this award has changed how you view your own art?
I have always considered myself a ‘weekend artist’, and have spent my life in galleries looking at other ‘real’ art. Winning this award came as a complete shock to me as there were some unbelievable finalists. I suppose I now feel a little assured that my work is better than I think.
I live by the phrase ‘Mediocrity is Expensive’ and have always strived to do my best. But when will it be your best? Painting is a learning experience from canvas to canvas, so you almost never quite get there. Even the painting of Jack has many brush strokes that I am not that happy about. I just wont tell you which ones!
This award has given me a phenomenal opportunity to make my art more of a real focus in my life, and not so much as just a hobby.
Where to from here?
I am going to start to paint towards a solo exhibition which scares the hell out of me, but I have been asked to potentially have one a year from now at Rust-en-Vrede Gallery in Durbanville. It really is about bearing your soul as an artist so I will just press on.
Any advice for other hopefuls?
Not every piece of work you do will be great and it’s an ongoing journey. The more you paint the harder it gets, but it is incredibly fulfilling. Then once you have completed a painting or two, give them away to friends. That’s the fun part.
John Pace’s winning piece joins 39 other selected entries in an exhibition to be held at Rust-en-Vrede Gallery until 8 October, where after the 40 works will tour South Africa in an exhibition presented in collaboration with the Sanlam Art Collection.