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hl next level 2018: artist juan stockenstroom

Trevor Stuurman


After working locally and abroad as a retoucher and a photographer’s assistant, Juan Stockenstroom has refined his photographic skills, which he expresses through his art. Fiction plays a big part in his work and he says he is influenced by the overdramatised performance, hard lighting, Technicolor and eerie cinematic orchestral music of vintage American horror, thriller and sci-fi cinema. He has exhibited both in SA and internationally and won various awards, and is most proud of his first solo exhibition, which recently took place in Cape Town at PH Centre Photo Gallery.

how did you get started?

I've always had an interest in art. I drew my own comic books as a kid, in fact, I drew all the time, filled the back of my school books with drawings. I wasn't really academic at school, I would say average (a bit lazy) but I excelled at art in high school. When I finished school I couldn't afford to go to college or university as a full-time student as my grades weren't that good and I didn't have much money.

So I shifted my interest from drawing to photography and studied photography part-time in the evenings for a brief stint. I got bored and couldn't focus on all of all the theory being taught in class, so I started to work as a photographer’s assistant. I did that for two years, learnt as much as I could and then left South Africa for London where I pursued a career as a photographic retoucher. After spending a number of years working in the advertising industry, I decided to step out of it and focus on making my own work as an artist, using the tools I had learned as a retoucher and combining them with photography, sculpture and painting.

what did you want to be when you were growing up?

In no particular order: an artist, a comic book illustrator, a private detective, a spy and a dirt lorry man (for real).

do you have particular favourites among the works you’ve created?

I have a love-hate relationship with my work; it changes depending on the setting or my mood. I don't really have one work that holds my favour. I can also be very contradictory when it comes to my work sometimes.

what’s your defining career moment to date?

My first solo exhibition, which recently took place in Cape Town at PH Centre Photo Gallery.

any creatives on your radar right now?

Richard Mudariki, who is an amazing painter. And I love working to King Krule’s music.

which artists do you look up to?

Stuart Davis, Francis Bacon, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Weegee, David Hockney, Malick Sidibé... there are many.

where do you find your inspiration?

Music, books, personal experiences and the Internet.

what is your earliest visual memory?

Drawing two double-decker buses that were joined by their wheels.

which single place in the world would you recommend people visit, and why?

Tate Modern in London – the vast amount of art under one roof is mind-blowing.

what’s the most memorable piece of art you’ve ever seen?

A book called The Codex Seraphinus, first published by Italian artist, architect and industrial designer Luigi Serafini in 1981.

what is the next project that you are working on?

I'm not sure, because I have an indecisive and compulsive nature. I start and stop a lot. I have a lot of enthusiasm for a particular project then suddenly drop it or leave it incomplete only to pick it up much later. For the last couple of months though, I have been painting more and photographing less and playing around with abstract shapes and building temporary sculptures from found objects – not sure if anything will come of it.

Learn all about the game changers who are taking things to the Next Level in our #HLNEXTLEVEL2018  issue.