On 10 November 2011 I hopped on a plane to George in anticipation of the launch of local artist Marittie de Villiers’ work at the elegant Hyatt Regency Hotel in Oubaai, some seven minutes away from George Airport. The evening kicked off with a welcome introduction by Hyatt hotel General Manager, Jaco le Roux, and flowed into a relaxed cocktail event, allowing guests to absorb the captivating art on display. Always on the look-out for new and exciting local artists, we were blown away by Marittie’s artwork, which had the perfect backdrop of the tranquil seaside Hyatt Regency Oubaai Golf Resort and Spa. We spent five minutes with the artist herself to find out what makes her tick and the concept behind the exhibition… The portraits you paint are all of faces and the power of their expressions. Why do faces fascinate you so much? Faces fascinate me because I have always loved looking at people’s faces and I have a good memory for remembering them. Faces have emotion – the soul of a person is in their eyes and I am very interested in portraying emotion in my art. I am very emotional myself and I also enjoy seeing emotion in other people. I have covered other themes, but I never get tired of painting faces. The more I concentrate on faces, the more my creativity around painting grows. You mention that the faces aren’t specific people that you know but rather a blend of faces. Would you say your paintings are more symbolic than realistic? I definitely don’t try and paint very realistic portraits of people. So yes, you could describe them as symbolic of a feeling or a certain emotional landscape. Would you describe your work as abstract? Is it your intention to blur art and real life? The colours I use in my art at the moment are quite abstract. I think a good painting has a life of its own, and I find a work becomes something apart from the painter. When it is exhibited, the viewer becomes part of the process and have a conversation with the art. Sometimes unintentionally. Who is your favourite SA artist and why? I have great respect for Kerri Evans. Her work always revolves around a portrait or a figure. Her themes are never commercial and evoke strong emotion and wonder. Her style is not realistic, but very painterly, she is a master of her paintbrush. Your own personal decor style is eco-friendly and relaxed. Tell us more about your home and how it inspires your work? I live on the Garden Route, near Mosselbay, in a forest alongside a little stream. Our home is built from wood that my husband (Div) sawed himself and it was then cut into massive beams. The house is designed in relationship to the land. It has four levels and sits on wooden poles so no excavation was necessary. We kept as many of the plants and trees as we could. I have no formal garden, so the maintenance is minimal. Div built the house by himself, without any workers helping him – he is quite difficult to please where it entails working with wood. So that was a good idea to let him do that alone! We are totally off the grid and use no electricity from Eskom. Instead, we use solar energy to generate electricity and hot water. I use a gas stove for cooking and use very few electrical appliances. I really only need my laptop that carries my music and documents – and my paintbrushes and canvas. We also use a composting toilet and save thousands of litres of water every day. My lifestyle keeps me grounded and leaves little fussing with unnecessary details. It’s quiet, peaceful and green. No pun intended in the last word. What is your ultimate local travel destination? Cape Town – it’s cosmopolitan, has beautiful beaches and wonderful art, both in the landscape and in art galleries. Do you keep any of your own art and hang it in your home? Yes, I hang new pieces in my house almost every day. When it sells, I hang whatever is finished. You focus a lot on emotion in your paintings. Does this also inspire the colours you choose? Absolutely. I sometimes use it in an unconventional way. One of my paintings is of an older woman, where I only used grey and red. The red refers to the ability to use wisdom and a sense of humour to look at the world and be happy. What is the overall message in your art? The same as my own goals in art and in life. Be brave, be assertive, don’t repeat the obvious, be expressive. Be happy and laugh at life. Listen to music and let the rhythm show. Marittie’s artwork can be found at galleries throughout South Africa and will be showcased at the Hyatt Regency Oubaai until 31 March 2012. For more information you can contact the artist on 044-631-0083, visit southafricanartists.com/home/marittiedevilliers, or find her on Facebook. Interviewed by Kim Grové.