In-situ landscape paintings of the South African Cape scenery by artist Niel Jonker - art that reflects the process and power of the moment.

Niël Jonker

press article

Silence and the art of wondering about the house

by Carin Goodwin

There is an old polemic around art and whether or not it has more value when it has relinquished the ivory tower. Niël Jonker´s work, both painting and sculpture, is positioned in a tradition which elegantly traverses, and offers some synthesis, to this polemic.

In many ways, it is argued, formalism in art alienates people from the art object. It is often said that working within a recognisable technical tradition the artist, instead of communicating with the viewer, stupefies and overpowers the very persons to whom the work is intended to make an appeal on some level. The suggestion then is that art should not be about overtly drawing attention to form itself but should be about conveying content, whether it is purely conceptual or obviously representational.

Jonker´s work sees an unapologetic appeal to some the most fundamental laws of painting and sculpture. It represents the work of an artist who cannot reject the importance of "doing it right". In looking at, for instance, some of his paintings it becomes significantly clear that these are born from a challenge to put, on canvas, something which has caught the eye of the artist. It is, therefore, evident that there was no respite until the light is captured, the colours are honest and the lines are true. And since this is not the easy flight into aesthetic nihilism, what emerges is art which convinces.

How then, is it being suggested, does Jonker´s work offer synthesis to the old polemic, when what seems to be advocated by this work is an adherence to tradition? The subject matter, and the particular choice of its portrayal, seems to be how this work ingratiates itself to the viewer. It rapidly becomes evident, while observing, for instance, a painted still life or portrait, that even the most likely subject matter simply cannot be romanticised when viewed by certain artists. And such romanticising is evaded when there is nearly an over-developed understanding of the subject, what it is, why it is like that and wherein exactly lies its beauty. If any romance is detected it is entirely free of sentiment and is firmly and solely rooted in the interaction which the viewer has with the piece. And in this sense Jonker´s work is undeniably conducive to human passion; not because it prescribes it, but evokes it.

Observing Niël Jonker´s work is engaging with art which is made by a person who can see, and a painter who can paint.