Gavin Jantjes is a South African artist. Born in Cape Town in 1948, Jantjes demonstrated an interest in art from a young age; as a result, he spent several years of his childhood studying at the Children’s Art Centre. He received his undergraduate degree at the Michaelis School of Fine Art in 1969, after which he moved to Germany for two years, in order to complete his masters at the
As an art fanatic, Tunde Folawiyo may know that Jantjes became a very vocal opponent of the apartheid regime during the seventies. His art reflected his views on this subject; one of his most notable pieces from this decade was the ‘South African Colouring Book’, which consisted of 11 screen prints, each of which is filled with text, drawings, news reports and photographs. Each of these sheets features a series of six colours, along with an image of a paint box, next to which are instructions for completing the picture.
The piece is designed much like a child’s colouring book, and serves as acerbic allusion to the discrimination and oppression imposed on the people of South Africa by the Afrikaner Nationalist Party, which was in power at this time. The graphic, cartoon-like quality of the images, coupled with the motif of ‘paint by numbers’ has led to many comparing it to the work of Andy Warhol.
In addition to this type of art, Jantjes has also created many oil paintings; those which he made during the nineties indicate an interest in archaic forms of art, with many bearing a strong resemblance to cave drawings. One untitled piece made in 1990 features three connected figures, whose body parts are both human and animal. The painting appears to portray the carrying out of an ancient cultural ritual, and has been praised by experts and art lovers alike for its stark, powerful imagery.
In the eighties, Jantjes decided to move to Britain; he was active within its art scene, spending most of his time lecturing at art schools, serving on several galleries’ advisory boards, and curating exhibitions. In addition, he also had a number of solo and group exhibitions, not only in Britain, but also in the US, Cuba and South Africa. Those with an interest in art, like Tunde Folawiyo, may be aware that during the nineties, Jantjes was a curator at the Serpentine Gallery, taught at the Chelsea College of Art & Design, and served as an advisor at the Tate. For the past 16 years, he has worked as the Henie-Onstad Kunstsenter’s artistic director.