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Ria van den Heever (bears the same Keyter and Borcherds genes as a Johannes Meintjes (1923-1980; Eastern Cape writer, historian and most importantly artist). She traded lessons in ballet dancing for lessons in painting during her St 4 year. Mrs Blem of Pretoria started her on her way. After a move to Cape Town, she was taught by Pieter Bredenkamp (well known actor and artist) and by Machiel Brandenburg (who had been court artist to Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands), while attending both the Jan van Riebeeck Primary and High School in Cape Town. At the end of her Matric year, she won the Art Award for the school for that year (a distinction her daughter also achieved 32 years later!)
Ria grew up during a period when art was not considered to be a career which anybody with any degree of common sense, would pursue. It was expected of a woman to qualify herself in some profession she could 'fall back on'. And so she studied social work and dedicated most of her life to studying and practicing social work and raising her family.
During the years which followed, especially after all her children displayed artistic talent and the two girls actually pursued careers in art, there was a latent need in her to express experiences, thoughts and emotions in a more tangible manner. It became a family joke that she would sporadically urge one or both of her daughters to accompany her on a sketching outing with a view to resuming her art career, which did not take off as a result thereof. She dabbled in various crafts over the years of which caramics was the most notable.
Yet, the need for creative expression remained and grew, until she ventured to risk her hand on canvase once more.
She mostly chooses people as subject because she is enthralled by them, alone or in a social context - not so much by the wonders and intricacies of the human physique, as by the 'being' of people. She feels that God surpassed Himself when he created human kind. Man, as a mirror image of God (certainly failing in same respects, can manifest such sensitivity, such vulnerability, such need and can feel such pain. Contrasted th this, humans also display such attributes as courage, strength, beauty, and joy. Above all, God must have had a marvelous sense of humour when he created man. Ria sometimes wonders if other people find her as funny as she does them.All this can aptly be termed the pathos of living. The commonality amongst cultures, religions and even across time is highlighted.
She feels the need to give the beholder something which is easy on the eye and pleasing/ pleasant to enjoy while not being devoid of emotion or mood. She does not want te tire the viewer by having to look for hidden meanings and agendas. Her work do not have any destructive meanings or messages but rather tries to inspire a sense of identification, understanding, discovery and perhaps a slight sense of the dramatic.
In order to achieve this, Ria aims at simplicity, and makes use of economy of line and detail and nuances and stark contrasts in colour. She brings in the symbolism of light (very literal at times) and dark (good and evil, if you will) and uses the eye as the proverbial window to a man's mind and soul. It is also recognised that eyes are the main conduit/ vehicle of inter-human communication. The eyes depicted in the paintings talk to the beholder by conveying different expressions.
She also keeps her technique and the medium she uses simple i.e. acrylic/oil on canvas. She is of the opinion that anything more will take away from the freshness and honesty of the work and appear contrived.
Underpinning all her work is a tendency towards the expression of man's and her own, universal religious and spiritual search.
The Cape Gallery 2004
Art 1 Gallery
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