The African Snake
Oil on Canvas,
The African Snake
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Oil on Canvas
W: 1160mm x H: 1180mm x D: 15mm
W: 46" x H: 46" x D: 1"
Approx. Weight: 4kg
This work is
framed (but can be supplied either framed or unframed)
About "The African Snake"
Although much of my previous work had depicted a snake it was with this painting that the concept of the African Snake crystallised. I had long since realised that there are many prejudices surrounding the image of the snake in both Christian and African 'cultures'. I am therefore confronting the 'traditional' notion of the snake as 'evil'...the snake is NOT a negative symbol. THIS snake had been slumbering within the Earth for aeons. The 'psychic' disturbance of apartheid roused it from its hibernation.
The head is three dimensional, thus indicating its 'surfacing'. The tongue is forked, yet curved, indicating its 'benign' (not evil) intentions. The snake is criss-crossed and enmeshed with the zigzag rhythm of Africa. The essential colours of red, orange and green speak of the vibrancy and contrasts of Africa.
I was truly astonished to discover (last year) the existence of an Aboriginal myth which speaks of the "Rainbow Serpent". Part dream, part vision, the ancient myth of the Rainbow Serpent is one of the creator and destroyer, survivor and shaper of the world. I personally feel that the African Snake and the Rainbow Snake are the same mythological snake - that it manifests when there is a dire need of its influence.
Little knowing it, I had embarked on a 10-15 year story. My final painting in this series - 1996 - depicts the African Snake returning to the earth.
The owner of this painting has requested that I make it avialable for art connoisseurs.
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View all 60 works by Helgé Olle Janssen
About Helgé Olle
Photographer: Gerald Botha of Stella Nova Studios, Kloof, KZN 2016
Costume design and construction, make-up, concept: Helge Janssen.
Art was not an option for study at High School. During my Biology teacher training, drawing those microscopic details began to stir something within my creative urge. However, I only began painting when I later studied fine art at PMB University. During this year there were disagreements with some of my lecturers. I then left for Europe on a one way ticket! HUGE changes occurred in my 'psyche' during my travels. However travelling made me realise how 'African' I was and I returned to South Africa at the end of 1975.
Back in this country, I had a driving need to transform my "European experiences" into a particularly South African CONTEXT and began to pursue whatever creative opportunity presented itself to me. There were absolutely NO formal structures in place that could meet my needs, so I subsequently formed my own dance groups, or worked entirely on my own. My novel 'TELL TALE' (2005) has documented much of what life was like during this time. It is a mixture of docu-reality and histro-practicality, the deeply personal and the utterly insane!
I have written and performed in 5 "avant-garde" plays. In 1984 I founded an avant-garde performance group (together with Gisele Turner, Gisele Stafford, David Mulvey, Peter Hart-Davis, Simon Stengel) called the Body of Despondent Artists and we were active as a group until David's departure for Ireland in 1987. Joining the group in performance and/or creative energy/classes were Collen Castelijn (Seer in 'I Have No!'), Ruby Bogaard (Dark Corners of a New Mind), Andrew Yates (photography), Aryan Kaganof (Ian Kirkhof), Rosemary Jones (Through a Lens),Ilse Biel, Mikhail Peppas, Andre Oosthuizen, Jessica Ramsden, Eldon Swallow. I gave classes free of charge, directed, made costumes and masks for the group, choreographed, experimented with performance/dance styles. This was a period of INTENSE growth and experimentation and research into theatrical techniques. I subsequently pursued a solo career performing in two self penned plays "BLOOD" (1988 - 90) and "The Come-Uppance of Punch" (1995 first performed at the Windybrow Festival, then 1998 and '99 Bat Centre). "Punch" featured a prologue and epilogue based on the NEMESIS archetype written by Eldon Swallow.
I spearheaded the 'alternative' music scene through the '80's and mid '90's (15 years) djing in various clubs in Durban (starting out at Rumours which eventually became Faces) under the title of "PLAY". I introduced fashion shows, performances into the night club scene. People dressed up and fantasized with their garments on a weekly basis, without having to resort to quick fix solutions by hiring costumes. I produced a fanzine entitled "Facet" in which the focus and direction of the 'alternative movement' had a 'voice'. The criteria was essentially non racist, non-homophobic, non-sexist. I, together with BODA, became a member of the ECC in 1985.
I see my paintings as PSYCHEreal or SUPRAreal as opposed to surreal.
I had a retrospective exhibition of 15 of my artworks at Chilliplum bistro in Kloof 15 June - 19 July 2013. This exhibition was reviewed by Aryan Kaganof (artist, film maker, poet, novelist) and was published in the September issue of ART SA of that year! Yay! :-)
First exhibition was at the Space Gallery in Cape Town 1977
Most recent exhibition - retrospective at KZNSA Gallery on invite with Kaganof 2002, where I gave a performance using my voice (making sounds as I moved and twisted and explored the physical) - and held a short fashion show as well as exhibiting 9 of the paintings you see here. On an orange wall.
Theatres exhibitions- Stable Theatre/Our House Theatre - (considered an 'unrecognized venue' for the exhibition of art and therefore not taken seriously by the art establishment) or 'low key' galleries such as Things Gallery (Dbn) and the Carriage house Gallery (Jhb).
While living in Yeoville (1994/5) I trundled around to EVERY KNOWN art gallery in Jhb. NOT one single gallery showed the slightest interest in my work, the closest telling me that they had a three year waiting list! What was my absolute worst though, was being shown work of 'New York' artists and being told to 'paint something like that'.
I have been influenced by JUNG - particularly with the discovery of various ARCHETYPE IMAGES which have recurred in my paintings. I was a member of the Jungian Society and attended regular monthly lectures/meetings/workshops under the guidance of Gloria Gearing. This was indeed a privilege. My work has been concerned with the PSYCHIC state of apartheid (with specific reference to the 'collective unconscious') and the ravages of this UNSUSTAINABLE political/social/cultural state. These paintings therefore represent a particularly dark phase of South African history from a completely unique perception, and serves as a telling document of the times.
Yet as time progresses, my paintings become more universal in application. It is as if what I was experiencing under apartheid has transcended into a universal perception of common issues of suppression, control.
There was a break in my painting betweeen 1996 and 2015. During this time I was teaching. My creative expression took on the task of making documentaries and filming musical performances,most notably the documentary of Jaspar Lepak. The documentary has not been presented to public viewing as yet.
I re-entered the teaching profession in 1997. Looking back now in 2013, all I can say is that I have learnt much. In 2009, experiences at a High School in the Umbilo area have left me devastated where I was unfairly dismissed. The court case (which I have won twice) now enters its 9th year as I attempt to pursue damages through the Labour Courts. To me, this procedure has become an ART INSTILLATION of note!
"The mechanism whereby change happens in a democracy is to speak out. And if nobody listens, then to speak louder" - David Lewis.
Natal Teachers' Senior Diploma III (Botany and Zoology)
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