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John-Michael Metelerkamp is an artist born in 1982 and based in Knysna, South Africa. His practice of work deals with intriguing sensitivities about both reality and the subconscious, confronting trauma, anxiety, and awkwardness. The artist has said that his paintings serve as an honest expression of humanity’s shared human condition, where an attempt at confronting life – as well as seeing its humour– has been made.


In previous bodies of work, the artist considered his past, present, and future in the hope of learning about who he was and where he found himself in specific moments. His work is most fascinating when viewed across it's varied scope; in the relatively short span of time he’s been painting he’s fast-forwarded through many phases, including (but most certainly not limited to) depictions of beady-eyed people in swirling landscapes, a brief exploration in Cubism, characterful wild animals and peculiar still lifes.

 

The artist says: ‘My work is autobiographical in the context of my recovery and journey to being a more whole person. Painting has so many elements in it that I find effective at accessing a certain mood or energy. I don’t step back until I feel I have something to look at. I don’t edit my thoughts and have tried in the past to find the most awkward colours that work in harmony. I’m concerned with mental states. Human life is crude
and the beings in my paintings are my way of displaying the world’s agenda manifesting itself in a dichotomy of physical versus spirit.’ There’s a clearly sympathetic tone in his work, one with an honest attempt at understanding people.

 

Metelerkamp considers himself a student of painting and has never formally studied art. He enjoys experimenting and surprising himself. ‘If I knew what I was going to be painting a month from now I wouldn’t be happy,’ he says. John-Michael Metelerkamp only began painting five years ago. He recalls: ‘I have always been quite intimidated by painting, but I always wanted to paint. It all started with a push from my brother. He simplified it and said, ‘paint anything’, so I did. I can beat myself up sometimes for not having one style that signifies my work. But I am just doing what comes naturally to me.’

 

 

Keepers Series | 2017


With this body of work as with all my artistic practices, I undergo a process of deconstructing my past, present, and future in the hope of learning about who I am and where I find myself at the moment. The surface of anything is a mere manifestation of the viewer's
ideology in whatever form that takes. So I chose to represent the true self of the protagonist in an additional face of either blue, white or red. Colour plays a huge role in my work. I use it to create a juxtaposition between dark subject matter and my whimsical sense of humour.

 

The big forms and small figures are not totally aware of one another. A spiritual battle is taking place in these paintings. Although I am not a Christian I have read much of the bible. The subject of faith is brought up many times. Faith means belief. And perspective alters belief. So with most of my work, I analyze the subject of perspectives. Whether or not these opposing figures choose to acknowledge each other doesn’t change the fact that they do exist and will play a role in the story that unfolds.