My name is Corne Eksteen

I´m a visual artist from South Africa

Why did you become an artist?

I’m of the opinion that the need to create is the most fundamental, purest and highest of all human endeavours. Art is a calling and I heeded that call. Visual art today is a multi-disciplinary field, it has engrained in it all the humanities that I’ve always been interested in. One can’t truly be an artist without learning about and understanding Religion, Sociology, History, Philosophy, Language and Culture. As such it grants me a life of constant discovery, study and creation.

How did you get into art? How did it all start?

I’ve always been intensely interested in images. From as far back as I can remember, I was drawing, consuming books with images, magazines and pinned to what was then, very experimental television also known as pop music videos. I fell in love with the ability of images to tell stories and have always considered it a language all on its own. It wasn’t till I got to High School that I became aware of the “Art World” and the possibility that it could be a career. Having grown up in a very isolated rural area of South Africa, my first exposure to modern painting came as I was allowed to access the art history section of the local public library. We were not allowed access to these books up to a certain age, as they contained nudity. It was on that day that I went home with books on Diego Velázquez, Victor Vasarely and Roy Lichtenstein to tell my parents that I was to be an artist. They reluctantly had to let go of their dreams of having a Chartered Accountant or Pastor. In the 1980s it was also considered the most subversive and rebellious career choice one could make as it meant that most likely, you were getting ready to take on the establishment. Five years later, at the age of 19, I was admitted to the University of Pretoria Visual Arts Facility and the rest is history.

What was the highlight in your art career so far?

There’s been many milestones and achievements which each held a profound sense of accomplishment. I can’t pinpoint one and call it a highlight. Most of the time the real highlights in my life happen while I am alone, slaving away in the studio and when, in a spectacular moment, a painting, like magic, comes together and makes me gasp for air! Those are the moments I treasure and celebrate.

If you were not an artist - what would be your profession, what was your childhood dream if not being an artist?

I would definitely have ended up in an art, design or music related field. As a young teenager I wanted to produce Pop videos (good thing I didn’t pursue that - since MTV is dead) and there was a small moment where I wanted to be a Sound Engineer.

Who or what has inspired you most in your life?

In one word “Otherness.”
I discovered at a very young age that being different, an outsider, not fitting into mainstream norms and culture, has immense power. I draw on that energy every day.

Which person outside art do you admire? And for what?

David Lynch. His creative oeuvre covers such a vast number of disciplines and his ability to create anything from film to music while still remaining truly original is astounding. He’s been responsible for some of my favourite moments in cinematography and television. Lynch has also been a major influence in how I conceptually approach painting.

Which 5 things would you take with you to a desert island?

No! I would never go to a desert island! Thank you, I’d rather stay in my studio and get on with what I’m supposed to do.

Which three people you would like to have for an evening at your dinner table?

Gerhard Richter, Martin L. Gore and Plato

What would you regret at the end of your life not having done?

I would regret it if I didn’t contribute, even in the smallest way, to a contemporary or new African art narrative which could help put Africa centre stage in the world art scene.

What is the best work of art ever in your opinion and why?

Francis Bacon - Triptych, 1976
Bacon’s ability to transcend time while referencing Greek mythology and presenting the viewer with an oddly personal experience of his own tragedy is something that has always held appeal with me. The work is as fresh and relevant today as it was 40 years ago. His use of flat colour plains is also something that is central to my own work and visual language, thus making me feel an intense sense of connection with his work generally.

If you had the chance for a 1-year art residency which country would you choose and why?

Germany (Berlin)
I’ve travelled extensively and found the art scene in Berlin fascinating. It’s truly a boiling pot of cultures and ideas. The diversity of artists with different nationalities and artistic styles in the city is awe inspiring! If I could be anywhere it would be where the next chapter in world art history is being written.

How do you spend your time if you are not creating art – which other passions do you have?

I’m an obsessive music collector and is the proud owner of an extensive music collection. I’m currently riding the wave of the vinyl revival, often spending hours hunting down releases on vinyl that I previously only owned on CD.
My partner and I are also avid travellers and we are known to take up to 7 weeks at a time to travel though a certain part of the world. Our next planned trip is an in-depth 6 week exploration of India, Sri Lanka & Nepal.

My message to the world

This is the primary reason I paint. Colours are my words, brushes my microphone, canvas my amplifier. My paintings are my message to the world, they are flashing slogans, arias of song, headlines in bold print, pages of poetry and public confessions. They say everything I’ve ever wanted to say from many angles, from different perspectives, in many dialects. They talk about us, they speak my truth and beckons you to find yours.

Get in touch with me