my story

Born towards the tail end of the Sixties, I am a Cape Town-based artist who specialises in expressionist, abstract painting. I share my home with my husband and dogs and we love the outdoors - camping, hiking and mountain biking.


Graduated from Michaelis School of Fine Art in 1989:

Worked as a freelance illustration and art teacher for some years, recently shifted career back to fine arts and painting. Currently participating in various painting and drawing workshops and evaluating my creative process with one-on-one mentoring. Working towards group and a solo exhibitions..

Like most city dwellers, I live in an ordered way, and most daily tasks are of necessity structured. I recharge by taking a break and getting away into nature or building my garden. I soak up the smells and sounds of wind, sunshine and rain. These physical activities energise and inspire me, my my creative brain is stimulated and leaves me with the need to paint or draw. This is my happy place. 


The way I connect with my work on a spiritual and emotional level is hard to describe. 


My life experience has many colours - deep blue, thick brown and dense black; yet there are sparks of orange, yellow and green - the colours of hope, delight and surprise. My inspiration flows form a place where as I stand in open, vast natural places, looking at the land, sky and stars, far away from city noise, pollution, violence and petty distractions, I am in awe and carried beyond myself. Imagine the raw forces that separated the heavens and the earth. The force and movement of earth and rock when water carved out valleys and canyons, the movement in the great deep that formed mountains. My life is put into perspective and I am recharged, I am a part of something bigger than myself. Through painting I share the invisible thread of trust I have in the Creator. I believe that we all have a bigger purpose than ourselves, our minds and bodies were designed to connect to something more. Living it out becomes evident most noticeably in the small attitudes and things we do. Being kind, patient, humble, generous.


I am drawn to create expressive, abstract landscapes. There is a duality in the world that challenges me: our world was perfectly created, and yet our world is very broken. I oscillate between destruction and beauty, chaos and hope, the recognisable and the abstract. 


Sorrow and loss is a compamion to all. How then do I live with joy, hope and contentment? Make sure that every day matters. God’s goodness can be found anywhere if one looks for it. In a world under strain there is beauty to be found. 

Life takes each of us through a unique landscape of relationships and events. Through the vehicle of paint I record the intricate, insignificant and subconscious elements that have grown me into who I am. The invisible issues of my spirit, heart, mind, things I wish for and dream about have many colours: deep blue, earthy brown and imenetrable black. Sparks of orange, yellow and green, the colours of hope, energy and surprise.

I would liken the journey through life to being a passenger on a fast moving train, occasionally taking time and making the effort to get off, stretch your legs and savour the passing smells and sounds. As we move through our days, we are often unconscious and detached. Art is a way for me to stop and to be present. The process of creating helps me to live a conscious life and to connect more deeply with others. Compared to eternity, our lives make a small mark on the time-line of eternity, we travel through without taking notice of the details, yet an ethereal element of our presence remains after we have moved on … silent ghosts of things said and actions taken. I strive to capture and record those many intricate, minute and invisible elements, where they can find their soft voice in my work.


Making art calms the rough seas of my daily inner journey. Whatever the weather, my state of mind, the location, the season, it percolates and bubbles to the surface and finds expression in my work. The process of creating helps me to slow down, live mindfully and connect more deeply with my world. Painting and drawing is therapy and a compulsion as much as it is play. Through the act of visual creation, I process the exterior world and make my interior world visible. There is a tension in the making of art: seen one way it is a luxurious and indulgent activity; on the other hand it becomes a conduit for fear, frustration and heartache. My use of intense colour is intuitive, colour can be “felt” (rough or sticky, others as smooth and uniform). Each colour has a “sound” which it calls for a response: how would you express bright yellow? 


Kandinsky said:  “Color is the keyboard, the eyes are the hammers, the soul is the piano with many strings. The artist is the hand which plays, touching one key or another, to cause vibrations in the soul.”



Pay attention to the sound of the early bird, the rain pattering on the roof, the movement of storm clouds, a sunset or raucous laughter. I get out, I slow down, I listen to the sounds on the breeze in the stillness, I am aware of the sun on my arms. I smell and feel the paint on my hands. I breathe deeply. I tune in to my senses which trigger memories of joy, sadness, wonder and loss - absorbing them into my consciousness. We all leave something behind in theis world, an ethereal element of our existense, a type of legacy. I call these the “quiet ghosts of our delights and disappointments”. This is what I paint.


Our world is transient. We live with the remnants and legacies of beauty and disaster left behind by others. My process expresses not only the state of flux in and the decay of the world, but also the intricate beauty in things. What was created perfectly and beautiful is now hardly recognizable. Selfishness, arrogance, greed, hunger for power and pride is the sorry state of the human heart. Social injustice, poverty, pollution, agression, destructive behaviour and brokenness. That is what we see in this world. In a world filled with pain and disappointment I try to communicate some of the hope in which I believe. 


There is a connection between my process and my work’s message, the underlying theme in my work is the passage of time, what is and what was.


Most of my paintings start on an unprimed canvas employing a variety of materials. Acrylic washes, ink, water, charcoal, oil pastel, or all of them! As the work progresses, the marks and the media I combine take on a life of their own. I don’t have a picture in mind before I start working. I give my subconscious mind and imagination full creative freedom and the “making” of the art becomes a meditative experience. When I work, there is no dividing line between what Im doing and what the painting is becoming.


With my particular mark, a brushstroke, a smudge or a pastel line - unique, individal and personal - I journal and capture snippets of the journey. As minutes and hours pass, I make mark upon mark and cover a surface, creating a recording of what goes on inside my spirit and mind. As days and weeks pass I form shapes, build up and break down layers of paint, dissolve pigments and scrub off the surface - the final image begins to reveal itself. The painting becomes infused with and reflects my interpretation of the world, my thoughts and my emotions. Layers of paint and texture reveal and conceal traces of something left behind, colours, shapes and gestural marks form images, layers upon layers of paint and texture leave traces of something morphed and barely recognisable. In the creation and destruction of my art something is revealed, only for it to disappear and become something else. Sometimes the image is lost completely, yet an etherial elelement of what was remains: a ghost, a memory, an impression, an essence, there might be a ghost of a face or a landscape, an elusive image that morphs and becomes abstract. 


I like to work with what I resist, for example, I will push a colour I don’t like or or recycle old encrusted paintings that didn’t work until a picture and a story emerges. I make, I destroy, I apply and I remove. All my senses are involved, I have to smell the paint and feel the media in my hands. Wondering: what happens when they are mixed together? How will they flow or run with gravity? The unpredictable becomes my artistic challenge. With each work I learn something new, my curiosity and sense of play is awakened and something of myself transfers onto the canvas. I love the process of discovery as my artwork emerges from within each piece. The more media there is on the surface (paste, glaze, washes, crayon marks), the more interaction there is between myself and the work, it becomes a two-way conversation. At a certain point of uncertainty it is the liveliness of the textured layers that will direct the final markings. Through painting, I create order on a two dimensional surface while processing my subconscious thoughts and feelings.


Sadly, sometimes the entire work is spoilt. Painting is a process of continuously stepping out and making mistakes. Mistakes are opportunities to push further or to start again, there is the constant fear of personal failure, career failure or a single work that fails. Failure has many faces and an artwork can quickly be destroyed by overworking, or falling short of my vision, or by losing my inspiration altogether. As tough as it seems, failure is a door that must be opened in order to progress, to change direction, or to rework the failed piece into something new. It has been argued that while making art, one has to keep making mistakes. In my case, mistakes are my greatest teachers. Some artists also consider the accidental to be vital to the creative process, and this is particularly true about mine. The ‘art’ is to control the process of fashioning the artwork and its accompanying accidents into a unified and satisfying whole.


My method? Just paint, “do it scared”, because the right moment or opportunity will never magically appear. Despite the fear of failure or being de-masked as “not a true artist” I will always work hard at becoming better and more authentic at what I do. 

My wish is that each viewer will have a unique encounter with my work, that they will be inspired and move increasingly distracted people to stop, feel something and connect to something deeper. 


My intention is to produce work that is without pretence; work that is honest, truthful and raw. At its best an artwork can mean all these things at once, even as sometimes I must acknowledge my fear that my artwork is merely a colourful object in itself. The key is to use doubt as a spur to grow, to strive always to become a better artist.


The viewer has to form their own interpretation, but I hope to give the gift of pleasure, contentment, surprise, wonder or a deep sense of beauty, and when the ambiguous, enigmatic elements of the work reach down into their imagination, they may find an echo of themselves there.

I give the viewer the freedom to assign their own meaning to each piece. All thet abstract art requires is an open mind and a big imagination.


“When I look up at the heavens, and I see the work of Your fingers, I think of man.

And I say: ‘What is man, that You remember him? 

What is all humanity that You take notice of it?’ 

And yet, You made him just a bit less than God Himself.”


On making art:

It is my happy place.

It is the one place where I feel most comfortable in my own skin.

It is a compulsion.

It is therapy.

It is being “in the moment”.

It is outside of time - it takes me away from time and the clock.

It is a conversation between God and myself.

It reflects Gods creative power as I am made in His image.


  • Association of Visual Arts, Cape Town, 1995, 2016.
  • Various group exhibitions, Cape Town.
  • East West Art Exchange, London, 2016.
  • IS Art Gallery, Franschhoek, 2016.
  • Mullers Gallery, Cape Town, April 2017.
  • State of the Art, Cape Town, 2017.
  • DF Contemporary Winter Exhibition, Cape Town, June 2017.
  • Association of Visual Arts Members’ Exhibition, Cape Town, July 2017.
  • art.b Gallery Vuleka Art Competition and Exhibition (3rd Prize winner), August 2017.
  • art.b Gallery 2018 Member’s Exhibition.
  • art.b Gallery April 2018 Three Graces (Women’s Group Exhibition).
  • Gallery ONE11, December 2018, Group Show
  • Gerrit Dyman, Gallery January 2019, Group Show
Copyright @JanetteWright