René Snyman is a young professional artist living and working in Sir Lowry’s Pass, Western Cape in South Africa. Growing up on a Kalahari farm near Upington, her close interaction with nature shaped her remarkable powers of intimate observation. Since discovering her drawing talent as a young child, René dedicated herself to working hard and developing her skills.
Initially self-taught, she received her first formal training at the Orange Girls High School in Bloemfontein under Marion Barnard, still a mentor and close friend of the artist. She went on to study fine arts at the Free State Technikon and in 2002 moved to Johannesburg to pursue her career as a professional artist.
Her paintings explore the effects light on various surfaces like soil, skin or water and the interplay between different temperatures of colors. The artist draws her inspiration from nature, her childhood and her daily life experiences. Her specific interests include the following: Landscapes, as long as she can keep it close and personal. Portraits, for conveying the subtle messages and emotions people communicate through their eyes, hands and gestures. Farm animals, which she has come to love and understand since her childhood. She paints what is in her heart!
She never limits herself to a particular size, but normally works in a range of different sizes. She particular prefers life-size. Initially, she will decide in which medium the work should be drawn or painted. Then she spends a lot of time exploring different compositions. Finally, she decides what size would do the artwork justice. She usually allows the artwork itself to “dictate” the composition and size. Some artwork call for a direct, huge and in-your-face approach; others require a minute and intimate touch.
It is almost second nature to her to be always on the lookout for a “subject” or theme, anything that “begs” to be drawn or painted. Often it is just the way the light falls and plays on a certain object that excites her.
She says: “One intuitively knows a masterpiece is going to be ‘born’ when one stands in front of a scene and tells oneself: ‘Wow! just imagine this scene in a painting!’ This includes all the detail, how one can get lost in the artwork and overwhelm the viewer with it.”
As an artist she always looks for the underlying message locked up in the created world around us. “In order to understand and appreciate my work someone shouldn’t try to find out what the subject/object is all about, but for what it communicates, in other words what message it has,” she says.
René describes the essence of her artwork as intimacy: “this would be the one word to describe my paintings- intimacy with the landscape, figures and the animals I portray. Everything that has a story to tell and has the element of life captures my attention.”
Her aim is to draw attention to the beauty of creation with “in-your-face” compositions, never depicting nature as something far away. She likes to fill her surface with the subject and display it properly, to force people to see God’s creation in a new and close-up way.
René had poor eye sight since she was a little girl; it was only discovered when she was about eleven years old. So growing up in the Kalahari desert close to the earth she imagined worlds on the sand and between the grasses. She learned to see the world from ground level and in detail. That which was far away, never registered or meant anything to her because it was completely out of focus. This disability had a major influence on her career as an artist. “Until this day this is how I perceive and relate to things around me. I love them to tower above me and be right up front.”
“Communication, as well as intimate and personal stories, also happen in a close environment- the further something is removed from one in space, the more impersonal it become; the same with painting.” Her work is more interpersonal and interactive and less “distant” or removed from the viewer/observer.
On finishing a work of art, René distances herself from it so that it may fulfill its purpose. “The purpose of my work is to bless others, to feed their hunger for beauty, truth and to communicate something of God that must change their lives. To be able to understand my work one must not look at what it is but for what it communicates.”
My work is a dedication to the great things my Father is done in me and through me. It is a display of His grace in my life to everybody that sees beyond the here and now and can see where this journey is going to take me. My aim as an artist is not to be a people or Gallery pleaser. I paint only what is in my heart.. Everything that has a story to tell and has the element of life and intimacy. I pray that my work will be blessing to you and that it would touch and change your life. May it give you the gift of beauty and truth.
“And I have filled him with the Spirit of God, in wisdom, in understanding, in knowledge, and, in all manner of workmanship… And I have put wisdom in the hearts of all the gifted artisans, that they make all that I have commanded…”
Exsodus 31: 3, 4 & 6
A great master said…
“To the very young then, I would fain offer one or two matters for thought, if, perchance, they will hearken to one who has grown old in unwavering sympathy with their struggles and doubts. I would beg them to keep ever before their eyes the vital truth that sincerity is the well-spring of all lasting achievement, and that no good thing ever took root in untruth or self-deception.
I would urge them to remember that if every excellent work is stamped with the personality of its author, no work can be enduring that is stamped with a borrowed stamp; and that; therefore, their first duty is to see that the thoughts, the emotions, the impressions they fix on the canvas are in very truth their own thoughts, their own emotions, their own spontaneous impressions, and not those of others: for work that does not spring from the heart has no roots, and will of certainty wither and perish.
The other maxim also I would urge on them -that true genius knows no hurry, that patience is of its essence, and thoroughness its constant mark; and lastly, I would ask them to believe that the gathered experience of past ages is a precious heritage and not an irksome load; and that nothing will fortify them better for the future, and free development, than the reverent and loving study of the past.”
Lord Frederick Leighton, 1893