He starts with thin, watery layers for a background, sketches an image and then starts working in thicker paint -layers and layers of paint. At some stage, he turns his work upside down to get a different perspective. From there, the artwork guides itself. The process could end with a close-up portrait that stares into your soul or an angel so delicate and intimate that you feel impolite staring too long. The possibilities are endless. This is the artistic process of Gerhard Snyman, known artistically as Gerart, the Pretoria-born artist who has made a name for himself in the South African art world.
Surprisingly, Gerart was only introduced to the world of art after high school. Due to a lack of financial support, the artist did not take part in any art lasses in primary school, nor in high school. “I hoped to do something in the arts if possible but financially it did not seem possible,” the artist explains. “The future looked dull and uncertain. I knew I had something to give but never dreamed of becoming a successful artist at all.” However, the universe seemed to have other plans for Gerart. After school, with very little exposure to art, he enrolled at the Tshwane University of Technology, subsequently graduating with a diploma in Graphic Design in 1995. After graduating, Gerart entered the world of graphic design, illustrating and cartooning as he explored various corners of the art world.
Perhaps what makes Gerart’s art so enticing is that he is constantly exploring through his work. Through experimentation with different mediums, techniques and subjects, the artist ensures a constant evolution of his work. Through his search for his true artistic self, Gerart found himself naturally progressing towards the discipline of acrylic on canvas. Painting with confidence and explosive passion, it takes only a brief glance at Gerart’s work to conclude that there is more to this artist than what meets the eye. The artist plays and explores with both paint brush and pallet knife, demonstrating an unmistakable unique style which can only be owed to the fact that he is truly an expressionist at heart. Through vivid brush strokes, vibrant and exciting colour combinations cover Gerart’s pages, coming together in a way that both startles and relaxes viewers. Although Gerart has worked in and explored a multitude of both subjects and mediums, the artist favours portraits, figures and wild life created with acrylic paint on stretched canvas. “I favour brush and pallet knife as my tool of creation,” he notes. One category of portraits which Gerart explores are those of angels. Raw and captivating, the artist views them as messengers. “My perception of angels is that they are messengers. They tell the naked truth, shedding light on the beauty of men and women and their innocence.” Gerart’s angels, sensual in form and gentle in gaze, look up at viewers evoking an emotion rather difficult to put into words. The boldness of the brush stroke in no way detracts from the delicate nature of the angel. Gerart’s distinctive technique and use of colour result in works of art that exude an exotic passion and capture the very essence of sensual power that any form possesses.
When asked to list a few words to describe his paintings, Gerart answers with vibrant, bold and exciting. The artist elaborates by explaining why these descriptive words come to mind for him. “Vibrant because I mainly use bright colours -every colour carries its own emotion, so by using many different colour combinations in a multitude of ways, it stimulates the eyes, moves the mind and hopefully touches the heart.” On the element of boldness, the artist explains why he favours intrepid colours. “I aim to use strong and bold colours to draw my viewer closer.” When it comes to the excitement factor, Gerart provides an honest and refreshing answer. “In the process of creating an artwork, there are a lot of spontaneous happenings that unexpectedly show themselves. That gets me excited, as well as by the feedback of art critics.” When asked how he would describe his artistic style to someone who could not see, Gerart offers an oxymoron which in itself makes perfect sense when looking at his work. “It is like holding a new object in your hand and at the same time feeling something different with each of your ten fingers. You know what it is, but you are wondering how it was created.” He elaborates further by using another metaphor. “It is similar to listening to a full harmonic orchestra -you appreciate every instrument on its own while still hearing the whole harmony.”
It took Gerhard Synman 12 years of exploration in the world of art to find his artistic voice. From standing on dusty roads exhibiting his art to opening his own art gallery in Franschhoek, the artist has paid his dues. Gerart has gone from a struggling yet inspired artist to one who has shown his work internationally, earning himself a well-deserved place among some of the most successful artists in the world.