Interview: Jaco du Plessis
Luca Curci talks with Jaco du Plessis during CONTEMPORARY VENICE 2021 – 8TH EDITION, at THE ROOM Contemporary Art Space.
Born in 1981 in Witbank, I completed a National Higher Diploma from The Open Window in Pretoria in 2003 where I was awarded the Top Visual Arts Student with a focus in printmaking. It is here that I studied under printmakers Diane Victor and Christiaan Diedericks that remain great inspirations to this day. In 2018 I won the Rosendal Art Gallery’s Miniature Print competition and in 2020 I participated in the Rust-en-Vrede gallery‘s all-male Boys don’t cry Exhibition. In May 2021 I was named as a finalist in the Prisma Art Prize, an international art competition and, was invited to exhibit in the 14th Annual Joburg Fringe Art Exhibition.
Luca Curci – How did you get to your current artistic practice?
Jaco du Plessis – I was introduced to Printmaking and Linocuts in particular in Grade 7 of High School. My first ever linocut was a 9-colour reduction print and it was love at first carve! I continued with printmaking all through High school and eventually had printmaking as a speciality when doing my Visual Communications qualification after school. I transitioned into black and white prints shortly after that first reduction cut and I can honestly say that when I make these prints everything just makes sense when it’s done in black and white.
LC – Which art themes do you pursue? What is your preferred subject, if there is any?
JDP – My work is strongly influenced by the world and my place as a man in it. Growing up in a fairly conservative White Afrikaans culture I was questioning the world around me from an early age. My work, therefore, explores themes of masculinity, vulnerability and how these two affect not only ourselves but the external world around us.
LC – How do you choose your subjects? Is it a reasoned or an instinctive process?
JDP – As my work predominantly features males the choice of male to use for a specific work mainly depends on the underlying theme of the work. I like the juxtaposition of using a “manly” subject to display contradictory emotions and vice versa. A lot of the time my relationship with the subject will also affect the way the work translates to the paper, I like knowing who the person is that I will use in my work, how they think, and what their lives are like.
LC – What are your thoughts while you paint? Do you have any habits or rituals while you work?
JDP – When I sit down to carve a piece there is always the thought of “don’t screw this up” and insecurity that presents itself when you start out doing something that you truly love. I am happy to say that this feeling doesn’t last very long, and a great cathartic wave moves over me, clearing my mind, the world becomes still, and for those few hours, I experience total calmness, total bliss. As a hyperactive person, this feeling is one that doesn’t happen very often and thus, I cherish it. I would love to say that I have a few rituals when I get stuck into the carving and creating process but alas it’s just me, the lino and my trusty carving tool – I also only use one specific Essdee carving tool.
LC – How do you feel when you see your work completed?
JDP – For a print artist there is great excitement when you lift the blanket of the printing press and for a second you stare at the paper, thinking, hoping that when you lift the paper your vision would have translated as you saw it in your mind. Slowly you lift the paper and there it is. For me, it’s a moment of pure ecstasy, and it doesn’t just end with the first print. Each one in the edition causes this elation me.
LC – Do you agree with our vision of art and what do you think about the theme of the festival?
JDP – When I saw the theme, mixing identities, it was like the universe was telling me this is the exhibition for you. My Augend & Addend series was exploring themes of how we as people have more than one side to us and how we transverse our lives trying to find a balance between these identities and living our lives to the fullest.
LC – Can you explain something about the artworks you have in our exhibition?
JDP – Lately, I have been fascinated with the duality of life, in particular when it comes to us as humans. I started to think about this duality and how we sometimes think of the two parts as separate, yet we as humans are rarely one-sided beings. This led me to the terms Augend and Addend and how in mathematics they are the two digits that you would add together to get to your answer. 1 + 2 = 3 . 1 being the augend, and 2 being the addend. The series then takes on the combined form resulting in the duality being shown as the complete person, two sides making a completely new well-rounded person. Augend & Addend I: In the first of the series, we deal with the concept of Peace and War. As people, we are all born peacefully. We don’t have thoughts of violence or the need for destruction, but as we grow older this changes as we adapt to the world we live in, and sometimes as a result of these external influences we see this peacefulness being replaced with the need to fight, to survive. In the same way, those who might appear to be peaceful might have tendencies to think about fighting in a moment and yet we don’t always see this, that part of them is still there. AAI then shows us how this duality merges to create an image of a full person, one with both Peace and War. Augend & Addend II: The second of the three works see the concepts of The Still and The Raging coming together. Fiery people are very often vocal and loud, and yet even these outspoken extroverts have moments when they retreat away from the world that they become calmer, quieter, still. In this same way, you find that quiet people have raging storms inside them, that they battle on a daily basis, and yet to most people they appear to be like the duck – calm on the surface, yet busy and frantic below. Augend & Addend III: In the final of the series, we come full circle with the ideas of Chains and Freedom. Much like how the concepts of the earlier works intertwine with each other we see here how freedom and constraints come together to create a whole well-rounded man once again. The idea of freedom can’t exist on its own without the notion of being bound, constrained, and chained. And it is this notion of not having one without the other that makes us as humans one of the most complex species on the planet. We are forever trying to better, change or reinvent ourselves, yet sometimes all we need to do is to embrace the Augend, trust the Addend for us to be true to who we are and who we can become.
LC – Did you enjoy cooperating with us?
JDP – The whole team that I have been working with and in particular Giulia Tassi has been fantastic in the way in which they have guided me through the process and participation in the exhibition – well done!
LC – What is your idea about ITSLIQUID GROUP?
JDP – I think the work the group is doing is outstanding in the promotion of the arts and bringing art to the world. As an artist from South Africa, the platform that the ITSLIQUID group has created has opened the door for my work to be seen by people that I wouldn’t have otherwise reached.