Johannesburg residents may remember this artist from his days of selling paintings at the Rooftop Market in Rosebank, in the late 90s. His exhibitions consisted of huge pop art works, reflecting retro ‘50s kitsch and Chagall-like love themes.
The artist recalls: ‘I used to paint all week and on Sunday mornings would take the still very wet paintings, piled onto the roof of my car and sell them the same day. My best paintings have been done under pressure – they represent a massive outpouring of passion for life – the response then was overwhelming and I couldn’t keep up with the orders. Many of those collectors have since moved to Australia, but I still ship works to my loyal supporters and their families and friends over there.
‘Another art collector, Jan Petersen, whom I met in the Rosebank days, has shipped my paintings for his home gallery in Hamburg, Germany. I was invited to visit in 2009 and discovered I had quite a following, and was taken around to homes and offices to be surprised by the sight of my creations hanging there.
‘Seeking a quieter life, in 2002 I relocated to the Northern Cape, and was employed by the Department of Sport, Arts and Culture to establish craft projects as part of its poverty alleviation programme. Working with disadvantaged communities, I learned an enormous amount from these humble yet special people, and the backdrop of Calvinia provides me with amazing photo opportunities of the landscape. Many of these images still provide me with reference material.’
Finally, in 2004, Alves made the move to Cape Town to find that surviving as an artist is tough in the Mother City; there is enormous competition and not many art buyers. He found himself moving into digital illustration as a completely self-taught freelance graphic designer.
‘Working like this has influenced my art. I like everything and find it difficult to stick to one theme, style or medium – with sensual threads of colour and passion that run through it all. I feel that churning out the same old art leads to stagnation, while innovation and experimenting with new media keeps it fresh. Often I will recycle my paintings into digital art and also paint from my digital designs. People have a hard time getting their head around digitally produced art, but for me it’s all the same, whether it’s painted or Photoshopped. I maintain that each new artwork took all 47 years of my life to incubate and breathe life into. And I think South Africa will eventually catch up with the first world where digital art is huge.
‘I estimate there are at least 5 000 paintings all over the world that I have created over the years, I always welcome long-lost clients sending me photos of the paintings they still have and cherish; each artwork tells a story and speaks to the person they end up with. For me to see my old works again is amazing.
‘I feel it’s my role as an artist to decorate the planet with love and positive images in order to change lives. There is so much ugliness and suffering in the world. Creativity comes from a dark place, a need to fix everything that is wrong on the planet, I like to take sad and negative experiences, and channel these emotions into positive manifestations.
‘There’s nothing better on a rainy Sunday afternoon, than to sift through old books and scan random images that catch my eye such as retro kitsch from the ‘50s, pop art, old movie annuals, Bollywood posters, old Mills and Boon covers, and start playing with them on Coral Draw, on my touch screen ‘dream machine’ – and eventually produce vibrant collages. From spending many years as a painter with brush and canvas, it’s fantastic to be able to make use of modern technology. The possibilities are endless.
‘I now live and work from my studio in Gordons Bay. Sunset Beach Studio is a great venue for regular home exhibitions and I open the home gallery to the interested public. I’m extremely lucky to have a wonderful view of the whole of False Bay, the Peninsula and the Helderberg; so the inspiration is endless. I really feel like I have come home and am at peace, yet I have so much inside that I still want to express’.