Gavin Risi’s art studio is hidden in a permaculture food forest garden situated next to a river. He lives there with his childhood sweetheart and her two children. His own daughter was abducted from his care at age three and is a victim of Parental Alienation Syndrome. He tried for over a decade to fight for her rights but was unable to help her.
He has created art since childhood and this has been his only profession. He speaks of creative action as a visual dialogue of listening.
A meditative way of creating art that seems effortless and experienced as his one constant in our world of perpetual change. A going with the flow activity that is random and uncontrollable.
From a young age he knew he had to keep the integrity of this dialogue separate and intact, away from certain art teachings that were not in sync with the origin of his passion and its accompanying energy. This intuitive gut instinct of his leads to an authenticity that demands the pursuit of originality. The result is an art that is revolutionary, one that presents us with a new way of looking at art.
His paintings are a layering of structures and forms with organised spaces that have a function. A useful art that places the viewer in the role of creator. It is a perceptual frontier where illusions, visions, hallucinations, images and insights are allowed to materialise.
A central reason for this is that he has created the surface as a ‘substance’ and not a picture. This functioning quality stems from our innate visual need to make sense of the world.
His earliest memory relevant to this new expression reveals the power of our childhood experiences to form a lifelong passion. He remembers his mother and himself lying flat on the grass looking up at the passing clouds and discovering a whole host of animals and creatures in their changing form. This is known as pareidolia where our perception struggles to interpret a nebulous stimulus.
A further insight happened when he first saw an Edvard Munch painting in London and was shocked when he suddenly met the presence of the artist and not the painting of a house. Interpreting this magic of transcendence through material as a place where truth and skill meet.
This ability for artists to imbue a material substance with a powerful, unexplainable communication inspired him to feel that it is possible to use the visual language as stepping stones along a spiritual path. A vision that would teach by allowing the viewer to transcend.
Another significant influence were the works of Salvador Dali that pointed to the freedom of form to behave as a number of realities.
He often lived in the same room as he worked and thinks this resulted in a need for an art that would live longer visually.
His collage artwork titled EMIT is based on his oil painting concept but instead of paint he uses Time magazine images.
Although never completed because of the expense of renting a large interior space and still a work in progress this artwork has been exhibited in a number of places for many years. It was the only artwork chosen from Durban for a Spier art competition. A while later and slightly larger it became part of a traveling exhibition titled Twenty: Art in the Time of Democracy, Contemporary Art From South Africa, exhibited at the Appalachian State University, North Carolina, USA for six months. The American students there chose EMIT out of the other 150 artworks to base their workshop on. This exhibition then went on to be exhibited at The Pretoria Art Museum and the University of Johannesburg Art Gallery.
Prior to this EMIT was exhibited at Young Blood Arts and Culture Development Foundation Cape Town and at Grande Provence Art Gallery, Franschhoek, Western Cape for two years.
His first solo exhibition 'The Introspective Mirror', was sponsored by BMW at the Auto Atlantic Art Gallery Cape Town in 1990 .
Except for one painting Gavin Risi is unaware as to who buys his works as they are all sold through art galleries.
In 1992 British Petroleum acquired one of his works from The Visual Arts Foundation Gallery in Johannesburg.
He has exhibited and sold works at Hyde Park Art Gallery, Sandton Art Gallery, Artspace Durban Art Gallery
Gallery 88 Paarl, Ebony Art Gallery, Art @ the waterfront and Grande Provence Art Gallery.
A solo sculpture exhibition at Creation Wines, Hermanus Fynarts Festival and painting sculpture and collage exhibition at Grande Provence Art Gallery, Franschhoek.
One year he decided to enter a few art competitions receiving a Certificate of recognition awarded for the artwork 'Metaphorical African' at the Young Concrete Sculptor Awards Art Competition sponsored by PPC Cement.
Finalist at Vuleka Art Competition, group exhibition at Art.b Art Gallery Bellville Cape Town.
Finalist at Hermanus Fine Arts Competition.
Solo exhibitions at the Nederburg Knysna Art Experience, another at the Old Arts Gallery in the University of Pretoria curated byThea van Schalkwyk and Carfax Art Gallery.
Informal exhibitions in Barcelona Spain and London.
Gavin knows that the perfect way to study art is from the original. This he did at every opportunity for over seven years.
He visited galleries, exhibitions and sculpture parks in London, Florence, Rome, Paris, Madrid, Barcelona, Montreal, New York and Washington. He travelled to Belfast, Greece, Turkey, Amsterdam and Peru.
Studied fine art at The Byam Shaw College of Art London.
Diploma course in fine art at the Durban Technikon, some of his art teachers there were Penny Siopis and Andries Botha.
Johannesburg Art, Ballet, Music and Drama School for three years where he obtained distinctions in all art subjects.
Gavin John Risi