At 23 years of age, Louis Minnaar is creating artworks that read as parables of a young man’s spiritual journey. It’s his creation of a paranormal world populated by erring human specimens, arachnid flowers, flocks of wide-eyed birds and a lonely, disjointed horse. Jenna Mervis thought she’d take a closer look…
The world according to Louis Minnaar is no pleasure park. I find myself standing in a bleak landscape with spider-legged, beaked flowers towering above. A churchman rides his flying steed through the sky, shooting these weird, menacing giants.
‘Flower-Spider depicts a war-like struggle between two opposing sides.
I don’t depict war just for the sake of depicting war, but because it is a reality in my daily life – little wars against racism, false identities, lies, lust etcetera.
The word ‘parable’ comes to mind – a narrative of imagined events used to typify moral or spiritual relations. Using macabre characters with the oddities of circus performers, Louis’s allegorical scenes tell eccentric stories of good and evil beneath their sinister, satirical façade. ‘I guess on the surface it might seem dark, but there is always hidden meaning in my work that reflects hope and love,’ he says.
A flock of black birds soars through the sky above me. They resemble a shoal of airborne piranhas, each with a large human eye – consistent symbols used throughout Louis’ work. ‘Eyes have been fascinating me ever since I can remember,’ he explains.
Three of the birds trail off and circle around a withered old man caught like a laboratory specimen in a pitcher half-filled with water. This is New-Old Man, representing a baptism that Louis once witnessed. ‘I often use birds to depict angels, the Holy Spirit, or members of the church. In this case they suggest the Trinity.’
The black birds and New-Old Man are spraypaint and ink drawings on wood, digitally edited with other elements added in Photoshop and Illustrator. Louis’ technique can best be described as a layercake: a base of ink, pencil or tablet drawings with consecutive layers of digital detail applied in Photoshop, Corel Painter, Illustrator, Freehand or Maya (for 3D work).
‘I always start out by writing down a range of possible directions, using keywords and doodles. From there, I eliminate most of the clutter to reach a basic concept. I then start drawing, developing and finally illustrating.’ His technique has been fine-tuned by his art-steeped education (Pro Arte Alphen park and currently, Open Window Arts Academy) along with hours of relentless drawing.
Louis’ satirical world is tempered with whimsy. I discover this upon encountering his tall Horse-creature marooned on a green hill beneath an orange, wood-grained sky. This creature is eccentric – part-bird, part-horse with visible joints like a hand-crafted wooden toy.
I treasure individuality and everything it entails, so I often just depict characters that are, or might have been,
I bend down and notice a germinating seed. It is One Small Secular Seed, a story about choosing the wrong path, investing in the material rather than the spiritual world. This is Louis at his most didactic. The seed’s dark and twisted form represents death. He explains, “The guy in the seed is chasing his own tail. He is searching for truth in the world and does not find it because ultimately, without God, he is alone.
A current of darkness runs through much of the work emerging from young South African graphic artists, with Louis Minnaar being no exception. Yet, as he has demonstrated in his expertly executed creations, there is hidden light in his dark art.
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