Dialogue 30 | Leon Bellingan

Artist statement

With my art, I try to convey a feeling of serene loneliness and stillness, the inevitable passage of time and nature, and seeing beauty in decay. I am especially inspired by the desert, which I find the most beautiful of landscapes, and reinforces the philosophy of “Less is More”.  While my work can contain a lot of detail, I try to keep the overall composition as simple as possible. I would describe my work as meta-surrealistic: the landscape and the subject matter are often juxtaposed. 

Could you introduce yourself? Your background and the artistic path, when and why you became an artist?

I have been drawing since before I can remember. My mother was artistic, she taught me the basic skills of painting. At school my greatest interest was in art, and I went on to study graphic design, painting and sculpture in Pretoria. After that I worked in Thematic Art Directing for a few years, but I decided that an office job just wasn’t for me, and that I would much rather be doing what I love the most: painting. 

Lighthouse Navigation
Oil on canvas
200 cm x 80 cm

Your work is extremely photographic, could we name your style as realism? Or how would you describe it?

I would describe my work as meta-surrealistic. I often paint unlikely scenes as realistic as possible, tricking the viewer into believing what they see could be real, though somewhat odd or out-of-place. 

Could you tell us more about the message behind your work? What should recipient experience when looking at your art? 

A few of my works were inspired by a severe drought in the Western Cape, when Cape Town was headed towards “Day Zero”: the day the city’s water would run out. Luckily that day never came, but the threat of climate change remains. Some of my paintings could be seen as a warning for Earth’s own Day Zero. 

Chrysler Building, New York, United States of America
1800 cm x 1350 cm
Oil on canvas

We would like to hear the explanation of “Last Quiver Tree” from the artist’s mouth! 

Kolmanskop is a ghost town in southern Namibia, overrun by the desert. I have done paintings of the town, but the road to get there was the inspiration for this painting. At first the desert is peppered by hills, scrubs and quiver trees. The further you drive, the less there is, until there is only a vast expanse of nothingness. I tried to sum up the whole experience in the painting. 

The Last Quiver Tree, llKaras Region, Namibia
Oil on canvas
150 cm x 150 cm

What is your source for motivation to create? 

I just love creating, and the best part is seeing peoples’ reactions and enjoyment of something I created. It’s very satisfying and fulfilling. 

Could you share with us your current or upcoming exhibitions or projects? 

I’m currently working on a few pieces, and have a few more completed works. With the pandemic, it’s quite hard to hold a physical exhibition, so I’m trying to sell them online. The online sales are going a little slow, as I’m quite new to it, but I guess I’m learning a lot about online marketing!

Wookie and Homer
Oil on canvas
80 cm x 60 cm

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