While diamonds are a girl’s best friend, they’ve been Kurt Pio’s muse for his latest pieces of art. Cut and painted in Cape Town, they are now shining bright with two of his other collections at a gallery in Antwerp.
Antwerp – the city of diamonds – is shining brighter than ever since Kurt Pio’s visit, as he’s exhibitioning his latest artwork at Graanmarkt 13. The South African painter, for ever inspired by Cape Town, bridges with this exposition the cultural differences between two very distant cities and it’s beautiful. Diamonds may be forever, but the unifying power of Kurt Pio’s art is above all magical.
These Diamonds you’ve painted, I bet it’s not a coincidence that you’re exhibiting them in Antwerp?
“It’s indeed because of the diamonds that I’m here but it’s thanks to a friend of mine that I got here. Every two years or so we meet and end up talking about doing a project together. We always come up with the greatest ideas and concepts but somehow we never elaborate on them. Until recently.”
“By the time I finished the diamond paintings, my friend settled down in Antwerp. He kind of made this exhibition happen as he’s the one who connected the dots.”
“He was like “you’ve painted diamonds, Antwerp is the diamond capital of the world, we should do an exhibition for you in Antwerp”. It’s my first visit to Antwerp and my first international exhibition as well.”
Do you think you’ll be adding Antwerp to your list of inspiring places after your visit?
“Yes definitely! That’s exactly the thing I love about travelling. It’s very inspiring for my work. I get to meet amazing people like diamond dealers with a keen interest in cutting diamonds. One of them actually helped me out with cutting the forms for my diamond paintings. None of them are symmetrical but each of them are precisionally cut with a modest polishing.”
“Being from South Africa where things aren’t always about precision, but more about mixing, you simply make things with what you’ve got and be optimistic about it. So what I learn during these encounters will be inspiring for other projects. Next time when I’ll paint a diamond, I’ll probably paint with a more subtle color trace.”
Does that mean that we can expect a sequel to your diamonds collection?
“I’ve been painting them for over a while now and to be totally honest I’ve gotten a bit bored. However, I felt the same way about my Aloes. I’ve been painting them for years and I’ve gotten to a point that I couldn’t paint them anymore. I stopped for a moment until a famous South African architect asked me to paint them on a wall for an interior he designed.”
“I didn’t want to do this commission at first, but in the process of painting, I fell in love with them again. The steps came so naturally, it even made me question why I wanted to take a break from them. But that’s exactly what I want to do now. Taking a break from these diamonds and maybe continue on them later.”
What’s this thing you have with diamonds?
“It’s one of my connections with South Africa. We have major diamond mines. One of them is located at Kimberley. I’ve got an uncle and cousins living there. I would go there often as a kid and be fascinated by this big man-made hole. There’s this museum where you have a see-through floor and you can just look down into this crazy sized mine. I guess I instantly fell in love with it.”
“But then again my work has always something to do with my home country. The Aloe for example is a specific plant that grows indigenously. It’s quite a specimen that everybody in South Africa is very proud of. There has also been a trend in terms of facets and triangles and things that are less organic and more hard lines and those kind of things fascinated me as well and that’s why I went along this trail.”
So each of your paintings share a connection with South Africa, what’s the connection with the “Boys” paintings?
“The “Boys” collection is a very personal one as it reflects on the boys from my past. I knew every single one of them, shared a special bond with them and wanted to celebrate that by making their portrait. Some of them I painted out of my memory and some of them are based on photo’s I found on Facebook.”
“I decided to give them masks to disguise them. It’s a sort of a shadow, pointing out that it’s something out of my past, but not necessarily my history as some of them are still special to me. I painted all of this before 2012 and never exhibited them before. I never told them neither until recently.”
“Now that I’m so far away from home, I’m totally fine with it to show them in this gallery. So I finally posted a message on Facebook to announce that I did a few portraits, and if one of these paintings had someone’s name on it and they know me and lived in Cape Town before 2012, that I most likely painted them.”
Cape Town is often used as your source of inspiration, aren’t you afraid that at a certain point there’s nothing more left inspiring about it?
“No, never at all. Cape Town is super diverse. We have an incredible mix of cultures that continually come together. It’s a never exhausting source of inspiration and I will always want to call it home. I told you earlier that I love to travel because every time I do, I get to experience Cape Town in a different way. I get to compare my city with other cities and that makes me want to celebrate my own city even more. It makes me look at things differently and appreciate what’s special about it while others get blasé about it. As I’m constantly seeing South Africa in a new way, this source of inspiration will never die.”
This interview was originally written for This is Antwerp. Click through to get more info on the whereabouts of the exposition.