Hennie Niemann Jnr is a painter who predominantly works in oil on canvas. His mastery of the medium and the subsequent development of his authentic personal style is grounded in the rigorous tuition received from his artist father, Hennie Niemann Snr and the late iconic South African painter and family friend Gregoire Boonzaier. Niemann Jnr started out experimenting with the Fauvist aesthetic and was greatly influenced by artists such as Picasso and South African painters Walter Battiss and Maurice van Essche.
His early expressive paintings were characterised by bold, confident brushstrokes complemented by a rich impasto technique. His subject matter and models varied, capturing the movement, drama and colourful aspects of the animals, people and cultures encountered in his travels throughout Southern Africa. His subjects were drenched in the African sun and his canvasses portrayed a wide range of indigenous life; from the essence of intimate moments or memories shared, to the expressive energy of stampeding herds and ritual dance. Hennie Niemann JnrHs style has progressively gravitated towards greater abstraction, not in its purest form, but rendered in a fragmented style of richly coloured, angular, hard-edged forms, restructured to capture the energy and mood of complex compositions.
The artist’s current fascination with the energy, rhythm and harmony of dance has been at the forefront of his development in recent years. The establishment of a distinctive technique and style, adapted to his range of subject matter, underpins the uniqueness of Hennie Niemann Jnrss paintings. The artist boasts a list of sell-out solo exhibitions, and outstanding results at South African and international auctions. Source Johans Borman.
Q: Hennie, of many of the young flourishing artists that Isve followed over the last thirty years as an artist and then as Editor of the Art Times, only a handful who have developed a distinct style to their work have survived and prospered in the likes of Dylan Lewis, Norman Catherine and William Kentridge. To what extent has the combination of an early art start, youthful energy a well art educated father as well as a very successful art dealer of Johans Borman influenced your success?
A: As a young artist at the time I can not stress enough the impact that my father has had on my art education, not only the vast array of technical skills he taught me but also, and probably more importantly, the love for art. To know, through his example, that a career in art was in fact a possibility gave me allot of confidence and encouragement at a tender age. While most of my friends were off to Varsity I was tutored in the art of drawing after Rembrandt, Tiepolo and Daumier, for a small income I started selling some of my better attempts to clients of my father and later to Johans Borman, the other person who had a huge influence on my career. Success definitely did not happen over night but rather as a result of very careful management, over many years, by Johans and a persistent drive on my part to create honest and good art. I do not know of a single person who, in their dealings with Johans, where not convinced of his absolute integrity as an art dealer and that in itself is a trump to have on your side and quite a revelation in this industry.
Artwork Top: The Artisan, 110 x 100cm, oil on canvas, 2017
Artwork Above: Hart to Hart 2 ,120 x 100cm, oil on canvas HN
Q: What I find both so pleasing and fascinating of your work is that you have originated such a unique and fresh stylization for your work, when I first view your work, I see Battiss, Stern, van Eche amougst African and other influences – but then when one blinks one sees Hennie Niemann Jnr. Its interesting that you have taken the language of many strong South African artists and woven its essence into your own that is delightful. It might sound like a strange question but just how did you evolve your style and subject matter ?
A :Ah, it’s easy, you take a pinch of Battiss, a slither of Stern, ad a scoop of van Essche, toss it up in the air and,…Voila! No, jokes aside, I truly admire these great artists and live with there work ( except Stern, I can’t afford it ). It is impossible for me not to be influenced by art that I love and admire, in a sense I am an eternal student of the arts. In the same breath, if I did not create my own distinctive style, my own voice from al this wealth of inspiration and influence , then I would have failed miserably. Picasso quotes are well known and well used but, “ Good artists copy, great artists steal” seems apt.
Q: In continuing with the use of stylization in your art making do you think the strong use of stylization come with both perhaps strengths (like the painter Tamara Łempicka of instantly recognizing the artists style) and weakness of perhaps having a limited pallet of sorts? I know Battiss used to sometimes paint six different paintings with six different styles in one day.
A: Wow, if you do not mind me saying, six deferent paintings in six different styles seems a bit scitsofrenic and ever so extreme but I get the point and I like the philosophy of that approach. I could not and have not continued in a straight line and as far as I am concerned, my style has stayed the same for the past ten years or so. Rather, the way that I apply this style changes drastically from day to day and this causes leaps, sometimes very clear changes an other times barely noticeable, but always evolving within the style. Also, as I venture forward in life, the way that I look and perceive my subjects changes radically and manifests itself profoundly in the mood and atmosphere of the artworks.
Q: You’ve been very fortunate in having had a dynamic art dealer Johans Borman taking care of your sales and marketing for the past twenty odd years. Now having moved on how do you view taking on the market not associated with a Gallery Brand name but as a well established artist with a strong loyal following. How do you plan moving through the thickets of Art Fairs, online marketing and auction houses, would you try rather to find a new gallery like the Everard Read or take on the marketing yourself with a marketing assistant?
A: It has been close to a year since I started taking on my own marketing, not out of choice but by circumstance, and it has been going well. I have always appreciated the value of a good marketer , like Johans Borman, so it did not come as a surprise that hard work lay ahead in his absence.
My approach stayed pretty much the same, on par and true to the brand that I have created with him. At the moment I am not looking for exclusivity with a new gallery or marketing assistant and will continue to market my work through my website hennieniemannjnr.com. Both local and overseas galleries have acquired works from me directly but the majority of sales this past year stemmed from private, loyal followers via my website. I do however realize the importance of Art Fairs and being in the public eye and it is a real pity that, in all probability , my work will not be represented in this years CTAF. Maybe it is time for a few like minded artists to get together and form a revolutionary group, representing our selves at Art Fairs, local and abroad, for years