As well as being one of our foremost figure artists, Ryno Swart is well known as a teacher and a philosopher. In his often erotic images, there is a sense of truth and of respect that gives depth, dignity and beauty to his work.
As a teacher, he has shared the ideas and concepts that has formed his own art and philosophy over many years. These teaching activities have led him to an unceasing exploration of the techniques and the underlying meaning of the artistic process.
Central to his personal artistic philosophy is the principle of vision. As music communicates directly to the ear, so does painting relate to the eye:
Paint exactly what you see. Then learn to see.
The artist has to learn to see the mystery, the beauty, the majesty of the unmediated visual experience. Because we do not see faces, bodies, or garments, but colours, shapes, textures, clarities and mystery. These are the subject of Ryno’s work.
We can only ever paint one thing. It is that thing which occupies our thoughts, the things we dwell on. We paint what we love. There is no point in asking ourselves why we love mountains, or birds, or clouds. In Ryno’s work it is the beauty of the female mystique.
Growing up to be an artist in the 50s and 60s was never easy, because of the total dominance of modernism. Any love for figurative or naturalistic art was very much discouraged in art schools; so it was against the odds that Ryno struggled to find a place for his dreams. He did not make it any easier when he decided that he would only work from direct visual experience, never from photographs.
Ryno’s works falls into 3 basic categories; work done from life, with the model in the studio; work done from sketches done in the field, at ballet schools and in clubs; and work done from imagination, in the dark and mysterious spaces of our mind.
Believing that the message can never be separated from the voice that carries it, Ryno, from the beginning, was determined to learn the techniques and the methods of the masters he so much admired, Degas, Rembrandt, Turner, Titian. Much of this search was simple chance and the result of experiment, but today Ryno has an unusual command over his medium, in oils, pastels and watercolour. It is this which makes possible the sense of the intonation of a living voice, talking, chanting, whispering.
Over the years the subject matter of Ryno’s work has undergone an evolution. After working in film storyboarding for about 3 years, he went to Paris to learn painting from the old masters he loved so much. Exposed for the first time to the beauty of European cities, his subjects were everywhere, children, buildings, river barges, all beauty; but when he returned to Johannesburg, he felt the need actively to seek out beauty. Here he found it in the ballet, where he trained his eye and his hand in unison with the dancers training their bodies. Every day for four years he spent the entire day from 10am to 6pm, drawing, drawing the dancers, even choreographing an experimental ballet in the form of drawings. This discipline only ended when the ballet company moved from Johannesburg to Pretoria. Then, with some of the more adventurous young dancers, he ventured into the word of cabaret.
In 1986 this love took him full circle, back to Paris and now to the Alcazar nightclub where long before his hero Toulouse Lautrec did some of his beautiful work. At the same time he started to explore a personal mythology, peopled with mysterious, beautiful women, moving about on a journey the destination of which only time shall reveal.
Today Ryno Swart lives in the peaceful village of Simon’s Town with his wife Anne and their son, Jean Reynault, far from the action of clubs and of the theatre, but, as always, beauty is there to be found and to be celebrated.
In his work there is always the one simple message:
“This I see. This I love.”
1945. Springbok. Ryno is born on the 19th July.
1969. University of Stellenbosch. B.A. Fine Arts.
1970. East London School of Art. Lecturer.
1971. Johannesburg School of Art. Lecturer.
1972/74. Johannesburg and Salisbury. Visualiser.
1974/75. Johannesburg. Freelance scriptwriting and storyboarding.
1976. Paris. Study and painting. Ryno chooses a career in fine art.
1977. Johannesburg. Ballet. Drawing. Study of movement.
1980. Everard Read Gallery, Johannesburg. First solo exhibition.
1982. La Reunion, Mauritius, Greece, Paris. Painting and study.
3 months etudiant libre, Beaux Arts, Paris…
1983. Everard Read Gallery, Johannesburg. One man show.
1984. Cape Town. Ballet & cabaret painting.
1985. Gallery 709, Cape Town. One man show.
1987. Gallery 709, Cape Town. One man show.
1989. Paris. Galerie Ettienne de Caussans. One man show.
1989. Chartres. Galerie du Cloitre. One man show.
1989. Cape Town. Founder member, the Artists’ Co-operative.
1990. Gallery 709, Cape Town. One man show.
1991. Karen McKerron Gallery, Johannesburg. One man show.
1994. Brian Sinfield Gallery, Oxfordshire. One man show.
1995. Brian Sinfield Gallery, Oxfordshire. Group show. Important British art.
1998. Galerie Gérard, Wassenaar. Group show.
1999. Albertyn’s Stables, Simon’s Town. One man show.
2000. Carmel gallery, Cape Town. One man show.
2001. Gallery Plett, Zeist, Holland. Group show.
2002. Thompson’s Galleries. London. Group show.
2003. Gallery Plett, Zeist, Holland. One man show.
2009. Upstairs Gallery, Johannesburg. Solo show.
2010. Bar al Fontego, Venice. Solo show.
2010. Ryno Swart Art Gallery. Solo show.
2010. Flathead Valley Community College, Montana. Workshop and exhibition.
2012. Ryno Swart Art Gallery. Solo show.
2014. Flathead Valley Community College, Montana. Workshop and exhibition.
2016+ Workshops in Greece and Venice.