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The Artist Unleashed (an interview)

From an interview with Jeré Möller of ‘Visit Overberg

Herman van Bon – An artist unleashed

selfietintedfinalblue2bwebSitting down to chat with fine art photographer Herman van Bon is a bit like jumping on a magic carpet. A few seconds in and you are time traveling to visit the ancestors. Minutes later you are standing with him at the very edge of space, pondering heaven, hell and the wild beauty of it all. Herman is a well of stories, a maze of great questions and a master of his craft.

You have been described as quirky, complex, playful and very creative. So here is my first question. In your own words, who is Herman van Bon?

Well, I think I am an adult who kept my childhood imagination alive. I have a very wide field of interests and I do love to have fun with photography. I was born between the dykes of Holland and worked as a photojournalist on the technical side of things for many years. It took me through the whole wide world. About 17 years ago my wife Yvonne and I moved to South Africa to find space and breathe fresh air. We settled in the Overberg and love living here.

Someone said you are the Hieronymous Bosch of the digital era. How would you describe your work and style?

WarmwaterbergI like to photograph landscapes especially during early mornings, in the golden hour. But taking a picture is just the beginning as I enjoy playing with it. I explore and just let it flow to see where it might go. It can take weeks to come together and the end result can be landscapes, haikus, photographic mixed media and imaginary photography next to abstract and portrait photography.

Something that is regularly reflected in my work is my interest in the universal archetypes imbedded in our ancient human heritage. I find it interesting how they are awakened through the associations we sometimes make when looking at images. I also find the interaction between light and dark, good and evil fascinating. Especially subject matter that touches beyond religion and the best way I can explain this is through a quote from Albert Einstein,

“The most beautiful emotion we can experience is the mysterious. It is the power of all true art and science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead. To know that what is impenetrable to us really exists, manifesting itself as the highest wisdom and the most radiant beauty, which our dull faculties can comprehend only in their most primitive forms – this knowledge, this feeling, is at the centre of true religiousness. In this sense, and in this sense only, I belong to the rank of devoutly religious men.”

Herman so if we get down to it, what really inspire you?
Simply put, beauty. You know beauty can be in the small details of an even ugly looking subject. And the fact that some rules are there to be broken.

You mentioned settling in the Overberg about 17 years ago. Do you have any favourite places that you enjoy shooting at?

Yes definitely, the rolling hills and changing skies of the Overberg is a joy to any landscape photographer. I have many spots that I enjoy shooting, but let me highlight three for you:

– Napier and the town’s surroundings are stunning during Springtime and Autumn, just after the harvest. The Schietpad is especially amazing, you can get lost in there!
– Near Barrydale, the Warmwaterberg is beautiful. Stunning mountain views. Definitely a favourite.
– Elgin Valley is a magical place. I recommend taking a good hike up and the best time is during August.

Last question Herman. Where do you and Yvonne go to unwind here in your home town Napier?

Have to say we are still relatively new in Napier. It’s been just about a year and I can tell you, this is a town with a lot to discover. It’s difficult to mention just one place. We enjoy visiting Napier Farmstall, The Fox Pub for lunch, Pascal’s for dinner and for the best pizza in the Overberg, The Suntouched Inn.

Visit, view and buy some of his work here: Private Gallery Napier

 

One of this last imaginaries: “He’s Back’

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Herman van Bon Photography

More than the Sum of the Parts To call him a landscape photographer is akin to describing Table Mountain as a large flat rock. To label him as a graphic artist also leaves much to be desired. A photo-graphic artist? Unwieldy and lacklustre. The fact of the matter is that Herman van Bon as a photographer and as an artist is not easily pigeon-holed. Words fall short when describing his work and how he achieves it. In this case, his pictures are more than the sum of their parts. Although a good photographer’s landscapes are far from flat, the observer does, in most cases, get what he or she sees: a representation of a country or marine scene. So far, so good. For Herman, however, the capturing of a landscape is just the beginning. It is his playground. He starts to experiment and explore and play, using different kinds of photo-processing and –developing software and techniques, and, organically, his pictures begin to grow. Layer by layer, the original shot metamorphosises into something extraordinary. Textures, tones, figures, symbols, quirky composites, and what appear figments of the imagination to the eye are included. This process can take weeks. The result is a contemporary, deeply personal interpretation, a fascinating fantasia of different forms, as far away from just a landscape full of special effects as you and I could imagine. Herman describes it as: “Associations that lead to the awakening of the archetypes part of the universal heritage of humankind; born in prehistoric times”. Herman explains: “I am a very complex person and this complexity reflects in my work in the sense that I produce landscapes, haikus, photo-graphic mixed media and imaginary photography next to abstract and portrait photography. Occasionally I paint or apply ‘fluidization’ to my pictures. Sometimes – more often than not – it all comes together.” Herman’s work is by far more than the sum of its parts. And it isn’t always easy on the observer. When this writer read the following understanding of art by the controversial British street artist, Banksy, she thought, that’s what Herman van Bon does: “Art should comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable.” Some reviews: “Wat T.T. Cloete in sy gedig sê is waar: ‘die aarde is deur een dichter gemaak’. Mensen soos Herman van Bon het die gare om dit dmv fotografie vast te lê …. Dankie!” - Awie van Wyk “The Hieronymous Bosch of the digital era”. - Lizia Nieman (RIP), L’Art Niemaclature “Absolute fantastic”. - Hettie Saayman “In the Eye of the Beholder of Herman van Bon is a surprising and lovely image from South Africa” - Review of groups exhibition in LAC Los Angeles in LA-Times “Herman van Bon has an amazing eye for capturing beauty”. - Kamalini Govender in Tales and Dreams (USA)

2 thoughts on “The Artist Unleashed (an interview)

  1. Hi Herman,

    I loved it when you said “Simply put, beauty. You know beauty can be in the small details of an even ugly looking subject. And the fact that some rules are there to be broken.” As an artist going through some level of rediscovering myself, that truly spoke wonders to me. I am often overwhelmed by my generation’s need and use of social media to put our work out there. It becomes a numbers game of following/unfollowing other artists. I find that this rat race, where art and the digital environment meet also influences my work and desire to please others rather than myself. Your simple reminder that beauty is in the eye of the beholder is profound.

    Thank you!

    https://www.learningfromstrangers.com

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