Julian Venter, Tsoxa 5, Alimos, 17455, Greece
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Me as a very shy young boy
I was very lucky to have been raised in a home full of wonderful examples of modern art plus plenty of art books.
It was a frustrating time for me as I was acutely aware of the fact that whether I liked it or not I belonged to the group of oppressors, and being born with a white skin had entitled me to huge benefits while my fellow countrymen were struggling on a subsistence level.
And yet there was very little that I could do as an individual to make things better. And doing something about it was pretty much illegal. Also being a Afrikaner, I was considered a traitor to my people for supporting a democratic state.
I took it upon myself to at least through debate with my school mates, to show them what was really happening. And so each day I would read the liberal English news paper in order to arm myself with facts.
I had started reading at a very young age and at some point I started writing poetry in order to express my sense of frustration and remain sane.
From Left to right - my dad Nicol, my granddad Nikolaas and my uncle Andrew
My dad had amazing drawing skills. He had started drawing at a very young age and was a rather accomplished Artist who had stopped creating art works when he had met and married my mom who had been a widow with two children.
Being part of a big family meant that many of our activities were somehow communal. At times we would sit together and draw or colour in pictures. And as the second youngest child, my efforts were comparatively decimal. There is always an element of sibling rivalry in a big family no matter how loving. Somehow I had gotten the impression that being able to draw was a talent that you were simply born with, and a gift that was withheld from me as I had more scientific talents.
As a child my dad would sometimes do art lessons with us which for me were rather disastrous at the time. I wanted to learn to draw like Leonardo da Vinci but he wanted to teach me the discoveries of Matisse and Picasso in Modern Art which were the great art discoveries for him.
But I had thought, please just not that because it seemed so easy to draw like them. Although now that I think about it, it had probably influenced my work tremendously, especially the hours we spent looking at Art books.
In fact even as a child I used to love looking at my dad’s art book collection, sometimes though for the wrong reasons. South Africa had very strict archaic censorship laws and the only place that one could see naked women were in art reproductions. I especially remember enjoying the Audrey Beardsley drawings.
My mom said she once caught me showing one of my little girl friends pictures from a collection of art magazines from the Baroque and Rococo periods and Romantic periods in art. And she had thought to herself ‘please let there not be trouble’ from the little girl’s parents. But luckily there was not.
As a child I had two fantasy friends. The one was called ‘That little Boy’ and his dad was fabulously wealthy and he could give me all the toys I could possibly imagine, which I apparently utilized as leverage in order to get my brothers and sisters to give me their things.
My dad was an excellent story teller and he would put us (me and my two brothers) to sleep every night with a story. Because of this I think I had developed a rather vivid imagination, and to this day when someone tells me a story or when reading a book I can get completely lost in the images in my head.
My desire to create art works had started as a impish game. The school I attended issued us with a diary each year in which we could jot down reminders to ourselves. High school was exceptionally boring to me as I had a huge stack of books next to my bedside which I was reading until the wee hours of the morning. In one of the classrooms I sat next to a friend Conrad Louw, and we would steal each other’s diaries and write absurd witty comments and make cartoon like drawings in order to annoy each other.
And then it struck me, I was finishing school and I had no idea what I really wanted to do with my life. Plus I would soon be conscripted into the military that was the oppressor’s right hand. As I could not rationally deal with this I got very ill. And for a week or two I experienced a high fever that was accompanied by bizarre visions. I cannot remember exactly what I had dreamt.
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