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Ingrid Nuss - Painting from imagination

Ingrid Nuss is an artist based in Wilderness, a Garden Route town that won her heart during visits with a university friend. She is an acrylic painter in the style of Surrealism, a dream-like realistic art movement. Her work speaks of imagination, joy and symbolic dreams. She has had several solo exhibitions all across the Garden Route. After spending three years on international cruise ships selling art, she is now a full-time artist portraying her childhood influences and views of the world through her work. She tells the story of her early life experiences that has played a role in her development as an artist.

“I was born in Wellington. My father was very big on camping, we used to go hiking up in Bainskloof, the mountain pass in Wellington, so that stimulated my love for creativity from a very young age. Then we’d go up that stretch all the way to Namibia and pull off the main road, take the next dirt road, pitch up a tent and sit there under the stars. And obviously, Namibia’s stars… I think it’s influenced the way I look at the sky a lot. Then we moved to Namibia temporarily because of my dad’s job transfer, just for two years when I was thirteen. That was quite an amazing experience as well. And through it all, just drawing and painting was kind of my companion. It gave me something to do and also influenced the way I looked at my environment.

“I’ve got a studio space built onto my home. So I work from home, which is very convenient. There’s a stunning view across the lakes when I’m painting. Aside from the obvious influences like artists – Salvador Dali and Frida Kahlo and artists who always pushed their imaginations – I think that being a child with a big imagination always helped me look things in a different way. But like with surrealism, I believe there’s a way you can live your life by focusing on that kind of magical reality. So that’s why I think I like to dwell on it so much in my subject matter, because it actually takes me there.

“As a kid, I was fascinated by outer space. Just the sense of perspective it gives me when I take my mind there… It’s almost as if I feel like this planet is my home rather than South Africa, specifically. I mean, yes, I’m very attached to the Garden Route, but our globalisation in the world and just the fact that we’re this collective species, it actually helps us understand that we need to take care of our home, which is actually Earth.

Ingrid Nuss, artist from Wilderness in the Garden Route
Ingrid Nuss at her exhibition in George, the Garden Route

“I could create things that you didn’t need any money to make and enjoy, and that’s probably why my imagination could run wild with me."

“Another interesting art influence in my life was the fact that I worked on cruise ships selling art for three years. So we did art auctions, myself and my partner, he’d be the auctioneer and I’d be the gallery director and so we got to deal with a lot of high-end artworks like Rembrandt etchings, we’d have Dali’s graphic works accessible to us, and it gave me a lot of knowledge about those artworks and also stimulated my passion for art. It actually made me realise that you can make a living off art. Because we were dealing with art, we saw how people reacted and how you could get emotionally connected to work and how it becomes something that transcends above just a monetary value – that’s why I love art so much, is that it connects with something on a spiritual level.

“Growing up not very financially privileged, it made me stimulate my life through creativity. I could create things that you didn’t need any money to make and enjoy, and that’s probably why my imagination could run wild with me. It’s simple living, it’s what you make of it. I think a lot of creativity stems from that in a way, that necessity to look at things differently and not just what you’re taught. I never felt like expressing hardship through painting a sad picture, it was always a positive thing I went to. I feel like the energy exchange betweeen you and the art forms a lot of your consciousness. For me, if it’s a happy enjoyable process and a beautiful one, that’s where my mind will be.

“I have been, up until last season, waitressing as well and that just gives me the financial freedom to be able to create what I want, from my heart, rather than something that’s commercial and mainstream. I mean, I’m all for creating soemthing that someone likes for commissions, but there’s a very specific part of me that wants to express my feelings.

“I think if you’ve got this sense of creativity in you, don’t ever push it aside. I think creativity is something so special and we all have it, in whichever way – if you write, or if you dance, if you make music… There’s something different in everybody.”

Art pieces by Ingrid Nuss from Wilderness, the Garden Route

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