We recently interviewed artist Luan Nel, in celebration of the collaboration in creating his favourite meal for our Winter Menu – Gorgonzola and Mushroom Fettuccine!
Renowned artist Luan Nel graduated (BAFA) from the University of the Witwatersrand in 1994 after which he completed a postgraduate diploma in Education (HDipEd) at the same university.
He won the Judge’s Prize in the Volkskas, now Sasol, New Signatures competition in 1994. In 1998 and 1999 he was awarded participation at the prestigious Rijksakademie Van Beeldende Kunsten in Amsterdam. In addition he participated in a Research residency at the Dutch Institute in Rome in 1999. Nel has had various solo and group exhibitions both locally and abroad like his participation in Lustwarande hosted by Stichting Fundament in the Netherlands alongside luminaries like Louise Bourgeois and Michaelangelo Pistoletto to name a few. His artworks are in private as well as public collections locally and abroad including The Johannesburg Art Gallery, SABC, University of the Witwatersrand, Gauteng Legislature, Rijksakademie, Smithsonian, Spier, Hollard, Sasol, Ellerman House and KPMG.
He was Young Curator 2013 for the Aardklop National Arts Festival and also writes on art for the daily Die Burger and various online publications in a freelance capacity.
What is your profession?
I am an Artist, I paint and I do Installation.
What was your dream job when you were growing up?
When I was very young, since I can remember, I drew, I didn’t have the patience for colouring in books, I prefered making my own. I heard of areas where this drawing and painting thing, Art, is employed like in Fashion and architecture. So I suppose I wanted to be an Architect or a Fashion Designer. Only a bit later did I realise one could just do Art and be an Artist. Then I wanted to be that, Artist.
What does a typical day in your working life look like?
I work in batches. Kind of like working from project to project or idea to idea. It can sometimes be slow in the beginning with me willing it as it were but once things are in motion and I am painting or building an artwork, then it is like a fever. I try not neglect everything else but know that everything and everybody else takes a back seat for the duration of the latter part of production. I always try and make up for this neglect and near-abandonment once the work has left the studio (as silent sighs of relief abound) At this later stages I tend to flip night and day almost completely, so living with me can’t be easy just then. Normally I go to bed around 1am. I seem to only need about four to six hours a day. I wake at about 6am, do my mail, admin, with a large mug of tea, then I go back to wake the others. I make coffee for my Neil, and wake the girls, Yvonne & Glenda. They are not really morning Poodles. Then I run around Cape Town collecting, fetching, delivering, holding meetings, making meetings, sorting out food, the works. I only paint when it is quiet. So at night usually. I have Facebook on all the time, so I am seemingly permanently on social media. It is not so. I just check in regularly, I have found Facebook an incredibly useful thing as a painter. I always felt dreadfully lonely in the studio. Nobody warned me this will be such a lonely job. And I am by nature very fond of people, quite sociable. In this regard, Facebook brought my studio to life. Now I love being there. It is much more than four walls in which you paint.
One of your most inspiring experiences in your career to date?
Inspiring moments in my career are the times when I find a balance between the making, delivery and reception of a work. The idea is to always achieve this but it is only occasionally that such balance happens.
By way of example and a relatively easily accessible work featured on the internet can be found on Youtube under my name, just type in: Luan Nel Swallow.
How do you feel about appearing on the Societi Bistro menu and the dish in particular?
I am immensely honoured to have my name on the Societi Bistro menu. Who wouldn’t be?! Neil and I have been coming here since shortly after we moved to Cape Town so for about as long as Societi Bistro has been on Orange Street. The food, I love comfort food and here you will find plenty of that. Guests of ours have remarked I treat this establishment as my own kitchen. One winter’s day I felt like a curry but on that day the only curry on the menu was Vegan and I enjoy meat every now and then – But I ordered the Vegan Curry, then whispered to our waiter “with mine, could you ask the chef to maybe add some chicken?” Not a bat of an eyelash nothing. My dish arrived and I looked positively saintly, a pattypan sticking out here, a courgette to the right and bright red peppers galore! Unbeknownst to my fellow guests at this stage, the naughty bits of golden fried chicken was included, smothered in the sauce. ‘Chicken alla Incognito’ is my secret name for the dish. These guys are not ‘Waitrons’ ! they are Diplomats per excellence! I can highly recommend the Vegan Curry, with OR without extras.
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