Ruan Jooste (b. 1988) was born and raised in Nigel, a small town in Gauteng southeast of Johannesburg. As a young child he was always drawing, seeking creative outlets. Initially pursuing a passion in fashion design, he achieved great recognition as a young designer following his graduation, but soon turned his focus to photography, teaching himself the necessary skills that eventually saw his photographic work featured in international publications Huff Magazine and The Advocate. This previous experience in design and photography culminated in his current digital art practice over recent years.

Jooste had always edited his photographs with a pen and pad, so it was a logical transition to painting digitally. The process is essentially similar to traditional painting on a canvas, starting with drawing outlines, layers are then painted with various ‘brushes’, layered, details added.

Unique to Jooste’s approach is the playful blending of luxury fashion elements and South African brand iconography. The nostalgia these well-known local brands hold for so many of us a reminder of our shared memories and associations, a connecting device. “We as South Africans so often focus on what makes us different that we forget how much we are alike. In my mind I want my subjects to form a part of a united tribe, one of courage, positivity and joy.”

There is a charm, sass and attitude in this series of fictional portraits that allude to Magic Realism, but with a local, urban grit. The subjects convey an unapologetic sense of pride, freedom, and self-love. Jooste crafts a real-world context around these created characters informed by the backstory imagined for each subject while creating and composing the image. With many of the images employing principles of classic portraiture, there is also an unapologetic self-assurance and playfulness that grounds the work in the present. A composition and pose at once acknowledge the Classic tradition, but simultaneously embrace the ‘selfie’ culture of today.

“I want to continue to invite you into my world where anything and everything is possible, where old meets new, where no one is bound by the shackles of societal pressure.”

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