Jean De Wet is one of our all-time-top-5-desert island favourite Cape Town-based artists. With a wide-ranging practice and an even wider-ranging set of projects, side-projects and project-projects, we were lucky enough to sit down with the restless traveller to find out a little more about his journey, the relationship between his seemingly divergent practices and his favourite records. Remember, Jean will be playing a set at the March 2019 edition of the First Thursdays Official Warm-Up at the Gin Bar on Wale Street.
Can you tell us a little more about your path as an artist. Where did you grow up? What did you study? What types of jobs have you had and where do you find yourself at the moment?
I moved around quite a bit as a child. I lived in both Queenstown and Durban before moving to Pretoria at the age of 13. I then studied Information design at the University of Pretoria, until I finally moved to Cape Town after getting a job at Illustration studio Am I Collective. After four years of fast-paced working in the advertising and design world, I decided to go freelance in order to focus on more personal projects and develop skills I would otherwise not have any time for. I’ve been doing that now since 2012… and haven’t really looked back.
Your work spans a number of disciplines and media – from zine-making to painting to print-based-media to animation and music-making. How do you make sense of your practice(s)? Do you find that different parts of personality or psyche, play out in different media or projects?
I think that obsession has a large part to play. I find myself going deep into different disciplines because of how addictive the excitement of discovery and experimentation is. I find that the more I juggle disparate thought processes, the more ideas cross-pollinate and become their own unique things. I tend to meander through interests as they emerge and dissipate, which is also a way for me to keep excited about making things.
Music plays an integral role in your work. Can you please tell us about the relationship(s) between the visual and the aural in your practice. How do the landscapes and the worlds that you create relate to the music and soundscapes that you produce?
I think they both share qualities in the meditative part of the process. With both music and visual art, there is a phase where technical and creative limitations are established, which then becomes a ‘space’ where I can just channel thoughts and experiences, unfettered by whether it will ‘work’ or not. As long as I’m having fun during this phase, I can expect to create something that I’m pleased with. In that way soundscapes and landscapes become ‘emotional maps’, etched over time.
Your advice for people trying to start out in the world of art-or-stuff-making?
I’d say that it’s important to know that it takes lots of time and effort… Probably more than you imagined at first. There are times in your career where you think you can’t push or give any more… but I’ve found that it is those extreme times that you learn the most. Be kind to yourself and remember that life exists outside your projects, but don’t expect to get anywhere without working twice as hard as anyone else. You really need to live and breathe your art.
What are your all-time-top 5 ‘desert island’ albums?
This is obviously a super difficult question… but if I was forced to make a decision right now, I’d say…
Arthur Russell – Love is Overtaking Me
Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti – Worn Copy
Animal Collective – Sung tongs
Boards of Canada – Music has the right to children
Cocteau Twins – Heaven or Las Vegas
Catch what will be an extra special set from Jean, alongside a mini-exhibition of his work at The First Thursdays Official Warm Up between 6 – 9 PM, upstairs at the Gin Bar, 64a Wale Street. The party goes on until late. The First Thursdays Official Warm Up is produced by Thursdays Projects in partnership with Roku Gin.