Simultaneously familiar and surreal, intimate and overwhelming, the paintings of MJ Lourens construct and make palpable an ongoing, far stretching space of the “in between”. In between night and day, here and there, urban and suburban, presence and absence: these are landscapes of the liminal and peripheral, carrying poignant undertones of melancholy, alienation and vulnerability beneath the façade of dazzlingly rendered cityscapes and sprawling skies. Extending the “in between” to the painted surface, Lourens’ technique interrogates the space between figuration and abstraction, intuition and control, realism and surrealism; solidifying a signature style that is unique and instantly recognisable among South African painters. An acute empathy with and sensitivity to landscape and space is made manifest in these brooding, meditative images, in which the projection into the landscape parallels an exploration of the self and the evaluation of distances becomes a mapping of subjectivity.
Lourens studied Fine Art at the University of Pretoria from 1992 to 1996 and was presented the Sasol New Signatures Award by the Pretoria Art Museum in 1995. Since then he has established a career as a painter, sculptor and filmmaker, presenting a number of successful solo exhibitions at significant galleries in South Africa, including Proximity by Proxy (Barnard Gallery, Cape Town, 2016); Werk die Land (Stephen Welz & Co, 2015); Peninsula (Christopher Moller Gallery, 2012); and States in Spaces (Everard Read, 2009). Selected group exhibitions include amongst others Future / Present (Barnard Gallery, 2016); What Lies Beneath (Equus Gallery, 2014); View from the South (Everard Read Gallery, Cape Town, 2010) and Metropool (SAAA, Pretoria, 2009). Lourens participated in the Chelsea Art Fair (2014) in London and was represented by Barnard Gallery at the Cape Town Art Fair (2016/2017). His films have been screened at the likes of the Commonwealth Film Festival and the African International Film Festival in Spain. The artist’s work can be found in a number of academic and corporate collections including amongst others UNISA, South African Reserve Bank and British Airways.