New ‘canvas’ making waves

Artist Janine Every at work on her latest commission
Artist Janine Every at work on her latest commission

Port Elizabeth painter Janine Every is making waves in art circles with an unusual new “canvas” that blurs the lines between architecture, interior design and installation art.

Swapping the traditional art canvas for a large-format surface that is manufactured to her exact specifications, Every’s artworks possess an added earthy texture, which she thought unachievable – until now.

Over the past year, Every has been experimenting with oils and acrylics on lightweight concrete, a unique polystyrene and concrete composite product manufactured by sustainable solutions company Rhino Group – and primarily marketed to developers and architects.

Cast in large slabs – larger than is ordinarily possible with canvas – Every’s naturally textured artworks cover a range of subjects from black-and-white portraits to wildlife and even colourful abstracts.

Every’s first lightweight concrete commission, and largest to date, was a 2.3m by 2m portrait, inspired by Antoinette Reinecke’s award-winning photograph Gogo.

Using lightweight concrete as her medium was the brainchild of Rhino Group managing director Brian van Niekerk and as a result, the artwork now hangs in House Rhino, the group’s sustainable living showcase home at Crossways Farm Village outside Port Elizabeth.

“I love the texture of lightweight concrete. It adds a totally different dimension from what I can achieve on canvas,” Every said. “I can paint on it, drill into it with a pencil drill or build on top of it with wet concrete for a three-dimensional effect.”

She said the surface texture could also be cast according to preference, whether it be smooth, cracked, woodgrain or more aerated.

“It’s even great for outdoor entertainment areas. Nobody would put a canvas outside but lightweight concrete is extremely durable and it weathers well.”

Since exhibiting a few pieces at PE venues such as The Friendly Stranger and Grass Roof restaurants, Every has received a steady stream of commissions, with one of her works even sent abroad to Germany.

Unlike regular concrete, which has a density of at least 1 500kg per m³, lightweight concrete has a density of just 300kg/m³ and contains a high percentage of recycled polystyrene, which would otherwise end up in landfills as it does not biodegrade.

“Rhino Group are with me throughout the process – from casting the slabs to bolting them to my studio wall and finally installing the finished artwork in the client’s space,” Every said.

Van Niekerk said the partnership had been a perfect fit.

“Initially, we were just looking at doing wall cladding but Janine’s incredible talent has showcased the diversity of lightweight concrete as both a structural and decorative product. These artworks do large spaces justice and can be hung inside or outside to create a very special backdrop effect.”

A self-taught artist, Every said working in the new medium had given her a unique identity.

“I love that this is different. There are so many great artists around. I needed something that set me apart.”

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