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Proximity by Proxy

Despite their initial, almost photorealistic appearance, it would be a mistake to assume that the brooding landscapes of MJ Lourens are simply exercises in exactitude. Their apparent realism contains within it a consistent surrealism, a continuous exploration of the liminal and peripheral, a permeating stillness that disrupts the familiarity of the distant cityscapes. While certainly standing testament to Lourens’ exceptional skills as a painter, these images also, and perhaps more importantly, record the artist’s ongoing meditations on the relationship between place and subjectivity, and the ways in which the two continuously determine each other.

Within this meditation, the line between internal and external is blurred, or indeed, expanded into into an independent space of its own. The notion of the “in between”, that is to say the liminal, reoccurs time and time again in Lourens work – in between night and day, here and there, urban and suburban, presence and absence. This collection of work also in turn signifies a shift in the artist’s approach as he extends the notion of the “in between” to the actual painted surface, pushing further and further into the space between figuration and abstraction, control and intuition. Thus Lourens attempts to achieve “proximity by proxy”, that is, an intimacy with the landscape accessed not through exact transcription, but instinctive response and re-envisioning.

This repeated evocation of the liminal, and the subjective reimagining of a landscape recalls Lourens’ Surrealist influences – influences which are perhaps not immediately apparent but nevertheless profoundly present. Taken in particular with the work of Salvador Dali, Yves Tanguy and Giorgio de Chirico from an early age, Lourens’ visual language has absorbed the melancholy and quietude with which these artists rendered their bizarre landscapes. With the Surrealists as with Lourens, the imagined projection into the landscape parallels an interrogation of the self, the evaluation of distances becomes a mapping of subjectivity.

It is through juxtaposition and disjunction that Lourens works to catalyse this interrogation, while simultaneously activating the landscape and reminding us of our place within it. By drawing attention to those features of the urban landscape that habit has rendered invisible to us - such as telephone poles, billboards, scaffolding or fences – the relationship between the self and the space it occupies is energized and made more palpable. This repetition of imagery, together with the consistent depiction of vast cumulus clouds and sunset skies, could be said to act as a certain kind of mantra for the artist, with each painting acting as a space in which to consolidate and meditate on the memories and symbols which make up his highly personal interaction with the landscape.

MJ Lourens, ​Access III, 2016, Acrylic on board, 70 x 90cm

Access III
2016
Acrylic on board
70 x 90cm

MJ Lourens, ​2016, Ads infinitum IX, Acrylic on board, 70 x 90cm

Ads infinitum IX
2016
Acrylic on board
70 x 90cm

​MJ Lourens, Ads infinitum IX, 2016, Acrylic on board, 50 x 70cm

Ads infinitum IX
2016
Acrylic on board
50 x 70cm

​MJ Lourens, After the rain, 2015, Acrylic on board, 70 x 50cm

After the rain
2015
Acrylic on board
70 x 50cm

​MJ Lourens, After the rain study, 2015, Acrylic on board, 25 x 45cm

After the rain study
2015
Acrylic on board
25 x 45cm

MJ Lourens, ​At the edge of the origin, 2016, Acrylic on board, 180 x 220cm

At the edge of the origin
2016
Acrylic on board
180 x 220cm

MJ Lourens, ​Carbon blues III, Acrylic on board, 70 x 90cm

Carbon blues III
Acrylic on board
70 x 90cm

MJ Lourens, ​City outskirts, Acrylic on board, 40 x 45cm

City outskirts
Acrylic on board
40 x 45cm

MJ Lourens, ​En route (unknown), 2016, Acrylic on board, 25 x 45cm

En route (unknown)
2016
Acrylic on board
25 x 45cm

MJ Lourens, ​Feeding at dusk, 2016, Acrylic on board, 90 x 70cm

Feeding at dusk
2016
Acrylic on board
90 x 70cm

MJ Lourens, ​Industria, Acrylic on board, 40 x 60cm

Industria
Acrylic on board
40 x 60cm

MJ Lourens, ​Industria - After the rain, Acrylic on board, 100 x 120cm

Industria - After the rain
Acrylic on board
100 x 120cm

MJ LOurens, ​Industria - Remains of the day, Acrylic on board, 100 x 120cm

Industria - Remains of the day
Acrylic on board
100 x 120cm

MJ Lourens, ​Night shift, 2016, Acrylic on board, 40 x 45cm

Night shift
2016
Acrylic on board
40 x 45cm

​MJ Lourens, Night Shift II, 2016, Acrylic on board, 40 x 45cm

Night Shift II
2016
Acrylic on board
40 x 45cm

MJ Lourens, ​Open pit I, 2016, Acrylic on board, 50 x 70cm

Open pit I
2016
Acrylic on board
50 x 70cm

MJ Lourens, ​Progress elsewhere II, 2016, Acrylic on board, 70 x 90cm

Progress elsewhere II
2016
Acrylic on board
70 x 90cm

MJ Lourens, ​Remains of the day, Acrylic on board, 100 x 120cm

Remains of the day
Acrylic on board
100 x 120cm

MJ Lourens, ​Strangers in the park II, 2016, Acrylic on board, 70 x 90cm

Strangers in the park II
2016
Acrylic on board
70 x 90cm

​MJ Lourens, Strangers in the park III, 2016, Acrylic on board, 40 x 45cm

Strangers in the park III
2016
Acrylic on board
40 x 45cm

MJ Lourens, ​The land of milk and honey, Acrylic on board, 90 x 70cm

The land of milk and honey
Acrylic on board
90 x 70cm

MJ Lourens, ​The pros and cons of preoccupation, 2016, Acrylic on board, 90 x 70cm

The pros and cons of preoccupation
2016
Acrylic on board
90 x 70cm

MJ Lourens, ​Trouble elsewhere, Acrylic on board, 200 x 70cm

Trouble elsewhere
Acrylic on board
200 x 70cm

MJ Lourens, ​XXXX, Acrylic on board, 150 x 200cm

XXXX
Acrylic on board
150 x 200cm

MJ Lourens, ​Open pit II night shift, 2016, Acrylic on board, 150 x 200cm

Open pit II night shift
2016
Acrylic on board
150 x 200cm