At a crossroads between fashion photography and art can be found the artwork of Krisjan Rossouw. Driven by his career in fashion and his love for Renaissance masterpieces, the photographer tiptoes on the threshold of both realms, producing an exhibition named TROPIKA, powered by Roche Bobois which is open from May 17th to June 18th in the brand’s Forbach showroom.
Tell us about your career and how became an artist?
The story of how I got started is quite a long one. I started working at a model agency as a chaperone and driver. I worked my way up to a model agent/booker and from there, I became interested in the photographic side. My mum bought me my first camera and that’s how I started experimenting. I did no formal art or photographic studies, but have always been creative. When I first started experimenting with my camera and how it reads light, I discovered endless possibilities. It however took me 4 years to believe in myself and get my 1st exhibit ‘Dark Paradise’ off the ground, and into Galleries.
What are your hobbies ?
Cooking, creating unusual beauty out of nature and, after Mauritius… travelling. I love Mauritius and its people, love the food, nature and the old historic town of Port Louis. I think my next challenge/hobby should be to learn French. After all… I am of French Huguenot descent… “Rossouw”.
Who’s your favourite artist?
I am not a conventional photographer. I don’t have any specific influences and I can’t name any photographers. Instead, I am far more likely to cite painters, as diverse as Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio and Vladimir Tretchikoff.
How do you define your style?
When I started, I didn’t have any professional equipment to speak of and so, it was all trial and error. I just used what was available: I’d grab a flashlight out of the cupboard, a fluorescent bulb from the garage, lamps that were lying around, and I’d start layering the lights one over the other, creating all these different colours. Over the years, I mastered the trick of lighting. I think I have now created a style that everyone loves. I tried professional lighting equipment but it washed things out, losing their saturation and intensity. Instead I invested in more flashlights and table lamps. For me, Caravaggio is a kindred spirit. This Italian painter is very much in tune with my own style. He is a man who painted images of darkness and light. In fact, my photos are as painting with light.
What do you want to express through your work?
The female black form is at the centre of my work. The exposed skin and the use of flora set me apart from my idol, the master of shadow, Caravaggio. It’s not gratuitous, however. I want my work to be empowering. I want it to exude strength and power… To be strong, not sad. To uplift, empower images. I want to push the themes of Africa into a more positive, proud and beautiful way. My work is not political, but I am happy nonetheless to provide a counter narrative to that which often portrays the continent. I am tired of reading the news and there’s so much coverage of how negative it is. I want to send out a positive image for Africa. Africa has a hell of a lot of beauty; the world just needs it to be shown. So that’s what I’m trying to do, one day at a time. My works blur the line between photography and paintwork. At the end of the day, I think I’m just striving to make a beautiful image.
Do you give much importance to the finishing, the presentation or format of your works?
I pride myself in creating a high-quality end product. It will last forever when looked after. My work only gets printed on archival substrate. I quality check each work before I hand sign and addition them. All prints are produced in Cape Town where I have complete control over them.
Tell us more about your partnership with Roche Bobois and the exhibition “Tropika”.
My Journey with Roche Bobois started over 2 years ago in Cape Town, South Africa, where I was invited and had the opportunity to show a collective of all my different works in their beautifully colourful and stylish showroom. I continued to be part of Roche Bobois with the opening of the Johannesburg Showroom in South Africa. In 1961, they designed their first nationwide advertising campaign in Elle Magazine. Sales boomed and, through this success, the ads proved the benefits of combining their resources and their names. From this point on, Roche Bobois gained its own identity and became a brand name.
Today, Roche Bobois has a presence in 50 countries with an international network of more than 250 stores. Its constant partnerships with renowned designers (Ora Ito, Cédric Ragot, Sacha Lakic, Christophe Delcourt and Stephen Burks) and with global fashion houses (Jean Paul Gaultier, Sonia Rykiel Maison, Missoni Home) make it a unique player in terms of high-end furniture. It’s only obvious that I wanted to be part of this creative circle and when the opportunity arrived to show works in Mauritius, I decided to create something special and unique with the launch of TROPIKA. It was the perfect launching platform with this exhibition on the beautiful tropical island of Mauritius and Roche Bobois Paris.
What inspired you for this exhibition?
Exploring the intrinsic beauty and fragility of nature. Fusing a reflection of African beauty and Botany in a gentle play of darkness and light.