Johann Louw is an introverted artist based in Cape Town. He prefers not to speak, but to rather observe and communicate with the world using his images as an intermediary. Louw does most of his work in oils on canvas and the prints that he made at The Artists' Press mirror the conceptual concerns of his paintings. Anonymous male figures occupy anonymous institutional like spaces, the figures are static and tense and become abstract in relation to the negative space around them. In some of the images, the presence of a second figure is suggested by the use of shadow. Who does this shadow belong to? Is it yours, the viewer, or that of the artist? Or of some unknown person who can only inhabit your imagination. The suggestion is powerful.
The colours and tones that he uses are muted and restricted in range, adding to a sense of psychological tension that he so masterfully creates. Hands are excluded from the frame of the image and the faces look past one or away from the viewer. The poses are intimate and at the same time reject sympathy, bringing into question relationships of power and control. Intrigue and menace are suggested. Louw offers no interpretation in his titles, the viewer is left to respond directly to the figures and the work on an emotional level without a conscious interpretation of the work.
Johann Louw worked intensely on these images, often preferring the empty quiet of the studio space at night. His working and re-working of the surfaces and careful selection of colour and control of line have resulted in prints that are very "painterly" and deceptively simple in their style and execution.
"I did my second stint of printmaking at The Artists' Press with the specific aim of doing prints in colour - unlike my first stint in which the prints were almost exclusively black and white (if tinted with an off-white varnish). The new work, therefore, ranges through a wider, if still restricted, colour palette. A balance is sought between highlighting the quality of the print (layered ink on paper, in subtle colour variations) and the emotive and at times the lyrical quality of the content, emphasised by flickering mark making and hints of slightly dirty colour. The content, as is consistent with my overall work output, is still concerned with states of being." Johann Louw, 2014