”Written byFreddie Hiney
In a country where all the earth’s elements are abundantly around us, there are few artists who can tie them together all in one canvas. Ingrid Nuss is one of those few creators, formulating a wild and beautiful combination of astronomy, nature, ocean, wildlife, and spirituality.
You will find her art gallery in Timberlake Village, Wilderness, surrounded by the majestic forests of the Garden Route and about a five-minute drive from the nearest beach break. Her surroundings are the perfect parallel and inspiration to the art she creates but it didn’t start here. Ingrid grew up in Wellington and was exposed to many different sides of the world before she settled in Wilderness. She puts it like this:
“Well, that area [Wellington] is also naturally rich so it just helps to stimulate my creative imagination, so playing outdoors, going for fynbos walks in Bainskloof, just doing things like that with my family definitely laid the foundation.
We also spent a lot of time in Namibia camping, and I think the stars out there influenced the way I looked at the world. I mean it just opened everything up to me. Yeah, so I think along with Wellington, which is a really beautiful place, and just coming to the coastline, feeling like there is so much here because you have the mountains with the ever-green forests and the ocean. It’s so abundantly rich, you don’t really get much better than this. We are in the prime spot in the world.”
Her elegant intertwining of the elements has been the product of a full life. Ingrid’s passion for art grew from an early age and as a child, she would draw everything around her. When asked about her stylistic influences, she names two, the first being Disney:“My imagination could just run wild and escape to this fantasy world and I know there is this whole theory against how Disney indoctrinated us as well as children. But I just took all the best qualities; the landscapes they created. I just drew all the characters all the time and, because of the Lion King, I still do Lions and Leopards – it was just imprinted in my mind, and definitely influenced my dreamscapes.” The second is Salvador Dali: “It was Disney because of my youth but later it was Dali and Surrealism because, finding myself between the two spaces of the surrealists – the sub-conscious dreamscapes themselves and putting those things in a strange, questionable position. Even though he is a well-known household name and cliché to an extent Dali is definitely one of the artists that enticed me the most to push the boundaries when it comes to what you can include into a picture.”
In a country where all the earth’s elements are abundantly around us, there are few artists who can tie them together all in one canvas.
Pushing the boundaries is Ingrid’s expertise. She has this uncanny ability of combining stars, rainforests and waves that you dream of pulling into – portals into other galaxies and versions of our world. That might sound like too much to put on one canvas, but Ingrid’s art is a beautiful orchestra of all these elements; like they were supposed to be together, and we are the silly ones for thinking otherwise. – “I think that there is this space that exists between your imagined world and what you perceive in reality; it’s tapping into the more imaginative side and trying to evoke emotion through certain symbols or imagery that you put together. It just helps the viewer tap into that space that I feel that I personally live in a lot of the times rather than ‘actual reality’.” She creates a visual language that cannot be communicated; you just need to look and feel.
It wasn’t just Disney and Dali that helped shape Ingrid into the wonderful artist she is today. She needed to trust her talent. Whilst studying art in Cape Town, she was told that she didn’t have the foundations to be a painter and that she should focus on sculpturing, which she did, and with which she found success. But painting was always on her mind:
“I actually enjoyed the sculptural processes, but I always had this desire to paint as well, because, I had been doing it since my childhood. But just because I didn’t fit into their way of painting, and them discouraging me to do it, I learnt other skills, but I went back to it because that was just instinctively what I felt compelled to do. Which I think was a blessing in disguise because, it just led to more of a unique aesthetic rather than painting according to a painters’ specific style like formalism or realism.”
Post-university, Ingrid took to sea, working for an art auctioneering company on cruises. Far removed from her landlocked Klein Karoo hometown, she travelled the world, seeing the beautiful landscapes and waves of Hawaii, Mexico and Miami. The ‘tropical elements’ she experienced during those voyages influence her artwork today.
Pushing the boundaries is Ingrid’s expertise. She has this uncanny ability of combining stars, rainforests, and waves that you dream of pulling into – portals into other galaxies and versions of our world.
So where did the stars and the galaxies come in? “I was brought up quite religious so there was always talk at home about where you go after you die, heaven and hell. So that topic is not uncomfortable for me and is something that I wanted to go deeper into. Just asking all these questions about different religions, spirituality and where I find my understanding within all that, and by bringing in the stars, I feel like that is my connection to where the other world lies, my portal or my axis. It always gives me a perspective and a bigger understanding; there’s a sense of raw beauty in it.”
Coming back to home soil, Ingrid finally settled in Wilderness, a raw beauty in its own sense. You may notice the Garden Route influences in her work, with the incorporation of louries, beaches and forests. It is here she has settled and synthesised all her life experiences, one canvas at a time. Hearing her talk about her paintings is like sneaking into that canvas with the ultimate tour guide – ‘the leopard that appears in all of the artwork is a form of me travelling through and figuring things out.’
It’s always great to get an understanding of an artist’s thought process, so I picked her brain on the four paintings you can see in this article (from top to bottom):
‘118 steps through 2020’ – “The tsunami is COVID. To get literal about the symbolism the stairs going up is the difficulty of going through it, but you come out on top. The Leopard is the guardian of getting there, the bird for comic relief; to not lose your sense of humour. The piece took a long time and was loaded with all my emotions going on at that time.”
‘Perspective’ – “This was actually a second version of a painting of someone viewing earth from space, which was a little one with myself in it wrapped in a Mexican blanket in between my cruise ship contracts – where I was sat in Cape Town in one of the boulders with space and earth and that whole feeling of longing for home and Africa, which I think resonates with a lot of people. Now when we are so used to seeing imagery of earth and space, whereas a couple of decades ago we didn’t have easy access to those pictures. So, it’s very relevant to us now and being so connected through the internet the world becomes a smaller place and removing ourselves and looking at it as a whole rather than these separate entities – I think that’s what speaks of this time.”
‘Between Here + There’ – “I feel like there are spaces in between where we go from here and that is a visual play on that, like a paradise. It forms the narrative throughout.”
‘Deep Wild Space’ – “That was a place between calm and tension with a shattered window and the tiger sitting there all chilled. I feel like I want to be like the tiger most of the time but there is always stuff that gets to you. It’s almost like the balance in life and the surfboards and surfing helps to bring the calm and the balance and then the nature growing into the rooms always helps me feel at ease, like even though there’s decay there will always be rejuvenation.”
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Thank you to Ingrid Nuss for giving up your time and giving us an inside perspective into your extraordinary work.
If you want to see more of Ingrid’s incredible work then head over to her website.
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