(Port Elizabeth) – Multi-talented 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.
“When you think concrete, you think sculpture, not painting. With lightweight concrete as my canvas, every piece is completely different. It has opened up a whole new area of art for me,” she said.
Every’s first lightweight concrete commission, and largest to date, was a 2.3m by 2m portrait, inspired by Antoinette Reinecke’s award-winning “Gogo” photograph. 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 located at Crossways Farm Village just outside Port Elizabeth.
“I love the texture of lightweight concrete. It adds a totally different dimension from what I can achieve on canvas,” said Every. “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 the client’s preference and subject matter, 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 Port Elizabeth venues like The Friendly Stranger and Grass Roof restaurants, Every has received a steady stream of commissions from private and corporate clients looking to add a rustic modern finish to their spaces, with one of her works even sent abroad to Germany.
“Not everybody is open to this new trend, as they don’t really understand what lightweight concrete is,” added Every.
Unlike regular concrete, which weighs in at a density of at least 1 500 kilograms per cubic metre, 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.
As a building material, lightweight concrete is used for walling, where it assists with soundproofing and thermal insulation, and filling underfloor voids. Some of Rhino Group’s major projects include walling for the 90 000m2 Baywest Mall and flooring for Cape Town’s new Radisson Red hotel at the V&A Waterfront.
“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,” said Every.
Van Niekerk said the partnership had been a perfect fit from the outset.
“Initially, we were just looking at doing wall cladding but Janine’s incredible talent has showcased the diversity of lightweight concrete as both a 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 this new medium had given her a unique identity.
“I love that this is different. There are so many great artists around and I needed something that set me apart. I’m not sure who else is working in lightweight concrete as it’s a new product in itself, but I definitely don’t feel alone or daunted – rather excited to be pioneering in this.”