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James Lucian de Villiers

Born 10 March 1954 in Pietermaritzburg, KwaZulu-Natal., South Africa 

James de Villiers, based in Johannesburg, is a mainly self-taught artist having undergone periods of art studies at Unisa and the Free State Technicon in the 1970s.

Greatly inspired by his mother who was a keen amateur painter, he became interested in art at the age of 12.

With a background in the printing industry he followed many work paths as retail display artist, advertising, magazine, book and graphic designer, illustrator, theatrical props maker, DJ, electronic music experimentalist and newspaper infographic artist. During this time he was also an active fine artist and ran several of his own experimental galleries. 

De Villiers's first exhibition was a one-person show in 1985 at the Market Gallery in Newtown, Johannesburg. 

He was responsible for the organisation and hosting of the Fringe exhibitions of the first Africus Biennale in 1995.  

In 2014 de Villiers started artmaking on a fulltime basis. He works with realism and abstraction creating mixed media drawings, oil and acrylic paintings and silkscreened artworks. His artworks are in many collections in South Africa and abroad. 

De Villiers's work is a meditation on the state of nature, it's decay and regeneration, ecology and "making the invisible forces of nature visible". He is equally influenced by the growth and decay of plants in a garden and the discoveries of the James Webb Telescope and the Large Hadron Collider. 

 Inspiration from William Blake:

 "To see a World in a Grain of Sand

And a Heaven in a Wild Flower,

Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand

And Eternity in an hour."

-Auguries of Innocence 



At present most of De Villiers's artwork is exhibited and sold online or sold directly
o private collectors as well as commissioned artworks.

  • 2023 Abstractions. Solo exhibition at the Gordart Stokvel Gallery, 27 Boxes. Melville, Johannesburg. Sept 22 -25.

  • 2023 Latitudes Online group exhibition: LAND // sites of (be)longing. 5 April to 17 May.

  • 2023 Latitudes Online group exhibition: REVERB 23 Abstract Resonances // Contemporary Voices from 8th Feb to 24th of Mar.

  • 2022 Group Exhibition StateoftheART Gallery, Cape Town.

  • 2021 July-Aug: Affordable Art Fair 2021 at EDG2020 Gallery, Kyalami, Johannesburg. Awarded second prize for Vortex, a multimedia screenprinted work on paper.

  • 2020 Exhibited and sold artworks online.

  • 2019 onwards: Exhibited paintings at The Pencil Art Foundation in Umhlanga, KwaZulu-Natal

  • 2018 July: Group show at White River Gallery, Mpumalanga, titled "Na die Maal" (After the Meal)

  • 2018 May. Paintings exhibited at StateoftheART Gallery, Cape Town

  • 2018 April onwards. Group exhibition at The Art of Silver Gallery in Cullinan

  • 2017 11 Feb-12 March "Untitled" group exhibition at the Moor Gallery Franschhoek

  • 2017 Jan 7- Feb 5 "Genre" group exhibition at the Moor Gallery Franschhoek

  • 2016 "Ephemeral Pleasures" group exhibition at the Moor Gallery Franschhoek

  • 2016 August- Oct: "Muse Montage" group exhibition at Eclectica Design and Art

  • 2016 July: A pastel painting titled "After the Battle" accepted by the Delville Wood Memorial Museum in the Somme, France

  • 2016 July 7-23 Group exhibition Scapes: Rhythms of an environment at StateoftheART Gallery,

  • Cape Town

  • 2016 June: Group exhibition at Halifax Art Gallery in Parkhurst, Johannesburg 

  • 2016 May 5: Optical Diversions, a group exhibition at Eclectica Design and Art Gallery, Cape Town

  • 2016 January: Executed a commission to do a series of skies for a client of The Gavin Project.

  • 2015 Exhibited works at Gavin Project, Arts on Main, Maboneng, Johannesburg.

  • 2015 September. Rogue Art 1 group exhibition at Carfax, Johannesburg

  • 2015 July. Studio exhibition at Carfax to open the artist's new studio.

  • 2013 October Solo exhibition: “Decay Transfigured” at Gallery on 6th in Parkhurst, Johannesburg.

  • 2013 Group show at Gallery on 6th in Parkhurst, Johannesburg.

  • 2011 Group show “Altered Pieces” at the Thompson Gallery

  • 2010 March: Solo exhibition “Earth & Sky” at Right on the Rim at Arts on Main in Johannesburg.

  • 2009 Participated in GTZ International Photographic workshop and exhibition, “Diversity, the impulse for development”. Johannesburg and Pretoria.

  • 2009 “War and Hate” group exhibition at Right on the Rim, Arts on Main, Johannesburg

  • 2006 “Nature Morte” a solo exhibition at the Gordart gallery in Melville, Johannesburg

  • 2005 March 11 - 18: Solo exhibition “Earth & Sky” at the Gerard Sekoto Gallery, Alliance Francaise, Johannesburg

  • 2005 January 16 - February 9: Exhibition “Forty Hand painted Pictures” at Gordart Gallery

  • 2004 Exhibited on group shows at Gordart Gallery, Melville “For the Record/Off the Record”. Organised and performed in “Mayday Experimental music evening” at Gordart.

  • 2004 Exhibited in Christmas Miniature show Gordart Gallery

  • 1999 Participated in group exhibition touring Mexico and the US, “Transmigrations 1999”

  • 1998 Participated in group show, "Buttons” at the Civic Gallery, Johannesburg

  • 1997 The Beat Hotel Carfax, Newtown, Johannesburg

  • Eurovirus #1, 2 & 3 exhibitions at Carfax, Newtown, Johannesburg

  • 1997 Participated as an artist in Jahn Beukes’ “Group Spiral” music production

  • 1996 “Landscapes”, two man show with Pieter Swanepoel at Gallery Palette, Pretoria Art Gallery

  • 1995 Curators Choice Exhibition, Rembrandt Gallery, Johannesburg

  • 1994 “Biting The Ballot”, Rembrandt Gallery, Johannesburg

  • 1994 Group Show at the ICA, Johannesburg

  • 1993 Solo exhibition at the Long Gallery, S A Association of Arts Gallery, Cape Town

  • 1993 Johannesburg Corporate Art, a group show at the Artists Co-Operative, Midrand

  • 1993 Group Show, Newtown Galleries, Johannesburg

  • 1993 Alternative Photographic Print Workshop, University Witwatersrand and the ICA with Bob Cnoops

  • 1993 “Drawing with light”, group show, ICA, Johannesburg

  • 1993 Group Show, Anti-Gravity Gallery, Rosebank, Johannesburg

  • 1992 Usable Art, Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA), Johannesburg

  • 1992 Exhibition/demonstration at the annual South African Art Historians Conference, UNISA, Pretoria

  • 1992 101 Miniatures, ICA, Johannesburg

  • 1992 “Made in August” exhibition at the Newtown Galleries, Johannesburg

  • 1991 Kempton Park Art Competition, overall and category winner

  • 1985 First Solo exhibition at the Market Theatre Gallery, Newtown, Johannesburg

James portrait thing.jpg

James de Villiers

Born 10 March 1954

Pietermaritzburg, Kwazulu-Natal. 

Currently lives and works in Johannesburg, South Africa.


De Villiers' work is concerned with change, decay, destruction and the passage of time. It also specifically deals with the vulnerability and recovery of nature. It is only over the last ten years that he has been able to paint full time, although he has been an active artist in many media since the age of nineteen as well as various periods of operating fringe galleries and facilitating art, poetry and experimental music events.

He works in both abstract and realist modes, moving from one mode to the other keeps his attention focused and his vision fresh. Each mode or style of art-making enables him to express himself in the most appropriate way the artistic vision demands. However, over the past ten years, he has been concentrating mainly on abstraction using a variety of media including acrylics, oils, pastels, charcoal and screenprinting. 

From an early age he has been greatly influenced by Nature, both from a scientific and an aesthetic view, and has been keenly aware of the destructive influence of human activity on the environment. One of his early art influences was the visionary artist and poet William Blake.

The influence and inspiration for much of his present work comes directly from the simultaneous study of the French artist Gericault’s “The Raft of the Medusa” and working and meditating in the garden. He was studying the painting and found the original plans for the actual raft online and built a scale model. He was fascinated by the grid, the way a grid was used as a life support mechanism and what that raft can represent conceptually. It led him to think of birds’ nests and at the same time, he happened to be doing a lot of trimming in the garden, ending up with piles of twigs, flowers, leaves and branches.

The chaotic grid patterns that the branches formed, the idea of humankind shaping nature to conform to aesthetic ideas, the wastage and the whole question of ecology soon began to inform his art-making. The grids are also a reminder of maps and the chaos of the layering of history on the landscape through wars and disasters. De Villiers' study of World War 1 trench maps and comparisons with present-day terrain is used extensively in a number of interpretive works.

Some of his current artwork deals with flowers, especially when they have fallen on the ground, forming these seemingly chaotic formations with their decay also producing effects not seen in the normal blossoming flower. He finds the decay processes of plant material fascinating and also the way nature recycles itself in an unending cycle of growth and degeneration.

 "From man-made machines such as the Large Hadron Collider that allow us to detect, visualise and measure the smallest conceivable parts of matter to the telescopes like the Hubble observing the collisions of galaxies; these are the fascinations that entice the disciplines, expressive and intellectual, to understand and interpret the world around us. The efforts of humanity to chart and map these forces and vectors and the conflicts and understandings that arise from this. The artists and visionaries, philosophers, physicists, engineers, mathematicians, astronomers and numerous other fields all play a part in unveiling the secrets behind the forces which influence every aspect of our lives".

In his art, De Villiers attempts to express and visualise a small part of that quest and share with the viewer the overpowering sense of the overwhelming and the seemingly chaotically complex universe in which we exist; through abstraction which allows us a sense of being able to hopefully express a normally inexpressible spirituality, and realism which allows us to grasp the essence of physical magnitude and often times the terrifying chaos of beauty.  

Major influences include Gerhard Richter, Claudio Bravo, Anselm Kiefer, Christian Boltanski, Marc Rothko, Brice Marden, Turner, Constable and many others.

His main themes are derived from a study of military, art and social history, archaeology, science, ecology and music.

Johannesburg, Gauteng, South Africa. 2024

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