Where my art was born
-A tribute to my deformed hand.
One of life’s travelers and blessed with an artist’s soul, Antoine de Villiers works in many mediums, in many styles, yet there is always something quintessentially of her through the core of her work, like a wick through a candle drawing her creations out.
Originally from a small town in the, northern part of South Africa called Potchefstroom, she got stuck into art at an early age, making a mess with clay, paints and brightly coloured paper, she said: “even today I get excited all over again at just the mere memory of kindergarten and all those hours happily covered from head to toe in paint, glue, sticky paper and plasticine under my fingernails.”
Despite these idyllic beginnings, Antoine didn’t plan on becoming an artist. However, she continued to enjoy art classes at school, even though she found them a challenge to begin with. It was an art teacher named Connnie Pretorius who encouraged young Antoine and gave her the confidence to continue, eventually becoming a close friend and mentor. Antoine remembers: “she was one of the only adults I was able to keep a positive relationship with through my toughest teenage years and her passion for her subject rubbed off on me.”
Injury and betrayal
It was two profound events at the age of 17 which compelled Antoine to really begin to express herself through art; a motorcycle accident resulting in serious injury for Antoine and fatally wounding a close friend, and a deep betrayal from another friend.
Surviving a head on collision with a car at 80mph while traveling as a passenger on a motorcycle and escaping with only cuts and bruises and an injured right hand, must have seemed like a miracle to the 17-year-old Antoine, encouraging deep introspection. Although left with permanent problems with her hand, Antoine was amazed she got off so lightly compared with her driver.
Then, just days after this accident, the diary she had kept from the age of 12, was stolen by a friend and read, prompting Antoine to turn to brush and canvas as an outlet for her feelings and frustrations, instead of her now tainted diary. She said: “I started articulating my thoughts, ideas and feelings visually. The first of which was a painting titled “Smashed Windshields” that was about the accident. This painting traveled with me for several years. I rediscovered the joy and relief of creative expression”.
Psychology and the University of Life
After school Antoine enrolled at the Potchefstoom University for a psychology degree. Why psychology? “I wanted to make a difference, help people like me in situations when no one could have helped me…” But this wasn’t meant to be and after guidance from a career advisor, Antoine changed to arts. Due to financial reasons as well as the intense desire to study fine arts instead of graphic design (which was the only arts related course the local university offered) she froze her studies and decided to become full time artist.
Paint or bread?
In the following years Antoine’s life journey took off.
“With a suitcase full of paint tubes and brushes and a few pieces of clothing over my shoulder, I got in my car and moved to Stellenbosch, about 1000 miles from where I was living. Here I ran my first studio in a tiny, steaming hot attic. Those were the years where I had to choose between buying bread or paint. The paint finally won, since I had to paint a painting for my landlord in exchange for my rent, that was months in arrears. Shortly afterwards I had my very first solo exhibition.”
After a few more exhibitions and living on coffee alone, she finally saved enough to buy her first international plane ticket. It was from Johannesburg to London Heathrow… the beginning of a brand new chapter.
She said: “I’ve always had an intense desire to travel and in London it felt like everything fell open like a book. I discovered the Tate Modern museum and literally cried the first time I walked between those Dalis and Pollocks. I spent every free minute I had right there.”
In the following years Antoine moved between South Africa and England a few more times and was able to tour some of the Netherlands, Italy, France, Ireland and Scotland.
She said: “The more of the world I saw, the more I wanted to see and the styles and movements of art in different cultures fascinated me.”
By 2001 she was doing well enough to sponsor her Web Design studies through Boston Business College.
Happily ever after
At one of her last exhibitions in South Africa she met her soul mate. In the beginning of 2003 they moved to the United States together where they are currently giving the age old term ‘happily ever after’ a new and deeper meaning.
Today Antoine is a veteran of over sixty exhibitions across the globe. Her work has received numerous awards including best Solo Artist at the New York Art Expo in 2009. Antoine’s originals can be found in a great number of public and private collections as well as in the sixteen galleries that represent her.