Car guard turned artist Erick Karanga was “very happy” when he found out that his work was to be exhibited at the KnexT art gallery pop-up shop at the Watershed in the V&A Waterfront.
“To be in the Waterfront is a good opportunity to get exposure, especially with the tourists. I want to show the world my talent,” he said.
Erick, who is originally from Rwanda, came to Cape Town in 2004 because he saw no future in his country.
“It was not my plan to come here, but I could not stay in Rwanda under dictatorship. It is too dangerous. But I do miss my family – especially my sisters.”
Erick worked as a car guard at a shopping centre, because that was the only job he could find.
Sharing with CapeTowner his love for art, he said: “The first time I touched a pencil was when I was six years old. It’s a talent that comes naturally.”
At the shopping centre, he often went to a gallery there and became very interested in paintings, especially those by an artist called Andrew Cooper. He then decided to explore his new found interest, picked up a paintbrush for the first time in 2007, and never looked back.
“I started painting from photographs and took them to different art galleries so that they could give me constructive criticism. This was the way I bettered myself.
“In 2014, I was ready. I had my first exhibition at the Framing Gallery in Constantia.”
Erick said his style of painting is very realistic.
“I love painting the Cape mountains and oceans, and landscapes. What makes my paintings different is the way I create dimension. I paint from a photograph, but I use the image in my mind and create different colours and light,” he explained.
And since Erick’s exhibition has opened at the Waterfront, he has been painting live at the KnexT art gallery.
He feels that it is important for people to get to know the artist. “People just usually see the product, but it is important to see what goes into the product and meet the man behind the paintings. The people in the Waterfront love me. Sometimes I can’t breathe when they stand around me to watch me paint. They ask me many questions.”
And now that his live painting stint has come to an end, his dream is to find a permanent space there where he can paint.
“My work will be available all the time, but I wish I had a space to paint and exhibit. I paint from home now, and sometimes here at the Framing Gallery.”
Erick feels that the art industry is difficult to break into, especially if artists paint similar work, but at the same time, he feels that everyone should be given a chance.
“One thing is to discover what people want. Some paint animals, some paint people. My thing is landscapes, and I don’t know if people are interested in those as much as they would be in animals or people.
“The other thing is people don’t take the time to look deeper into an artist’s work and find out why the work they do is different from another artist. This is why I like to paint live, so people get to know the man behind the work.”
Asked what makes his paintings stand out, Erick said: “I use acrylic paint, which is a better quality than oil paint. Also, my paintings are very realistic. I paint it as I see it, just with my own twist of colours and light.”
Erick said he wished for his work to remain in the Waterfront for a long time as it is the best place for people from all over to see.
“The Waterfront has many feet travelling through it, so it is the best place for business. I am thinking about painting a scenic photo of the Waterfront, and hopefully, I will get a shop there one day.”