Natasha is deeply influenced by nature, both in her native South Africa and from her many travels around the world. She explores the relationship between water and the deep hidden treasures found beneath the surface. In particular, the lotus flower, which provides endless inspiration as a bloom that flowers only in adversity. She believes that like the lotus, beautiful things come from dark places. Her work reflects a kind of transcended beauty that is abstract in nature yet resonates with those who find the connection to her mark-making.
She further explores the complex nature of habitat and identity found around water. Drawing from her own experiences, the crocodile and Jacana waterfowl provide the connection to her imaginary world, these creatures are found in many of her works and provide a link between places, spaces, lives and continents. The lotus bloom is most often seen scribbled in childlike form and is a signatory to her work.
” Painting has consumed my life since the age of 7 and defined who I would become. Completely self-taught my journey began by transforming ordinary visual images into works of art, instinctively finding their way to my pallet and the walls of many commercial and private collections around the world. As with all Journey’s the abstract nature of this path soon took hold and without guidance or persuasion, I found myself moving in a completely different direction in a very short space of time. My love for expressionism and movement was hard to suppress.
I eventually let my hand roam free, creating the many large abstract works of colour, for which I am known today. Greatly influenced by nature and the lesson provided by the Lotus flower, it is not hard to see that beautiful things do indeed come from dark places. Astounding and inspirational that such a beautiful flower can bloom and be at ease in muddy waters. You will find this mark in all my work, look for the lotus in your painting.
During the early part of my career I painted mainly floral and Landscape contemporary paintings, still widely available in print through numerous publishers worldwide and today I am considered to be one of Africa’s most published artists. In addition to numerous international art fairs, group & solo exhibitions, I have sold widely into corporate & private collections, produced artworks for Hollywood, TV, Greeting cards, Hospitality, Airlines and boardrooms. My career did not begin with art, but instead, I hold an international Grande Diplome in Cordon Bleu cookery form the Prestigious Silwood Kitchen in Rondebosch, South Africa. I worked as a cookery editor for many years before swapping my spatula for a paintbrush. My first book, “The Culinary Adventures of a Travelling Cook” is the journey of my Art & food and the canvas that brought them together.
Today I keep a studio in Ballito, South Africa, my home. Here I spend a great deal of my day doing what I love most, painting. For fun I like marathon running and spending time in the African bush. You will always find me here in Africa, with my favourite possessions in the world, my three feral cats.”
What did you want to become when you were a child? What inspired you to pursue painting?
Natasha: I knew from a very early age that I would one day become an artist, I did not even have to think about it, it was this deep instinct from about age 4. All I wanted to do was make things. I never wanted to be anything else.
Tell us about your artwork, medium, style, subject matter etc.
Natasha: My work is abstract, my love for mark making is my driving force and I am completely self-taught, I studied to be a cordon bleu chef and worked for many years as a food writer and food stylist, but the swapping the spatula for the paintbrush was my greatest achievement. I love to abstract nature of loose fast painting. My works are large and expressive and the intuitive nature of my personality shines though. I don’t have a subject- I have only memories and places I travel to in my mind while I paint. I use Acrylics and watercolours, depending on my mood.
What is the message you are trying to give with your art?
Natasha: No, I paint for myself and no one else. There is no hidden message, I just love the action of the paint spreading across the canvas. It brings a great release, making something is rewarding, does not matter if it is a cake or a painting, I just love to create, all the time.
Could you walk us through your process? How much planning do you do before you jump into creating an artwork? If you do, what are you trying to solve at each stage of it?
Natasha: I am very disciplined. Painting is my life, my job and I have been at it professionally for 25 years with no other source of income. I start work each day at 8 am. I paint until noon and then do all the paperwork, shipping, emails, social media and administration. It takes strength and discipline to be that person who works from home and does not allow the freedom to interfere.
I treat each day as it presents itself, I do not really plan, I go into the studio and see how I feel if I am not up to something big and important I paint small sketchbook pieces or I clean the studio or keep myself busy, as long as you show up, that is what is important.
When have commissions or I am painting for an art fair, I prepare the canvas the afternoon before so that I am ready to go as I walk into the studio and I do not still have to waste time prepping. Because I am a morning person, I like to do all my creativity in the mornings. I can count on one hand the days I have painted past 1 pm. And I never paint at night.
Tell us a bit more about lotus flower. Why lotus? Do you remember the moment of realization that it could be your main inspiration? If yes, what was it?
Natasha: Beautiful things come from dark places and so this is my inspiration from the lotus flower as it can only bloom in the mud.
The moment I started this series was the day I visited the Pamplemousse gardens in Mauritius, Africa.
Waterlilies and lotus flowers filled the gardens and the inspiration sparked a lasting impression that has filtered down to all my artworks. I have expanded now to include a crocodile and all his adventures, these can sometimes be seen in some of my works.
How did you feel when you, as you say “let your hand roam free”? Was it liberating?
Natasha: I mean it figuratively, I do as I please without rules or restrictions. It gives me huge power to break the mould.
Do you have a real-life situation from your travel experience that inspired your artwork? If yes, please tell us about it.
Natasha: I would say the time spent in Mauritius that started the lotus flower series was a defining moment for me, it was a return to a childhood vacation trip, a memory of these gardens, a revisit and a realization of what I had become, I had the dream and I followed it all the way. Not many people can say that. I love travelling through Africa, and recently my trip to Botswana inspired many abstract geometric forms and shadows. All interlaced into the fabric of my mind and ultimately on to my canvas. So yes, travel feeds my needs and my needs to feed my canvas.
Who are a few artists/people that really inspire you right now, and why?
Natasha: I found an artist on Instagram – Wendy Mcwilliams, for something I cannot explain I am deeply drawn to her work and her style. But the ultimate favourite is the master who started it all, Robert Motherwell. When I was starting out I visited a museum in New York and stumbled upon his work, it has such a lasting impression on me, I walked out and announced to anyone who would listen that from that day onwards I would become an abstract artist and paint nothing else and that is exactly what I did. Best decision ever.
What memorable responses have you had to your work?
Natasha: Gosh, too many to remember but from time to time I see my work pop up on TV or in films, that is pretty fun. I have also visited hotels abroad or hospitals and walked in to find my work in the foyers or waiting rooms, that is always very rewarding.
What is the best way to reach people that are interested in your art?
Natasha: I think that Instagram is the future of art, it allows viewing without pressure and builds confidence, so a DM on Instagram or an email from a social media post would be great I also have a website, but I prefer Instagram.
Are there any upcoming shows or workshops we should know about (or cancelled due to the Covid-19 situation)?
Natasha: I do travel for many shows internationally and most have been postponed, so looking ahead, hopefully I will attend the Affordable Art fairs, Battersea in October, Singapore in November and Hong Kong in December. Due to restrictions from South Africa, I will not be able to attend the Melbourne Affordable Art Fair, but my work will be available with Gallery Manyung in Melbourne at the Fair.
I am currently exhibiting in Bangkok with La Lanta art gallery until the 4th of July in conjunction with the River city shopping complex Bangkok.
What’s next on the horizon for Natasha?
Natasha: Well, I did open a gallery space I use for the fairs only, @Barnescollective_gallery.
It’s the gallery arm of Natasha Barnes and affords me the opportunity to sell my own art alongside other South African artists. I exhibit under Barnes Collective and am enjoying the new challenge.
But next, well I have always wanted to inspire, be able to share my journey of how I marketed myself before social media I may add, as an artist all the way from South Africa whom today is considered to be one of South Africa’s most published artists, I am thinking of starting workshops on how to take your art to the next level, a kind of how to become a successful artist and earn your living course.
I may even write a book.
To find out more about Natasha and her art, please check: