Lorenzo Plaatjies Is Painting Masculinity Pink
Lorenzo Plaatjies renders young beautiful people of colour in digital brush strokes against pastel pink backgrounds. His portraits – heads and shoulders, other times just suspended faces – are selfie-inspired compositions; his subjects caught in a solitary moment crying tears or flowers. The people in his artworks are illustrated in his signature style from photos he finds online, reimagined with tattoos and tears against backdrops of sunflowers or pixel clouds. Lorenzo’s soft aesthetic stands strong in the face of so-called masculine culture. His images of Kanye West or Jayden Smith welling up are in stark contrast with hip hop’s hard exterior, and his emotional artworks are resonating with an audience online. We asked him about his practice.
Who are the people in your illustrations?
The people in my illustrations are usually references I find online that I feel fit my aesthetic, it doesn’t matter as much who they are as the mood they bring or inspire.
Why do you illustrate the subjects you do?
I create artworks based on the energy I feel at the time and when I find subjects that match that energy I choose those to work on and fulfil my vision.
How do you use emotions in your work?
Emotions are important, I try to play between the lines of pain and pleasure in my work because I find it interesting. I feel like everything we do is based on this so why not art as well. The emotions usually reflect the pain, longing, angst, heartbreak, while the aesthetics I’d say bring out the pleasure.
You use pink as a base colour for your illustrations – can you tell me why?
I wanted a neutral almost white colour but a colour that would still represent me and who I am. I’m very forward-thinking and I’d like to challenge the culture. So using pink as a way of cementing my style and identity just feels right.
How did you develop the style you work in now?
I have a deep interest in visual arts and aesthetics. This is like one of my styles but when it comes to digital art I experiment a lot. I just found a style of my own that I felt was unique so I focused on only this look & feel, it evolves more with experimentation so I’ll always find new styles.
Do you have a vision of the final piece in mind before you start? What’s your process?
Not really, I go with what I feel, usually I’m inspired by the challenge of creating something beautiful. But I can’t say I have a full vision in mind and if I do have any sort of vision, I will probably never meet it, due it being so unrealistic.
Who do you make work for?
I used to use art as a form of expression, a way to channel my emotions or energy into something beautiful. Now I make art to challenge, firstly myself and also culture, and develop on top of African visual history and culture. I aim to be one of the pioneers of African digital art.
How do you want your work to make people feel?
I just want to invoke a sense of wonder in my audience, or to connect with kids feeling the same emotions. The wonderful thing about my generation is we reuse and repurpose digital resources. So I always love to see people using my art to reflect how they’re feeling, or to add to their identity.
Follow Lorenzo on Instagram.
Interview by Alix-Rose Cowie