Janette Wright

Janette Wright

Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa

About Janette Wright

Born towards the tail end of the Sixties, I am a Cape Town-based artist who specialises in abstract painting. I share my home with my husband and two dogs, and we love camping, hiking and mountain biking (some of the best trails in the world are in the Western Cape).
Drawing and painting is an act through which I challenge myself. A blank canvas is daunting, and the creative process changes me as I push through frustration to achieve results.
Creating grows me intellectually, emotionally and spiritually. As the work evolves, so does my style and my thinking process. Making art is not about repeating what is known and safe, but rather about having the courage to try new ways of creating and not to get despondent when it does not pan out the way I planned.
It is a process of continuously stepping out and making mistakes. Mistakes are opportunities to push further or to start again. As I form shapes, build up and break down layers of paint, dissolve pigments and scrub off the surface, the final image begins to reveal itself. The painting becomes infused with and reflects my interpretation of the world, my thoughts and my emotions. Layers of paint and texture reveal and conceal traces of something left behind, a remnant that is barely recognisable. There might be a ghost of a face or a landscape, an elusive image that morphs and becomes abstract. Each viewer has a unique encounter with my work and when the ambiguous, enigmatic elements of the work reach down into their imagination, they may find an echo of themselves there.
Painting and drawing is therapy and a compulsion as much as it is play. Through the act of visual creation, I process the exterior world and make my interior world visible. There is a tension in the making of art: seen one way it is a luxurious and indulgent activity; on the other hand it becomes a conduit for fear, frustration and heartache.
There is constantly the fear of personal failure, career failure or a single work that fails. Failure has many faces and an artwork can quickly be destroyed by overworking, or falling short of my vision, or by losing my inspiration altogether. As tough as it seems, failure is a door that must be opened in order to progress, to change direction, or to rework the failed piece into something new.
It has been argued that while making art, one has to keep making mistakes. In my case, mistakes are my greatest teachers. Some artists also consider the accidental to be vital to the creative process, and this is particularly true about mine. The ‘art’ is to control the process of fashioning the artwork and its accompanying accidents into a unified and satisfying whole.
A universal theme in life and my work is the passage of time. Time cannot be banked and it cannot be saved for later. I see my role as an artist as that of a recorder of time - to live and be in the moment and to always be mindful. Our lives make a small mark on the time-line of life, yet an ethereal element of our presence remains after we have moved on … silent ghosts of things said, decisions made and actions taken. I strive to capture and record those many intricate, minute and invisible elements. The issues of my heart and mind, the things I wish, long for and dream about - these things crystallize in my work.
What does art mean to me: personally, intellectually, spiritually, politically, socially and emotionally?

My intention is to produce work that is without pretence; work that is honest, truthful and raw. At its best an artwork can mean all these things at once, even as sometimes I must acknowledge my fear that my artwork is merely a colourful object in itself. The key is to use doubt as a spur to grow, to strive always to become a better artist.


I graduated from Michaelis School of Fine Art (University of Cape Town) in 1989.

After my studies I worked in a design-related field for several years before traveling to Europe. I started painting and drawing in earnest on my return, and this led to freelancing as an illustrator and participating in successful exhibitions of abstract works in 1995/6.
While illness led to a hiatus in my fine-art career for over a decade, I ran children’s art classes and taught art at a pre-school in Cape Town. Later I worked in the publishing industry doing Photoshop editing, and also designed and sold illustrated greeting cards and other stationery. Throughout I freelanced as a graphic designer and illustrator in the educational sector.
Since shifting my focus back to fine arts and painting in 2013, I have participated in various art workshops and reorganised my studio practice radically, working productively towards group and solo exhibitions.


Association of Visual Arts, Cape Town, 1995, 2016.
Various group exhibitions, Cape Town.
East West Art Exchange, London, 2016.
IS Art Gallery, Franschhoek, 2016.
Mullers Gallery, Cape Town, April 2017.
State of the Art, Cape Town, 2017.
DF Contemporary Winter Exhibition, Cape Town, June 2017.
Association of Visual Arts Members’ Exhibition, Cape Town, July 2017.
art.b Gallery Vuleka Art Competition and Exhibition (3rd Prize winner), August 2017.
art.b Gallery 2018 Member’s Exhibition.
art.b Gallery “Three Graces” group exhibition. March 2018.
art.b Gallery “Tiny Treasures” group exhibition. June 2018.
ART NEXT LEVEL / 33 Contemporary Gallery, Seattle, USA: “8x8 Self Portrait Exhibition”. July 2018.
art.b Gallery “Flight” group exhibition of monoprints, lino prints and etching. July 2018