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JONATHAN DE VILLIERS | ‘Cape Town’ and ‘Manila’
April 22nd 2022
Setting aside conventions of editorial and fashion photography, Jonathan de Villiers shows the world how stories can be told differently. A fashion shoot in an uncomfortably crowded metro train shifts the attention of the viewer, giving thoughts of an everyday commute; and on the other end of the scale, the British photographer presents beautiful natural landscapes or architectural photography in such harmony that allows the voice of the structure to triumph. Shortlisted in 2008, ten photographs by eight leading artists were shown at the ‘Wallpaper* Selects’ exhibition at Eyestorm in London. Two of the works by de Villiers: Cape Town and Manila.
by Henrik Riis
PRINT EDITION RELEASE
As Imelda Marcos, the impending first lady of the Philippines, decided to raise awareness about the country and her husband’s bid for the presidency in 1965, it was always meant to be opulent. A national theatre and cultural centre of artistic abundance was planned on a ten hectare lot and the ambitious woman - rumoured to own one thousand pairs of shoes - went straight to Leandro Locsin; a national hero renowned for his architectural achievements. The Theatre of Performing Art inside the Cultural Center became Locsin’s masterpiece. By using dark-brown concave metal beams as support, the architect created an illusion from the outside of a floating block of cement - twelve metres high by eighty long - making space inside the main theatre for one thousand spectators.

Thirty five years after the grand opening in Manila, a young photographer strolled through the lobby inside of Locsin’s architectural marvel and took a photograph that would position the British artist amongst a new talented generation of photographers.

A self-taught photographer, De Villiers’ route to the front pages of the worldly and stylish magazines was a reverse process; like developing an image in the darkroom before pressing the shutter-button on the camera. Theoretically puzzling and practically undoable, but not an entirely surprising feat from a man who found time for a BA in philosophy at King’s College in Cambridge the few years in-between a thriving business and the break-through as a photographer.

In his teenage years De Villiers photographed his favourite bands on stage and quickly mastered the basics in the dark room. The dedication to developing the negatives and the perfectionism of bringing the images to life transformed into a print studio in London’s Soho; a business that soon counted a client base of award-winning advertising and fashion photographers. However creatively satisfying, the endless hours in the studio was financially less rewarding. By his mid-twenties it was a closed chapter, unlocking the door to a new career in photography shortly after his graduation.
JONATHAN DE VILLIERS
Manila, 2008

Edition of 20
51(w) x 76(h) cm
20.08(w) x 30.00(h) inches
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JONATHAN DE VILLIERS
Manila, 2008

Edition of 20
51(w) x 76(h) cm
20.08(w) x 30.00(h) inches
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Jonathan de Villiers (British, b. 1968)

Manila , 2008

51(w) x 76(h) cm
20.08(w) x 30.00(h) inches
Chromogenic print on crystal archive matt paper

Signed and numbered on front.
Edition of 20
PRICE
$ 630.00
MAKE AN OFFER
Find art trends here >
Within a few years from entering the world of commercial photography, De Villiers’s shots were confidently working their way from a playing a supportive role of the articles inside, to the covers of the trendy magazines. His photographic practice oozed perfection and delightful spontaneity. A trotting horse fitted in Hermès on a treadmill during an endoscopy session; immigrant window-cleaners in designer suits, sitting on a skyscraper-platform hundreds of metres above Shanghai’s urban jungle; and in one of De Villiers’s most famous photographs a giraffe is casually sticking its neck through a door-opening, by accident interrupting a fashion shoot in a posh residence in the outskirts of Cape Town. The apparent ease of the artist’s images hide the complexity of what really goes on behind the scene.

It was a random walk while on an assignment in the Philippines that lead to De Villiers’ photograph of the lobby of Tanghalang Pambansa theatre inside the Cultural Center. Typical for the artist’s work, it is the simplicity and perfect proportions that is visually pleasing. In Manila, the attention is first drawn to the exquisite chandeliers hanging from a painted mahogany-brown ceiling. Divided into square formations - resembling wood panels of a Renaissance palazzo - it is a warm colour mirrored in the polished marble beneath. De Villiers’ uses the architect’s spectacular contrast between the warmth of the interior and the cold structural concrete to guide the eyes of the viewer to the inviting entrance on the left and the red-carpet staircase at the end of lobby. Undoubtedly inspired by Ezra Stoller - the great American photographer known for his composed work featuring landmarks of modern architecture - the representation in Manila belongs to De Villiers, whilst leaving the triumph of the lobby exclusively to Locsin.
JONATHAN DE VILLIERS
Cape Town, 2008

Edition of 10
76(w) x 102(h) cm
30.00(w) x 40.16(h) inches
MAKE AN OFFER
Art is about talking with each other and via ‘Make an Offer’ you can have a direct conversation with us and suggest a price for this artwork.
Your Offer *
Name *
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JONATHAN DE VILLIERS
Cape Town, 2008

Edition of 10
76(w) x 102(h) cm
30.00(w) x 40.16(h) inches
ENQUIRY
Art is about speaking to each other and by making an enquiry you can have direct conversation with us about artwork you find interesting.
Name *
Email *
Phone number *
Any Comment? *
* Required fields
Jonathan de Villiers (British, b. 1968)

Cape Town , 2008

76(w) x 102(h) cm
30.00(w) x 40.16(h) inches
Chromogenic print on crystal archive matt paper

Signed and numbered on front.
Edition of 10
PRICE
$ 1,140.00
MAKE AN OFFER
Find art trends here >
Few photographs of Cape Town are more iconic than the view of the upmarket suburb, Clifton. Rising up the hillsides overlooking four popular beaches, it is a parade of swanky designer houses with rooftop swimming pools and terraces with unobstructed sea views. Originally, De Villiers’ photograph from 2003 was part of a twelve-page article to cover Cape Town as it started to emerge on the travel bucket list a decade into the new democratic leadership of South Africa. Although the artist was not the first to shoot this view, in contrary to other photographers, he achieves a flawless composition of what is today one of the most photographed scenery in the country. The diagonal lines in the image are superbly parallel, interacting with the white houses that form a sloping “S” through the middle. And like magic, he manages to make a giant blue tower crane almost disappear.

Jonathan de Villiers is an artist with strong opinions and his uncompromising views on many subjects have been a force behind the award-winning and innovative work. The extent of his creative spirit within photography was quickly noted and in 2000 he was selected for the exhibition ‘Imperfect Beauty’ at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London. Widely exhibited over the past two decades, other notable shows include the ICA and Photographer’s Gallery, London; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, USA; and Hyeres Festival, France.

Two works by de Villiers, Cape Town and Manila, were part of an exclusive collaboration between the international design, fashion and lifestyle magazine Wallpaper*, the artist and Eyestorm. Eight established photographers and ten works, many of them past magazine covers, were shortlisted and displayed at the exhibition ‘Wallpaper* Selects’ in London in December 2008. Printed as chromogenic prints on matt paper, Manila is an edition of 20 and the large-size Cape Town an edition of only 10. The prints are signed and numbered on front.

To view the photographic editions in more detail and find more information about the works, visit Jonathan de Villiers’ artist page here.
 
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