John Kramer

John Kramer is a South African painter. He lives and works from his studio in Cape Town, South Africa. He is known for his realistic paintings of small town buildings, shops and general dealer stores that provide us with a unique record of a world that has almost disappeared with the coming of the supermarket and branded stores.

Initially his paintings appear like photographs, but by emphasising a combination of verticals, horizontals and angles, created by shadows across the surface of the building, he divides the canvas into a series of abstracted forms.

Kramer was born in Worcester, Western Cape. He graduated from Michaelis Art School in Cape Town in 1968. He has lived in Cape Town ever since. He worked for a number of the South Africa Museum in the Company Gardens doing exhibition planning, curation and design.

Artist Statement by John Kramer:

I am endlessly fascinated by the buildings, shops, bioscopes and general dealer stores that lie scattered across South Africa, especially those of the Western, Eastern and Northern Cape and Karoo.

In the early 1970s, fearing they may soon be demolished, I began to photograph these buildings in my home town of Worcester, in the Western Cape. The supermarket was coming to town. Television was still to make its presence felt. I wanted to preserve their memory.

In trying to establish my voice as a painter and searching for a focus, I realised that the everyday buildings of my youth meshed with my idea of doing something essentially South African. This concept crystallised after my first overseas trip to Europe in 1974, when I returned to Cape Town and realised how extraordinary the local town-scape was and how much it differed from its European counterparts. Influenced by the photo-realism movement of the time, I began to use the buildings in my photographs as the subject matter for my realist works.

My paintings are not about architecture as such, about structures that have been designed; instead, they have to do with buildings that have grown and matured over time, that show the ravages of alteration, that reveal their amusing quirks and peculiarities, with all the eccentric bits and pieces added by their owners.

Image: Courtesy of artist