Patrick Rorke

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Patrick Rorke - Enter the gallery

Born: 17th December 1953. Morija, Lesotho.

1971 Art Matric Belgravia Art Centre East London.

1972 ~ 1980 Spent predominantly "Finding Myself". Made a living from a variety of sources i.e. taxi driver, busker, door to door salesman,purveyor of drawn and painted erotica etc. etc.

1980 ~ 1989 Moved back to Lesotho to avoid apartheid. Discovered ceramics and worked largely as a potter with the Kolonyama Pottery and in my own studio at Teyateyaneng, Lesotho.

1989 ~ 1994 Return to Jo~burg. Taught art and pottery at the Alexandra Art Centre, Alex Johannesburg.

1994 ~ 2003 Thrown upon my own resources when the Art Centre closed down. Began painting in earnest as well as making mosaics.

Public work

  • Mosaic: Summerlands, Parkhurst, Johannesburg.
  • Mosaic column: Dish Studio Parkhurst, Johannesburg.
  • Mosaics and murals: The New Metro Mall, Newtown Johannesburg.
  • Mosaic: Mary Fitzgerald Square, Newtown Johannesburg.
  • Mosaic: Rovos Rail Station, Pretoria.
  • Lighting: Christies Restuarant, Sandton, Johannesburg.


    Have taken part in numerous joint and one man exhibitions from Alex to Um tata and from Mellville Koppies to Boston USA. Currently working with the Stewart Gallery, Johannesburg.


    For the most part, I am self taught, apart from an art matric at the Belgravia Art Centre which was a rather notorious part of the East London Technical Colledge. One of the teachers there was a Mr Barry Gibb who taught me to break up my colours, something which has stayed with me to this day.

    What made you decide to become an artist?

    I think that there is no deciding point. There is instead an underlying knowledge that despite repeated attempts at being denied, cannot be denied. It is a calling, I suppose and one answers it with equal amounts of reluctance and enthusiasm. If I had any choice in the matter, I would probably quite happily be a plumber or beachcomber or something like that. But I am what I am and if I had to search for origins I might have to go right back to the caves at Sterkfontein. The first soul to take up some rough oxide and smear it on a cave wall, lives on in my very cells.

    What types of art do you do?

    I suppose, essentially I am an instinctive artist working with my intuition rather than my intellect. I make the art work first and then I find meaning in what I have done. If I were pressed to find some label to what I do, it would perhaps be "Post Modern Neo Expressionism with a healthy nod towards antiquity."

    What is your style?

    Painterly expressionism.

    What is your subject matter?

    I alternate between an ongoing dialouge in my work about my surroundings ( the city scape, the grim beauty of the rather harsh and predominantly man made landscape around me and the compelling but fragile existence of the people within this landscape.) and an inner "voice" in which I explore my subconcious through a sort of automatic imagery.

    Is your painting subjective or objective?

    Predominantly subjective but with this qualification that when I am working in the purest sense of the word, i.e. when I am "inspired" I work not with my own subjective sense nor with a cold objective sense but rather with a larger "over" sense which is neither subjective nor objective but in a some way encompasses both states.

    If subjective, what emotions do you display in your work?

    Ideally that of detachment, if one gets such an emotion, but more often a kind of yearning and when I am lucky, a heightened awareness of what I am painting.

    How do you do this?

    I suppose that this is the crux of the matter. Here it is not about how one paints or makes art but rather what mental frame of mind one is in when one does this.

    Do you have a philosophy on art?

    Yes and it is perhaps best encompassed in an old Chinese saying (probably Taoist) " The essence of art is nothing extra". In other words my task as an artist is to get as close to my particular truth as possible, whatever that truth is ( my truth will be different to someone elses truth) but ideally, and this happens very rarely, the truth or reality that one arrives at has so little "extra" that it becomes a universal reality. Another aspect of my philosophy is that as artists we are seldom creating anything new but that rather we are unearthing elements of our own pshyce which essentially are very very old.

    What is your method?

    I am not sure that I understand fully what you are asking me here. If you are asking me about technique here then my method is quite old fashioned, oil on canvas with all the inherent technical know how that goes with this. If you are asking me about my method of arriving at the mental state neccesary for making art then I think that one needs to look at art making as being very similar to meditation. When I make art I try to get as close to a state of openess, where my concious mental activity is at a bare minimum and where my unconcious is allowed through to take control.

    Do you have any technical tricks?

    I suppose really the biggest technical trick is working with light behind paper. It breathes an enormous amount of life into the simplest of colours and marks. As for the painting, unfortunately I dont think that one can get away with anything other than a very thorough understanding of ones materials.

    What and who influence your work.

    Though I am essentially an irreligious person, a sceptic, my work is deeply influenced by by humanities pervasive spirituality. As for who, the list is quite long but I will chop it down to Soji Hamada, a Japanese potter, Braque a French painter, Frank Aeurbach a German painter and also the German Neo-expressionists.

    What type of reaction do you get to your work?

    A range of reactions from indifference to great excitement. The best reaction is a recognition not of the work but of what lies behind it.

    What are your developments - changes - influences on these developments?

    I have for a long time worked as an instinctive painter, relying on intuition rather than a conceptual approach, lately though I am spending more time and effort in trying to understand the underlying structure of art making. In other words I am no longer taking an inherent ability to produce unthinkingly for granted.

    What are your plans for the future?

    I have always mantained that I look forward to the day that I can paint in the simplest and the most direct way. Like a child, really. This generally takes a lifetime of effort to arrive at.
    © All of the images on this website are copyrighted original artworks by their author and are protected by international copyright law. No materials in this gallery may be reproduced, copied, downloaded, or used in any form without written permission of the contemporary artist Patrick Rorke.
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