Gavin Jantjes (b. 1948, District Six, Cape Town) is a painter, curator, writer and educator. He left apartheid South Africa in 1970 on a DAAD scholarship to study at the Hochschule für Bildende Künste Hamburg between 1970 and 1974, and was granted political asylum in Germany in 1977. In 1974 he published A South African Colouring Book, a collection of eleven collaged serigraphs presented in the format of a children’s colouring book. This work is widely regarded as one of the most important pieces of anti-apartheid art ever produced.
Concurrent to his studio practice Jantjes held a lectureship in Fine Art at Chelsea College of Art, served as a Councillor of the Arts Council and a trustee of the Tate, Whitechapel and Serpentine Galleries. He also served as the Artistic Director of the Henie Onstad Art Centre in Oslo and a Senior Consultant for International Contemporary Exhibitions at Norway’s National Museum, Currently he is an advisor to the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa in Cape Town. He is the author of numerous publications including the landmark four-volume Visual Century: South African Art in Context 1907 - 2007 (2010).
Over the past twenty years Jantjes has maintained an exhibition practice, exhibiting his earlier prints and paintings in galleries around the world. He has held solo exhibitions at venues including the ICA, London; Kulturhuset, Stockholm; Gothenburg Art Museum, Gothenburg; the Henie Onstad Art Centre and the Oslo Kunstforening, both in Oslo; and Kunstlerhaus Bethanien, Berlin. His work has also been included in thematic group exhibitions at the Hayward Gallery, Whitechapel Gallery and the British Museum in London; the Havana Biennale, Havana; the Bronx Museum and MOMA PS1, New York; the National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian, Washington D.C.; the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles; Baltimore Museum of Art, Baltimore; Haus Der Kunst, Munich; the Iziko South African National Gallery, Cape Town; and the Museu Picasso, Barcelona.
In 2014 Jantjes returned to his studio and the daily practice of painting. He began to focus on a series of fourteen large canvases entitled The Exogenic Series (Aqua). These non-figurative paintings marked a radical departure from prints such as A South African Colouring Book and the poetic paintings he produced throughout the 1990s. The series traces his investigations into what remains possible in the field of painting after post-modernism and conceptualism. Engaging the viewer's attention through a sensory reading of a painted surface rather than recognisable images, his recent paintings place the visual and the visceral ahead of the literal.