The soft aesthetics of “sad boy” Lorenzo Plaatjies
by: Cole Ndelu - 20 November 2017
Sometimes, talent trumps everything. Lorenzo Plaatjies is proof of this. The Joburg-based artist, art director and game developer is coming for everything. He is currently in the in the top 10 of Behance’s most appreciated list in the South African creatives category.
He also recently collaborated with Mr Price as part of their new T-shirt project.
In his works, Lorenzo explores themes of sadness, happiness and material wealth. I sat down with the resident sad boy to talk art and challenging representation of people of colour.
“I’m not an interesting person. I’m just obsessed with art,” He responds modestly when I ask him to tell me about himself.
The self-taught artist doesn’t give himself enough credit. Lorenzo got his start in design and illustration by designing mixtape covers for his friends. “I taught myself by practising.” He made art for himself and his peers and with every new project, his skills improved and became more refined.
Lorenzo’s illustrations are beautiful portrayals of people of colour. His works are emotive and shrouded in softness. “When I make art for the pure purpose of expression – that’s when I make sad art. I try to portray heartbreak and longing.”
He attributes this to his desire to express youth angst with many of his subjects illustrated as teary-eyed, frustrated or sad. These emotions are prevalent in Lorenzo’s works because these are the feelings that he as a “sad boy” wants to channel and express.
“I can’t make happy art.” Which is ironic because Lorenzo’s subjects are all painted against a soft pink background. A colour that is largely associated with lightness, happiness and love.
“The type of pink I use, the blush pink, is very soft and gentle. It has a feeling of being neutral – like close to white.” The blush pink background is Lorenzo’s signature, an identifying characteristic of his artworks and a part of his visual code.
Lorenzo expresses a desire to create work that is undeniably his. He wants to develop an aesthetic that people can recognise as belonging to him “the way people know a DJ Khaled beat or an Andy Warhol painting or a Basquiat painting,” the young artist explains.
Another attractive attribute of Lorenzo’s artworks is how it challenges mainstream representations of people of colour. Mainstream media is guilty of boxing black bodies into harmful stereotypes. People of colour are often portrayed as angry, unruly and loud. They are generally depicted in a negative light that is quite damaging. It’s encouraging to see a young artist like Lorenzo depicting people of colour as beautiful, soft, layered, and as central characters in their own stories.
“I want to create an art movement for us. I want to interpret black beauty and the power of melanin. I want to do it because I genuinely feel like we are beautiful.”
Lorenzo also emphasizes the importance of creating artworks that young girls can relate to. “I want little black girls to see themselves and see who they are going to look like in the future. I want them to see themselves as art.”
For a sad boy, Lorenzo speaks passionately about his art as a vehicle of positivity and as a way to positively affect how people of colour see themselves.He’s focused on making more black art and exploring his subject to the fullest extent. It’s beautiful to see someone young with a large following using their platform to challenge representation.
Lorenzo’s soft aesthetics also challenge toxic masculinity. He paints blacks boys crying, against blush pink backgrounds in a world where men of colour are not permitted to cry or express sadness. His works are removed from the hard aesthetics that men of colour are confined to. “It’s not weak – it’s beautiful. I appreciate that I can challenge norms and when I do this, it makes my peers feel like they can do the same.”
You can follow Lorenzo on Instagram @Lorenzoplaatjies and visit his website to see more of this talented artist’s work. And you can purchase his tee at select Mr Price stores.