Reno Horn is a Cape Town based photographer and artist. He moved to London in 1996 where he studied hair and makeup at London’s Cavendish College. His work was featured in UK publications, including The Evening Standard and other fashion magazines. He also worked on music videos for MTV.

During this time he became fascinated with photography and purchased his first professional camera. Completely self taught he started shooting editorials and campaigns for fashion designers, including Dexter Wong.

In 2008 Reno returned to Cape Town where he focused more on photography and opened his own photographic studio. Combining his talents as makeup artist and photographer, he continued working in the fashion industry, but became more involved in fine art photography , portraits and landscape/still photography .
Reno travelled extensively in Europe and to the United Arab Emirates, where he photographed beautiful city and landscape scenes.

His love for beauty and fashion is very apparent in his fine art photography, hence his first solo exhibition in 2012, Hornography, which featured Cape Town drag queens.

His following exhibition Beauty is the Beast, is a fine art photography collection of nude subjects wearing skulls or horns. The images are dark, moody and mysterious, and the use of light and shadows add to the beautiful images in a haunting way.

Reno also combines mixed media by painting over some of the photographs, creating stunning and exciting new images. He has recently stared painting with acrylics and oils, and has completed several portraits and abstracts. He was also featured on South Africa’s premier lifestyle magazine TV show, Top Billing in 2017, for his work as photographer and makeup artist – shooting internationally renowned UK fashion designer , Julien Macdonald’s iconic garments in Cape Town .

RUAN: How and why did you decide to launch the online and physical galleries?

RENO: I have worked as a make up artist and photographer for many years, in both London and Cape Town, especially in the fashion industry. I returned to Cape Town permanently in 2008 after living in London for 12 years. Make up and fashion is a form of art, and so is photography. When I returned to South Africa, I knew I wanted to pursue and expand my love of all these art forms, so I opened up a photographic and make up studio in Wale Street.

The studio quickly became an art studio as well where I exhibited my photographic work. After a couple of years and a few exhibitions and auctions of my work, I realised that people were very interested in my creative work. I was a new artist and although my work was gaining popularity, it was clear that the studio was not the right place in terms of size and location or even accessibility to really make an impact. I needed to find a way to get maximum exposure, hence the idea to go online.

What started off as one career or art form, quickly developed  into a new career, and of course a business opportunity. Which made me realise, if I am out there as a new artist facing hurdles in getting exposure and acknowledgment, as well as selling my work and making money in a very competitive and critical environment…. Then surely there must be others like myself who needs help to either break into the industry, or get their work exhibited or even just recognised. 

I reached out to some artists, many of whom are friends of mine, to get an idea of how we can get the exposure we needed. Most of us were unknown or had the experiences of exhibiting in galleries. Many galleries don’t exhibit artists if they are not well known or had previous exhibitions under their belt. Many galleries also take a huge commission of at least 50% of art sold, which is a huge chunk to upcoming artists who spend a lot of time and money to produce art. 

I decided to start an online art gallery called Art is Art and we had a big launch party a year ago. Unfortunately it wasn’t as successful as I hoped, and we had few sales. I think an online gallery is a great way to get exposure nationally and internationally, but I also think buyers are reluctant to buy art they can’t physically see. To really appreciate art, one need to be able to stand in front of a piece, really see the work as a whole… The dimensions, the texture, technique, colours and the beauty have to evoke a reaction from the viewer to make a connection with the artwork… That is when you make a sale. 

So the only option was to find a gallery space and create such an environment where artists and art lovers or buyers can come together. So Art is Art Gallery was the result, and now myself and other local artists have a beautifully exciting new art gallery in De Waterkant where the magic happens. 

RUAN: Why are you so passionate about art?

RENO: I like to excite people, I want others to appreciate and value the beauty with me and also enjoy the excitement. Art is more important than we realise. It is not just something pretty or decorative. Art is experimental, it is expressive. It evokes emotion, it creates thought and conversation. Whether it is pure beauty, has drama, whether it is realistic or totally abstract, controversial, or risqué… It always causes a reaction. Each person experience a different reaction and that makes life just a little bit more exciting. We are free thinkers, and few things are more precious than freedom. 

RUAN: At what age did you know art is your passion and something you wanted to do?

RENO: I don’t think there was ever a specific age or eureka moment in my life, and definitely not a moment where I thought art would be what I ended up doing for a living. I actually wanted to be a marine biologist growing up. But I grew up in a strict Afrikaans home and I knew I was very different and expressive.

My father used to be very creative and loved drawing, making art with burnt matchsticks and even made furniture pieces out of wooden clothing pegs, he was great with metal and woodwork, restoring model dinky toy cars etc. So I guess he had something to do with my creative process in my early years. I took art in school and there the love of art really took off. But then you finish school and real life happens, back then I had to work and make ends meet.

Unfortunately it wasn’t till much later in life when I found my way back to creativity and art in particular. I moved to London in my 20s and studied hair and make up, then got more involved in photography. Years of working in the fashion industry eventually took me full circle to art photography and about a year ago I finally picked up my paintbrushes and I started painting again.. After an absence of over 20 years. 

RUAN: Where would you say your inspiration comes from?

RENO: Everyday life! People I encounter on a daily basis. Memories of the past. My interpretation of what the future might hold, while I am here or even when I am long gone. I want to leave something behind… Something that validates me or the fact I was here. Life! 

I am inspired by this beautiful world we live in, through all the shit that is going on out there, I still see beauty. I don’t want people to forget that. 
I am hugely inspired by other artists, their work is personal and touching. It is mind-blowing to look at other art and be wowed by it. There is so much talent out there, no one piece is ever the same as another. You may be influenced by another artist, you may apply or even copy some aspects of their work, but it will never be exactly the same. 

RUAN: Tell me more about the themes that goes into your art?

RENO: I usually include references of my work as a make up artist in my photography and paintings. There are elements of fashion and beauty, especially when I shoot portraits. I love dark, moody photos and paintings, with emphasized contrasts of light and shadow. My work is mostly modern contemporary, with a bit of a dark twist. I love playing with studio lighting to create the effects or mood I want to portray. My last series was called Beauty is the Beast, where my subjects were usually beautiful male and female nudes, with animal skulls or horns to create a beast like illusion.

A combination of fantasy and reality. I print the images on special paper or canvas and then paint on the images with acrylics or oils, creating mixed media art pieces. 

I also photograph amazing still life and landscapes, especially when I travel abroad, and digitally enhance the images to create the final artistic pieces I want.

As I mentioned I recently started painting from scratch again, and have created very colourful oil and acrylic pieces, once again mainly portraits. 
RUAN: How do you plan on reviving De Waterkant as an artistic/creative district for artists?

RENO: The new Art is Art Gallery is in Rose street, De Waterkant, so it is a well known part of this already vibrant area of Cape Town. De Waterkant is a village really, with established, and very new and exciting developments happening all over. It has always been an area of Cape Town known for eccentric lifestyle and residents.

I am sure my gallery will add to the colourful character of the neighborhood. I even have a wonderful 74 year old lady who lives opposite the gallery now exhibiting her work in the gallery! There are a couple of other art galleries, including the Deepest Darkest gallery opposite Cafe Manhattan. We have a great relationship and we hope that together we can create an exciting new art destination for people to visit. The more the merrier…. and the more art galleries in a concentrated area, the more variety we can offer to everyone’s taste and budget! 

RUAN: How do you plan on giving other artists a platform via your galleries?

RENO: I really want to give artists, known or unknown, the opportunity to showcase their work. Most artists put their life and soul into their work, as well as their hard earned money.. But don’t always have a fair shot at exhibiting their amazing work, due to financial constraints or other socio-economic factors. My door is always open to artists who need help.

I am happy to have a look at their art, give my honest opinion on whether their work will be suitable for my gallery, depending of course if they choose to have their work shown there. I can help where I can to get their art properly printed or framed for example, and if we can reach an agreement that is financially viable for both of us, I sign them up with the gallery and give them that first step on the platform to higher success. There are no guarantees in life, but opportunities should be given to those who need and deserve it. 

RUAN: What advice would you give to aspiring young artists who would love to follow your passion?

RENO: Don’t give up. Try and try again. Success doesn’t happen overnight. It takes hard work and effort, patience and sometimes a bit of luck. You might not become a world famous artist, but do what you love doing. Whether it is a hobby, or a full time career…art is life. Art is love. It is happiness and sorrow. It is freedom and expression. ART IS ART.

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