Raglan-based fine artist Yaniv Janson is taking New Zealand art to the world. With exhibitions from Montenegro to Paris, and even at the world headquarters of the United Nations in New York, the award-winning painter has received more than a dozen awards and sold more than 150 paintings both in New Zealand and internationally.
“I loved art lessons at high school. My art teacher used to say, ‘you’re ahead of your class’. This is where I fell in love with painting, and linocuts
[a paint-making technique],” he tells MiNDFOOD as he prepares to board a plane to yet another international exhibition of his work.
Eleven years ago, Janson convinced his teachers to organise a solo art exhibition for his work in the staff room. “It went really well, and about five paintings sold – including to a buyer who came from Auckland.” This made him sit up and think, “why not me?” He wanted his artwork to be seen and sold around the world.
Now in his mid-20s, Janson’s mission is to raise awareness about environmental and social issues, inspiring audiences to create change through art. This is driven by his own struggles with autism and epilepsy. “I do this because many people aren’t aware of issues faced by [people with disabilities],” he says, noting the environment is also close to his heart, and reflected in his art.
His exhibition at the United Nations in June saw further global recognition for his impactful work, with his art displayed on the sidelines of an annual meeting on rights for people with disabilities.
Making a difference
Janson says art has been wonderful for him and helped him develop as a young adult. “Art has helped me learn to communicate with others, and I have become better at talking about my art to my audience,” he explains. Janson’s condition doesn’t affect the way he sees colours so art is the way he has come to express himself to the world.
In May he partnered with Epilepsy New Zealand to help raise awareness about the condition that he and many others overcome daily. As part of this, his exhibition at Waikato Museum had the message that anything is possible, no matter what challenges life may throw at you. “Featuring Yaniv as the main artist in their exhibition helped to showcase that Kiwis who live with epilepsy can achieve great things beyond the condition,” says Graeme Ambler, Epilepsy New Zealand chief executive.
Janson admits he was “stoked” by the support from his local community and pleased he could exhibit his art so close to home.
His most memorable painting, Rich and Poor, was sold in Paris in 2011, a feat he is extremely proud of. His advice to those looking to make their own mark on the world is to “follow your passion”. “That’s all I did,” he says with a smile. Janson says while it feels great to travel around the world with his art, and to be recognised for making a positive impact, it’s important he remains grounded and on top of his epilepsy and autism.
“Keeping healthy is especially important because travelling abroad with epilepsy is a challenge. I eat at least a few fruits and vegetables each day (for Vitamin C) and drink lots of water. I try to exercise, including walking and swimming, to keep fit. I also closely monitor my body weight,” he says.
Visit yanivjanson.com to read more about Janson’s journey and see examples of his work.