The hearty aromas of an autumnal lunch hit us as soon as we arrive at the Janson homestead. After a slow journey to the laid back west coast town of Raglan, nothing could be more welcoming. But then to our surprise come the hugs, smiles and incredible hospitality from Yaniv’s parents, Annick and Robin.

WORDS TALIA WALDEGRAVE PHOTOS TRACIE HEASMAN

We’ve come to talk to Yaniv about his art; how­ev­er, he is nowhere to be seen. Many of us would shy away at the thought of writ­ers and pho­tog­ra­phers knock­ing on our door but for Yaniv, liv­ing with Asperger’s, shy­ness is all too famil­iar.

While we wait for him to get used to the idea of us being here, Annick gives us a tour of the home, accom­pa­nied with nar­ra­tives on Yaniv’s unique jour­ney into the art world.

Yaniv likes to be near his art, so we had a bed tai­lor-made just for him that allows him to store his paint­ings under­neath.

His bed­room over­looks the Raglan har­bour and he actu­al­ly paint­ed a pic­ture of this view, per­haps from pho­tos he had seen, years before he had even been here.

yaniv-14

So far, Yaniv has won eight awards. The first time he paint­ed on a large can­vas, he was a final­ist in the Nation­al Con­tem­po­rary Art Award and the Wal­lace Trust Award. For both he was the youngest. We used to hide his age at the time because we thought peo­ple wouldn’t take him seri­ous­ly.

When Yaniv was at kindy, he used to dab­ble in art and it was quite unique even at that age, but lat­er on when we tried to give him brush­es and paint, he just wasn’t inter­est­ed. At 16, his art teacher held an exhi­bi­tion among the stu­dents. Hud­dled around Yaniv’s paint­ing was a mob. That’s when we knew he had a spe­cial gift and we had to nur­ture it.

As soon as he paint­ed one piece, peo­ple would walk by and say ‘Can I buy it?’ For months we didn’t have any paint­ings because they lit­er­al­ly sold wet!

yaniv-27One day we were con­tact­ed by an organ­i­sa­tion called Eg Art, that works with the Euro­pean Com­mis­sion. Eg Art helps artists with dis­abil­i­ties and they hold exhi­bi­tions through­out Europe. The first one was called Chemins Croisés at the Galerie Celal in Paris, between Cen­tre Pom­pi­dou and the Lou­vre. Yaniv was the first New Zealand artist to be invit­ed. He sold three paint­ings at that show.

We love to trav­el and took all of our chil­dren to Paris when Yaniv was about two. Of course we went to the Lou­vre and our old­er chil­dren want­ed to get out of there right away. We man­aged to see the Mona Lisa. When we were back in Paris for his exhi­bi­tion, he spent nine hours wan­der­ing the entire gallery. This time it was me who got tired!”

CHANGING THE WORLD ONE PAINTING ATTIME

Yaniv’s first exhi­bi­tion was in the Waika­to Muse­um in 2008. It was here that he realised he could share a mes­sage with peo­ple through his paint­ings, which fuelled his inter­est in social and envi­ron­men­tal issues. This start­ed a long-term dream to exhibit at the Unit­ed Nations, so it’s been a pas­sion for a long time.

One Sat­ur­day morn­ing he got a call from some­one at UNESCO and we thought, ‘This must be a joke.’ It wasn’t. They had stum­bled across Yaniv online and asked if they could put the link to his book Chang­ing the World One Paint­ing at a Time on their web­site. UNESCO reach­es hun­dreds of thou­sands of teach­ers world­wide, so we were very hon­oured.”

Rather than print the book and destroy forestry, Yaniv sug­gest­ed the book be avail­able as a PDF to teach­ers all over the world.

He is always con­sid­er­ing dif­fer­ent yet eth­i­cal ways of doing things.”

A FEAST FOR THE SENSES

Vibrant in appear­ance is Messy Earth, an art­work made entire­ly by test pots; 22 of them poured straight onto can­vas. Yaniv explains “There was no paint­brush, just test pots. It took many days to dry. I chose to use twen­ty-two because it’s my favourite num­ber as well as the favourite year of my life.”

Sir James Wal­lace cer­tain­ly liked it and is now the proud own­er. As one of his biggest fans, this is the fifth paint­ing of Yaniv’s that he owns.

Yaniv is cur­rent­ly plan­ning for exhi­bi­tions in both Auck­land and Welling­ton, due to be held lat­er next mon­th, with a focus on colour and inter­ac­tion.

Ron Epskamp, Gallery Direc­tor of the Exhi­bi­tions Gallery of Fine Art says he admires artists like Yaniv, “His per­spec­tive requires us to view our world in a unique way.”

Flow­ers is due to show­case and again, not a sin­gle paint­brush was used. Instead, flow­ers were dipped in paint and water was poured on top to cre­ate tex­ture.

Sim­i­lar­ly tac­tile is Free­dom, where paint was squeezed through tubes from above.“There are many colours on it and if you touch it, it’s rough. I’m hap­py for peo­ple to do that. Every gallery has a sign say­ing, please don’t take pho­tos, but I make a sign to say please DO take pho­tos, please DO touch.

Freedom
Free­dom

Nor­mal­ly I try to imag­ine the paint­ings in my head but if I can’t imag­ine them well, I look on the inter­net to get some inspi­ra­tion. Some­times I am inspired by Raglan and the har­bour. I walk around the moun­tain and take pic­tures on my cam­era.”

OBSTACLE OR OPPORTUNITY?

2013-jansons-holidays-at-the-beachReal­is­ing there was trac­tion here in New Zealand to spread his eth­i­cal mes­sage, Yaniv cre­at­ed the ‘Tak­ing Action Project’ which con­nects with organ­i­sa­tions to raise aware­ness that artists with a dis­abil­i­ty have a con­tri­bu­tion to make.

Yaniv’s own offer­ings to the art world were quick­ly recog­nised and he became a final­ist for the Atti­tude Award, cel­e­brat­ing achieve­ment in the dis­abil­i­ty sec­tor — a huge nod to his achieve­ments with Asperger’s.

Yaniv donat­ed a paint­ing, which was auc­tioned at the cer­e­mony and fetched $3,000. The entire­ty of this went to Kid­sCan.”

The pur­chaser has now become one of his great­est sup­port­ers and close friends, Welling­ton CQ Hotel Gen­er­al Man­ager, Olivier Lacoua.

Port­fo­lio, Since the Begin­ning and Chang­ing the World One Paint­ing at a Time are all pub­lished books hous­ing Yaniv’s colour­ful works.“

Olivier buys my books to give to his VIP guests. Just yes­ter­day he ordered anoth­er twen­ty.”

Yaniv's books
Yaniv’s books

THE MESSAGE

Using a mix of acrylic and water on can­vas, includ­ing numer­ous test pots, Yaniv’s paint­ings con­vey an eth­i­cal and poignant mes­sage, he told me.

Rich, Mid­dle Class, Poor draws atten­tion to the every­day liv­ing con­di­tions of the rich, the mid­dle class and poor peo­ple. The rich peo­ple live in a mul­ti-coloured vil­lage on the moun­tain and the brown vil­lage by the ocean. They have more mon­ey and food. They choose what colour house they want. They see at least the ocean and oth­er things from their home. The mid­dle class peo­ple live in the sil­ver vil­lage by the bot­tom of the moun­tain. They have to share their home with oth­er peo­ple who are mid­dle class. Their hous­es are all the same. They only have a medi­um amount of clean water and food for liv­ing. The poor peo­ple live in the bush­es. They have no clean water, no home, no nice view, and almost no food.

I am pas­sion­ate about the mes­sage in my art because I don’t think any oth­er artist has done this before.”

SOLE FOCUS

Although Yaniv has pieces of work all over the world, he has a speci­fic des­ti­na­tion in mind for one.

My dream for the future is to exhibit at the Unit­ed Nations in New York. I love New York a lot. We took a trip there two years ago and saw the Muse­um of Mod­ern Art and the Guggen­heim. We spoke to some gal­leries and they said they would con­sid­er doing an exhi­bi­tion. Many peo­ple go there and that’s why I want to exhibit there; I can reach more peo­ple with my mes­sage.”

ARTISTIC APPRECIATION

Yaniv is quick to cred­it his men­tors. Close friend and Dis­tance Deliv­ery Men­tor Marcel Baai­jens has always been a great sup­port. Despite his recent move to Aus­tralia, he is in reg­u­lar con­tact with Yaniv.

Each time I sell a paint­ing, I rush to the com­put­er to email Marcel. Although Marcel is no longer my teacher, it is still some­thing excit­ing we share togeth­er.”

The high school teacher that dis­cov­ered Yaniv remains in the pic­ture too. A res­i­dent of Raglan her­self, she vis­its with the fam­i­ly a few times a week.

Quite pos­si­bly his biggest sup­port­er of all though is his moth­er, Annick. Remem­ber­ing every exhi­bi­tion, every piece of art and every mile­stone, she is as delight­ed as any moth­er would be, encour­ag­ing Yaniv to be proud of his notable achieve­ments.

She sends us home with boun­ty: a signed copy of Chang­ing the World One Paint­ing at a Time and a framed print from Yaniv’s col­lec­tion. Over­whelmed, sati­at­ed by the phe­nom­e­nal feast and bor­der­ing on speech­less, we leave feel­ing uplift­ed and know that Yaniv Jan­son is one to watch.