Young DSSA creative looks for success through his love of the Free State at the Vrystaat Art Festival

Vian Roos (26) design honours graduate from Design School of Southern Africa (DSSA), describes the Free State as a “hidden gem for creativity.” He is currently exhibiting a portfolio of 16 creative photos at the Vrystaat Art Festival (11-16 July), in the Vrynge division. An avid enthusiast of all things Free State, his collection of photographs is called “Vrystad”, each depicting a different town.

The Vrystaat Arts Festival introduced the Vrynge division as an opportunity to give artists access to a wider audience. The hope is that it will increase the word-of-mouth marketing for subsequent ticketed performances by the company.

Though his heart is in the Free State, the graduate from DSSA, an educational brand of The Independent Institute of Education (The IIE), lives in Pretoria and works in Johannesburg. On exhibiting at the Vrystaat Art Festival, he says he is thrilled to have had his concept accepted. “I think it will be a fun-filled alternative to the normal art festival. The Vrynge and main festival are really pushing the reinvention of the ‘how’s’ and ‘why’s’ of what takes place at a national festival.”

His exhibition is called Vrystad (Vrystaat + Stad [Free State + City]). Roos took a road trip through and around the Free State stopping in at various towns. In these towns, he drove around looking for that ‘just right’ eye-catching moment. “The creative work that comes from Bloemfontein and other Free State towns is exceptional.  Look, you do get wind pump pictures too, and a lot of it, but the galleries in Bloemfontein are amazing. There is also exciting work on display at the Oliewenhuis Art Museum. I think it’s only in the mind that everyone keeps on speaking of Cape Town and Johannesburg as art centres, Bloemfontein creatives just need to work harder to be seen,” continues Roos.

“Every town, large or small within the Free State, away from the tourist attractions, has a story to tell. The spirit of a place (genius loci) is magical for me. I have tried to capture the tranquil and relaxed atmosphere in all my works. My photographs have a sombre styling to them as I haven’t used angels, but have photographed the scene straight on. I don’t go for WOW! and POW!” explains Roos.

Given the quality of artists at the Festival, Roos modestly attributes his participation less to being at the same level and more to application and effort. “Vrynge is aimed at younger artists. I’m here because I worked hard to put myself out there in order to get exposure. I’m hopeful my name is well circulated where it matters the most. I want to be seen as a young artist who tells stories through my work and that it is not seen as typical, mainstream designer’s work.”

Roos is also about to become a published author with his creation of a “Vandag” diary, which is set to be published in 2017. The diary was part of his practical assignment for his Honours degree at DSSA. “Vandag will be my first truly published book. I have others, but they are either a more personal project or had a very small print run. We had to develop an audience participation item and I decided on a diary. Even though they are becoming dated, they can still be very personalised items.”

Roos’s “Vandag” diary is designed with a taste for the everyday. The diary gives the reader tasks like eating ice-cream for breakfast or giving flowers to your mother, and answering questions which may be challenging or make you think deeper about yourself. Roos goes on to explain, “the bigger idea is to help the reader with small, everyday tasks and learning to be a happier person. Hopefully, by doing something different every day, it will help everyone become a better person.”

Roos has many more plans to keep him occupied including giving lectures on Illustration for final-year students at the Johannesburg DSSA campus; all the while carrying a day job as an Art Director for Farmer’s Weekly magazine.

He opted to study at DSSA for the simplest of reasons, “DSSA sounded and looked cool. I wanted to do something arty but I did not want to study just art, so the IIE’s graphic design at DSSA was a perfect fit for me.

“My studies not only assisted me with colour and composition but also with the message and meaning behind the items I was designing, as well as the impact and the experience my design was having on the people using/reading it,” concludes Roos.

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