Oscar Linnert with UWC’s former Rector and Vice-Chancellor, Brian O’Connell
Oscar Linnert, an audio-visual technician at the University of the Western Cape, dreams of a space where he can “be himself” with his artworks and creativity.
The Ravensmead artist, who has worked in the University of the Western Cape’s Audio Visual Department for the past decade, has produced numerous portraits and commissions, including of UWC’s former Rector and Vice-Chancellor, Brian O’Connell, and former statesman, Nelson Mandela.
Art has been a lifelong occupation, said Linnert. “If you asked my mother, she will say that I started sketching before I could even speak,” said Linnert, aged 50. “Of course I don’t remember that, but I know that I've been sketching all my life and that it became normal to sketch people’s faces.”
Linnert enjoys art that is challenging, which is why he mostly does portraits. He explained that he has a discerning eye which can quickly gauge a person’s age, or life story, merely by the folds of their skin, or their eyes. One of his most challenging projects was a sketch of identical twins, completed while he was still at high school. “I managed to highlight the differences between them in the sketch,” he explained, much to the delight of the teacher who had commissioned the artwork.
With no formal artistic training - except for a year at Peninsula Technikon studying graphic design - Linnert has dabbled in various media over the years. He spent a few years doing signwriting, using a brush to replicate graffiti-style effects. He also made “a buck or two” doing artwork in letters. When this became boring, he moved onto three-dimensional art using polystyrene. It was a 3-D commission for a computer company that exposed him to the “editing world” of special effects and digital graphics, and opened the door to his current day job at UWC’s Audio Visual Department.
While grateful for the steady income, Linnert admitted that it sometimes feels as if his body is screaming inside by the time he gets home, as he just wants time to paint in his driveway.
His art has become a family endeavour - especially during lockdown. Linnert said his children enjoy touching up his artworks and it’s a way for them to spend quality time together. His daughter is also a dab hand with the paintbrush, following in her father’s impressive footsteps.
Although oil is his preferred medium, Linnert would like the opportunity to experiment with latex and steel. He hopes to complete a render of Mandela using this medium, in the future. But for now, he’s happy to be painting in his driveway, creating the portraits that have earned him his reputation as Ravensmead’s “Leonardo da Vinci”.