Diane Victor

Diane Victor, (born 1964, Witbank, South Africa) is a South African artist and print maker, known for her satirical and social commentary of contemporary South African politics.

Diane Victor
Diane Victor creating a smoke drawing
Known forDrawing, Print making
AwardsL'Atelier Award (1988), Sasol New Signatures Award (1986)


Victor was born in Witbank, South Africa. She received her BA Fine Arts degree from the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg in 1986.

From 1990 to the present, Victor has lectured part-time, teaching drawing and printmaking at various South African institutions including the University of Pretoria, Wits Technikon, Pretoria Technikon, Open Window Academy, Vaal Triangle Technikon, the University of the Witwatersrand, Rhodes University and the University of Johannesburg.


Victor's work uses the figure, often her own self-portrait, to create complex narratives relating to contemporary South Africa and to the more global crisis of war, corruption and violence in both the public, political and in private life. According to Virginia Mackenny, Victor's work challenges the viewer "to scour her heavily packed images, densely rich in individual detail, to discover their levels of irony and action. Singularly devoid of any classicising hope of order, these images recall Breugel or Bosch in their pessimistic view of the world and the heaping of one folly on top of another".[1] Victor depicts reality fraught with injustice, revealing the complexity of contemporary existence. Her "ability to present her themes and subjects in a manner that all but forces our identification with them ejects us out of our complacent stupors, whether we wish it or not."[2]

Victor's ability to keep moving forward throughout a career that spans over 30 years, has ensured that she remains at the cutting edge in terms of craftsmanship and techniques. It also pertains to experimental drawing techniques, as seen in her invention of smoke drawings and ash drawings.[3]


4 Horses, Baited. Etching, aquatint & digital print, 105 x 200 cm, 2009

In her portfolio of dry point prints, Birth of a Nation (2009), published by David Krut Projects, Victor explores the history of colonial engagement in Africa in the context of contemporary corruption and imperialism.[4] She uses historical and mythological references as a platform to insert South African narratives, fusing a recognisable storyline with new characters and South African subjects.

In the ongoing series of etchings, started in 2001, Disasters of Peace, Victor directly references Francisco de Goya's Disasters of War. In this series, Victor evokes Goya's criticism of the atrocities of war while demonstrating the continuation of violence after war, and in the case of South Africa, after the end of apartheid. Highlighting overlooked and everyday violence, this series draws attention to this contemporary desensitised gaze or tolerance of violence. To Victor: "The images I am working with are taken from our daily media coverage of recent and almost commonplace happenings in newspapers, on TV and on radio of social and criminal acts of violence and ongoing unnecessary deaths – occurrences so frequent that they no longer raise an outcry from our public, yet they still constitute disaster in peacetime.".[5] To date (2020) this series consists of forty five etchings, each depicting a different disaster.

Jumping the Shadow, part manière noire stone lithograph. 62 x 91cm, 2017. Printed at Atelier le Grand Village, France

In the striking ‘4 Horses’, a set of four etchings with additional digital printing, Victor throws the viewer off balance with the sheer force of the imagery as she fuses herself crouched into or on to the body of a horse. Three of the four horses carry a human figure within like a foetus. The fourth horse, carries a diminutive female figure strapped to its back.

As a print maker, Victor's interest has led her to work with several lithography studios around the world in South Africa, France and the United States. With stone lithography in particular she has explored and stretched the boundaries which exemplify the richness and diversity that can be achieved with this print form. Exploring the manière noire technique she has brought a richness of texture to her stone lithographs.

in the stone lithograph 'Jumping the Shadow', helplessness is inferred where a huge wild boar/man appears to be about to rape or crush the landscape existing in its shadow. The shadow landscape also takes the form of a sleeping woman and the inference is that the man's inherent bestiality and aggression is the destroyer of both. The boar has been created using the manière noire technique. On the other hand, the shadow figure is created with delicate line work and a wash that expresses the vulnerability of the sleeping landscape/woman. Meaning is thus created not only by graphic content but also by technique and medium.[3]

Smoke drawingsEdit

Little Brother - smoke drawing 2019

Victor's smoke portraits explore subjects often overlooked, for example South African prisoners awaiting trial and missing children. These portraits capture individuals caught in a vulnerable moment, an idea reinforced through the impermanent nature of the medium used.[4] Victor uses drawing media to capture both the subject's portrait and vulnerable condition that is somehow in-between presence and absence. Victor is attracted to the direct correlation between the fragility of human life and the susceptibility of the physical image. For Victor, "the portraits are made with the deposits of carbon from candle smoke on white paper. They are exceedingly fragile and can be easily damaged, disintegrating with physical contact as the carbon soot is dislodged from the paper. She was interested in the extremely fragile nature of these human lives and of all human life, attempting to translate this fragility into portraits made from a medium as impermanent as smoke itself"'

Victor used the same medium to express the similarity between human genetic coding and that of other primates who are almost "little brothers". Yet like some distant and disowned family line we seem to feel no qualms at the knowledge of their persecution and endangerment. The fragile and ephemeral process of candle smoke Victor felt was an appropriate medium for the portraits of the primates rendered fragile and impermanent by mankind.[6]

Ash drawingsEdit

The technique of using ash as a drawing medium developed from printmaking. Texture and tone in etching is produced when rosin dust is sprinkled onto an etching plate to create an aquatint. Victor realised that a similar textural effect could be created on a drawing by sprinkling ash.[3] Victor has exhibited her large scale ash drawings on numerous occasions, notably at the exhibition 'FUIR' at the Fondation Blachère in France, 2017 and at 1:54, Somerset House in London, 2019.

Solo exhibitionsEdit

Ash drawing, Reasons why we migrate, 185 x 130 cm, 2017, FUIR, Fondation Blachère
  • 2018 "Little History" at Johannes Stegmann Gallery in Bloemfontein
  • 2018 "The 14 Stations" installation for Aardklop Festival, University of Potchefstroom
  • 2018 "Which Hunt" at Goodman Gallery in Cape Town
  • 2017 "Showing Truth to Power" at David Krut Projects in New York
  • 2015 "One Pound of Flesh" at Goodman gallery in Johannesburg
  • 2014 "The Needle and the Damage Done" at David Krut Projects in Cape Town
  • 2013 "No Country for old women" KKNK Festival artist exhibition in Oudtshoorn
  • 2012 "Ashes to Ashes and Smoke to Dust", University of Johannesburg Art Gallery
  • 2012 "Diane Victor - Recent work" at David Krut Projects in New York
  • 2011 "Fables and Folly" at the Faulconer Gallery at Grinnell College, Iowa, USA
  • 2011 "Brief Lives", Festival artist at Innibos exhibition in Nelspruit
  • 2011 "Ashes to Ashes and Smoke to Dust", University of Johannesburg art gallery
  • 2010 "Smoke Screen: Frailty and Failing" at David Krut Projects in New York
  • 2010 "Transcend" at Goodman Gallery in Johannesburg
  • 2009 Festival artist at Aardklop exhibition in Potchefstroom
  • 2006 Solo show at Goodman gallery in Johannesburg
  • 2005 Smoke Drawings at Michael Stevenson Gallery in Cape Town
  • 2003 Solo show at Goodman gallery in Johannesburg
  • 1999 Solo show at Goodman gallery in Johannesburg
  • 1997 Joburg Theatre|Civic Theatre, commission, Tesson Theatre, Johannesburg
  • 1994 Solo show at Goodman gallery in Johannesburg
  • 1990 South African Arts Association, Pretoria Gallery on the Market, Johannesburg

Group exhibitions - selection since 2010Edit

  • 2020 "DDESSIN Paris", Paris, France
  • 2019 "Material Thinking", Durban
  • 2019 "Little Brother" at 1:54 London, UK
  • 2019 "Ampersand 21 years", Johannesburg
  • 2019 "Grand Village", Nontron, France
  • 2018 "Talking to Deaf Ears", Johannesburg
  • 2017 "Fuir" Blachère Foundation, France
  • 2017 Print Triennial, Chamalières, France
  • 2017 "Rethinking Kakotopia" Johannesburg
  • 2016 "Fire Starter" Pretoria
  • 2015 "What remains is tomorrow" Venice Biennial
  • 2015 "Die Burger - 100 years" South Africa
  • 2014 "Ubuntu" Carnegie Hall, New York
  • 2014 "Nomad Bodies" Antwerp, Belgium
  • 2013 "Fragile" Amsterdam, The Netherlands
  • 2013 "Underculture" Port Elisabeth
  • 2013 "Tom Waits for No Man", Johannesburg
  • 2013 "Earth matters", Smithsonian Washington
  • 2012 "Across parallel lines", China
  • 2011 "Collateral", Auckland, NZ
  • 2011 "Contemporaray prints SA", MOMA, NY
  • 2011 "1EEB4", Romania
  • 2010 "Peek a Boo", Helsinki, Finland


Victor's works are included in the following permanent collections: Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the MoMA - Museum of Modern Art print collection (NY), Smithsonian Institution, Iziko South African National Gallery, Bibliothèque Nationale de France, Victoria and Albert Museum, Albertina collection Vienna, Grinnell College Iowa USA, Johannesburg Art Gallery, University of Witwatersrand Art collection, University of Johannesburg collection, Standard bank of South Africa, Pretoria Art Museum, Fondation Blachère France

Press reviewsEdit

  • Herlo van Rensburg, "An interview with Diane Victor." Image and Text. No.5, p. 27–31, August 1995
  • Herlo van Rensburg, "Purging in the work of Diane Victor: Contradiction and Convergence", June 1996[7]
  • Chris Roper, "Each to his/her own", Mail & Guardian, 8 May 1998
  • Brenda Atkinson, "Some gems at the end of the rainbow", Mail & Guardian,8 April 1999 (Review of Winsor and Newton Millennium Painting Competition)[8]
  • Brenda Atkinson, "Clean: An Exhibition of De-saturated Contemporary Art", ArtThrob, November 2001[9]
  • Daniel Thöle, "Social statements cross boundaries", Business Day, Tuesday, 9 April 2002 (Review of 'Transmigrations' at Pretoria Art Museum)[10]
  • Sue Williamson, "Grime' at Bell-Roberts Art Gallery", ArtThrob, July 2002[11]
  • Andrea Jonker-Bryce, "More than meets the eye", Dispatch Online, Thursday, 21 November 2002 (Review of 'Transmigrations' at Ann Bryant Art Gallery)[12]
  • Gordon Froud, "Dianne Victor". DESIGN ART. No 2, December 2010,[13] p. 63–73


  1. ^ Perryer, Sophie,ed. 10 years 100 Artists: Art in a Democratic South Africa, 2004, p. 398.
  2. ^ McInnes, Jacki. "Of Fables and Folly: Diane Victor, Recent Work Catalog."Grinnell: Faulconer Gallery, 2011
  3. ^ a b c "Little History" Proferssor Karen von Veh, interview with Diane Victor 2018
  4. ^ a b "Diane Victor". David Krut Publishing. Retrieved 15 April 2014.
  5. ^ "Art in South Africa". Art.co.za. Retrieved 13 March 2012.
  6. ^ Text written by Diane Victor, 2019
  7. ^ "South Africa Gallery". Archived from the original on 28 April 1999.
  8. ^ "Winton". Archived from the original on 25 September 2006. Retrieved 13 March 2012.
  9. ^ "A R T T H R O B / R E V I E W S". Artthrob.co.za. Retrieved 13 March 2012.
  10. ^ "Transmigration". Archived from the original on 4 April 2003.
  11. ^ "A R T T H R O B / R E V I E W S". Artthrob.co.za. Retrieved 13 March 2012.
  12. ^ "Welcome to Dispatch Online". Dispatch.co.za. 12 November 2010. Retrieved 13 March 2012.
  13. ^ "DESIGN>ART No 2". Issuu.com. Retrieved 1 August 2013.


  • Hobbs, Philippa and Rankin, Elizabeth. Printmaking in a transforming South Africa Parkwood: 2008, David Phillip Publishers, 1997. ISBN 0864863349.
  • Perryer, Sophie, ed. 10 years 100 Artists: Art in a Democratic South Africa, 2004. ISBN 1868729877.
  • Rankin, Elizabeth and Karen von Veh. TAXI-013: Diane Victor. Parkwood: 2008, David Krut Publishing Taxi Art Book. ISBN 9780958497589.
  • Bronwyn Law-Viljoen, Juliet White, Karen von Veh and Luke Crossley Diane Victor – Burning the Candle at Both Ends Parkwood: 2012, David Krut Publishing. ISBN 9780958497534.
  • Karen von Veh. Essay for Little History Johannes Stegmann Gallery, University of the Free State, 2018.

External linksEdit