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Yaniv Janson’s art and activism

Raglan artist Yaniv Janson with award sponsor Kieran O’Sullivan of PAK’nSAVE Petone and Hutt City Photo: Vanessa Rushton Photography

Yaniv Janson’s art and activism

Raglan artist Yaniv Janson’s favourite number is 22. He likes to choose a theme and then make 22 paintings based around that theme.

The recipient of the Arts Access PAK’n’SAVE Artistic Achievement Award 2019, Yaniv has just completed a collection of works that he’s called Project 22 because each of the 10 paintings used 22 paint test pots.

“I’ve been developing this collection over a couple of years and several of the paintings were finalists in the Wallace Art Awards and the National Youth Awards,” Yaniv says. “Now that the collection’s completed, I’m looking for a place to exhibit them.”

In choosing Yaniv as the award recipient, the judging panel said that Yaniv has achieved critical acclaim, both here and internationally, in particular, representing New Zealand at the UN Headquarters in New York with his exhibition Please Do Touch.

“Through his art and activism, this talented young artist is building bridges across communities, and engaging people in social and environmental issues. Yaniv’s commitment, achievements, vision and innovation are outstanding.”

Yaniv has exhibited in more than 40 galleries in New Zealand, France, Montenegro, Canada, Israel and the United States. He has sold more than 160 paintings, won 20 awards and is the youngest guest artist invited to exhibit at the New Zealand Academy of Fine Arts in Wellington. Five of his works are in the Wallace Arts Trust collection.

His artworks have also been made into several books.

Yaniv has autism and epilepsy but says he doesn’t let either dictate who he is. He likes to paint on a large canvas, using vibrant colours to draw people into his works.

The idea of Please Do Touch came from his desire to enable people to experience art through different senses, and to challenge what is done and not done in the art world.

“I come up with my own ideas and I feel like I’m different to other artists,” Yaniv says. “I’m shy and I’ve had to work really hard to overcome my fear of public speaking. I prefer to show colours and paintings rather than using words.

“But it’s important for me to show that disability is not a barrier to achieving.”

Painting has been an important part of Yaniv’s life since 2007. Throughout his creative journey, a central theme has remained constant: to empower individuals to use expression, outreach and education as a tool for social change. He combines art with activism to get people’s attention about environmental and social issues.

“I remember was watching the news on television in 2009 and the presenter, Simon Dallow, showed a movie of a man’s house that had disappeared under the water because of the rising sea level.

”At home, we talk a lot about global warming and it’s something I want to raise awareness about through my art.”

In 2018, Please Do Touch featured in the United Nations Headquarters in New York, coinciding with the annual UN meeting of the Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Hon Carmel Sepuloni hosted the official opening.

Before the paintings were exhibited at the UN, Yaniv exhibited them in Montenegro and Paris. “The thing I’m most proud of is how the Please Do Touch idea has travelled around the world.

“The theme I chose was based on the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, which are about humanity and our environment.”

The paintings have not yet been exhibited in New Zealand but will feature at ArtsPost, the gallery of the Waikato Museum in Hamilton, in January and February 2020.

One of Yaniv’s dreams is to have an exhibition in London: he’s never been to London but has heard a lot about its art galleries.

His other dream is to take Please Do Touch to all schools in New Zealand. He’s put together a Sustainable Goals Journal for students, inviting them to express their creativity on its pages and motivating them to take action on environmental issues. The journal and a pilot project were launched at Te Uku School, near where Yaniv lives, and aims to result in 130 positive actions in the Raglan-Te Uku community.

“The principal was my teacher 15 years ago and after the New York exhibition, I reconnected her,” Yaniv says. “She was very excited about the journal project and next year, I want to take it to more schools in New Zealand and around the world. I’m hoping the Arts Access Aotearoa award will help me roll on this project.”

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