The path to Wales for the artist, photographer and environmentalist Jacha Potgieter has been one with diversions. Born in South Africa in 1963, he did his National Service there and went on to study for a diploma in conservation in Cape Town, followed by conservation work in the sub-arctic Prince Edward Islands. Five years back-packing travel was to follow, as he explored and worked in countries as diverse as Israel and England. A collector for as long as he can remember, Jacha’s travels introduced him to the rich art forms, craftsmanship and styles of differing cultures. From the religious icons in ancient churches of Europe, to Ottoman-style candle bases found in Turkey, his eye was caught and mental notes made for paintings and prints to be made in the future. More often than not, Jacha’s rucksack was as likely to be crammed with patterned textiles or rugs, as it was with the essentials he needed for time on the road.
In Budapest Jacha met Gwyn, a beautiful Welsh girl, who had been widowed some time before. Gwyn and Jacha married in 1993, and so Jacha came to North Wales, a country he has come to love.
In 2001 Jacha completed a John Moores BA (Hons) in Fine Art. He works from his studio at the station, creating paintings, ceramics, prints and three dimensional work, drawn from life and from his imagination. He is also an accomplished photographer. Today Jacha’s work lies in private collections the world over, from Australia to America, Turkey to France, Bermuda to Belgium, Greece to Norway, and of course South Africa. One of his chief influences comes from his passion for conservation. Time spent in Borneo in 2008, and in Cameroon in 2010, provided a signal spur to his work. His paintings of the apes have a tenderness and power to them that is compelling.
That love of animals is a key thread to Jacha’s work, as is, he says, his relationship with the world and the people within it. Much of his oeuvre makes social comment; some is challenging to its viewers. As with the man who creates it, plenty is larger than life. Through it all, Jacha returns to the subject of conservation. Two of Jacha’s key paintings were auctioned at an important evening with Sir David Attenborough, Virginia McKenna and Brian May, in support for Hope 4 Apes.
Jacha is an ambassador for Orangutan Appeal UK and Ape Action Africa, he raises money and awareness for the charities by taking part in fund raising events such as climbing Kilimanjaro, he visits schools to talk to pupils about the work they do and a percentage of the sales of his artwork is split between them both.