Interviews & Conversations Projects

Women Who Create
This is Sanell Aggenbach

Women Who Create is an ongoing portraiture project all shot in B&W in my studio in Woodstock, Cape Town. I love to connect with other creatives, see what motivates them and find out what is behind their work.

Apart from creating this portrait with Sanell I’ve had the honour of documenting and working with her on project she’s busy on at the moment. Working with Sanell is divine. I’d describe her as having an open heart, being blissfully talented and rocking to her own beat (in her studio with the music turned up).

Sanell Aggenbach is a South African artist living and working in Woodstock, Cape Town. Using painting, printmaking, and sculpture, her work addresses the relationship between history and private narratives, with a sense of ambiguity. Her work also explores the processes of nostalgia and historical myth-making, often incorporating the playful, disarming, and absurd to draw the viewer into discussions of darker subjects. She has a unique style of combining traditional painting techniques with sculptural elements, as well as typically feminine crafts such as sewing and tapestry. (-Wikipedia).

“My earlier works relied heavily on processing found imagery, rethinking associations and creating new fictions. These works were often an amalgamation of historic references with private narratives and forms part of a process of investigating pathologies and deconstructing the past. My primary intention is to construct subtle paradoxes by introducing a quiet humour, either formally or materially.”

Her explorative work has secured her many achievements including winning the Absa L’Atelier Award in 2003. Her work is represented in numerous public and private collections, including Sasol, Absa, Spier, SABC, Red Bull (Austria), the South African National Gallery, 21C Museum in Kentucky (USA) and Anglo Gold.

Find Sanell’s website here.

A Q&A with Sanell…

Why do you create?

It’s my most optimum method of communicating ideas, emotions and concepts.

What is your all time favorite quote?

JUST DO IT! The Nike slogan… because I’m a procrastinator and tend to overthink…

Do you have pet peeves?

Charlatans, frauds, fakes, those who manipulate or take advantage of well meaning or less fortunate individuals.

What is/are your greatest extravagance/s?


What defines your idea of happiness?

Swimming with my family – we are all water rats.

A person dead or living who you admire and why?

Louise Bourgeois – she was an influential artist who only came into prominence very late in her life. Her unyielding persistence, her courage to challenge and address her immense childhood trauma in her work and her poetic use of materials, from drawing to monumental installations are haunting and humbling. 

On what occasion do you lie?

To spare my children’s feelings.

What is your most treasured possession?

A letter from my late brother, the only one he ever wrote to me.

What do you do to help put you into your optimal creative space?

I need solitude, knowing that everyone is fed and looked after… then I turn up the volume and tune in.

What does your (physical) creative space look like?

It is an old mechanic’s workshop which we renovated with large metal windows overlooking a small green courtyard. An abundance of natural light and plants.

When creating what is your biggest frustration?

My process is slow and time-consuming, with endless layering –  therefore I sometimes struggle to finish works. So instead of yielding to the process I can get frustrated due to the timeline. Having said that, I need deadlines for all my painting and sculptural projects.

Name a few quirks that others may not know about you?

I’m stubborn, persistent and I hate baking.

When you’re in your ultimate creative space what word would you use to describe the experience?