Ariana van Heerden


Ariana van Heerden lives and works in Pretoria, South Africa.

Ariana’s academic career, which started in the early 1980s, focused on training and research towards wealth creation in South Africa and to encourage entrepreneurship, especially in disadvantaged communities. To this end she completed a master’s research study entitled “Overcoming capability deprivation through craft technology transfer”, which investigated and addressed issues pertaining to poverty and craft skills training in rural areas of South Africa. Her analysis of capability deprivation led to an interest in peak performance and the factors that mediate it. In her doctoral studies Ariana investigated whether there is an association between art making and the brain state known as flow, which is closely related to peak performance and autotelic action. Her academic fascination centres around the cognitive and neural underpinnings of art making, inter alia by employing electroencephalographic experiments, whilst artists are making art. She retired from full-time academics in 2016 and currently serves as Research Associate at the University of Pretoria. To date she has supervised and co-supervised over 160 Honours, Master’s and Doctoral studies. She publishes articles in peer reviewed journals, and reads papers at international and national conferences. Ariana is also a committed practicing artist and has had five solo shows, the largest of which was held at the Pretoria Art Museum in 2004. In addition she has participated in joint and group exhibitions nationally and internationally since the 1970s. Her work is held in art collections both locally and abroad.

Ariana was born in Zimbabwe (erstwhile Rhodesia) in 1956. As a child she was exposed to a variety of cultures and countries, hatching a curiosity for the unknown and a taste for exploration, which became integral to her life.

She travels extensively and is particularly drawn to vast, open spaces. Yet she finds the mysterious density of the tropics and the African bush, as well as the isolation of islands equally fascinating. By roaming, she often encounters wilderness where nature has not yet been totally colonized and controlled by man. Such unique enclaves and often-transient frontiers are her clues to the intriguing web of life, and serve as a major source for her painting reference material.

Such wild frontiers are not confined to land – indeed, the ocean formed an integral part of her growing consciousness as a child whilst living in Angola, when travelling by ship to South Africa was the order of the day. Early memories of the ocean as well as harbours, reefs and undulating coastlines are etched deeply. Later, as a teenager in Mozambique and Brazil, recreational sailing was a regular activity, further strengthening her bond with nature. Beach camping as a child under vast, dark skies also spurned a curiosity in practical astronomy, further feeding into her appreciation of the fascinating cosmos.


Van Heerden roams and explores constantly. Places where she has found inspiration include Alaska, Angola, Antarctica, Argentina, Austria, Botswana, Brazil, and Britain. Canada, China, Comoros, Croatia, Cuba, France, Greece, Hungary, Iran, Israel, Italy, Madagascar, Malawi, Maldives, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Portugal, Seychelles, Spain, Taiwan, Zimbabwe

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