My Grand Tour

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Paintings by Annari van der Merwe

It is not surprising to learn that Annari has a long history in literature, especially in the editing of texts. Editing is both an exercise in punctiliousness and precision – a kind of disinterested wielding of the razor of Occam – and at the same time a challenge to the creative business of exegesis. The editor needs to have imagination and insight if she is to do justice not just to the letter of the text but perhaps a fortiori its spirit.

I say it is not surprising because even a cursory glance at the body of work on exhibition reveals a delightful and compelling dualism. On the topographical side there is an almost obsessive attention to the minutiae of the source material; fastidious research of textures, hues, atmospheres, and as careful a treatment of the alchemy of oil painting, especially the oracular mysteries of glazing.

On the iconographical side, there is a second dualism: the domestic versus the international. It is a charming side of Annari’s work that on one hand it reaches out very far for some marvelous and exotic locations and then on the other looks no further than the ubiquitous cat, Bijou, and other charming moggies.  In the course of generating the ‘international’ pieces, Annari has delved into a huge range of locales, including I. M. Pei’s Museum of Islamic Art in Doha (It’s Time) and his Louvre Pyramid (Pyramid), the Open Air Garden of Fine Arts in Kyoto (Suspended), The Chagall Museum in Nice (Looking Back), and some less famous sites such as and some less famous sites such as an informal settlement in Hout Bay on the Cape Peninsula that shows up in Wagters op die mure.

It is an intriguing phenomenon in aesthetics that artefacts, whatever their physical elegance or gravitas, are profoundly affected by a kind of ‘insider knowledge’ in which the viewer is privy to some of the history, convolutions, human interaction, privation, exultation or whatever generative energy is part of the genesis of the piece. Thus, Van Gogh’s Crows over a Cornfield is famously resonant of a poignant slice in the life of the tormented artist. Without the biographical context, the piece might be mistaken as an otherwise unremarkable part of the oeuvre. Sometimes the context is circumstantial, but there is also a range of ways in which the intensity of focus, the idiosyncratic vision of the artist and the history might be suggested or revealed in the work. It doesn’t take a huge amount of sub-text to understand that in Annari’s My Grand Tour paintings, a rich and evocative almanac of experience, recording, cogitating, selecting, refining and ultimately executing has taken place. There is nothing quotidian about the bigger pictures, and the viewer is invited, actually co-opted, into a level of experience that is full of import and portent.

Did I say ‘nothing quotidian’?  I did, but of course, there is that darn cat. Nothing more domestic and everyday than that!  And it is perhaps this little character that ubiquitously acts as the delicious bathos to what might otherwise present as too solemn, too earnest while simultaneously linking all the works. It seems a pity that the paintings are likely to go to separate homes!

It is the nature of good story-telling that the narrator must beguile and seduce the receiver so that there is a lust for more information, a denouement, that will tie up the loose ends and solve the mystery. In pictures, this is not always a simple task and Annari will have to be the one to vouchsafe the kinds of information that her curious viewers will be wanting. Certainly, each painting has its own particular history and reasons: much can be said regarding the choices made and the processes followed. This will make for a rich excursion into a particularly complex mind.

But for my money, the fascination and the compulsion are more than just acknowledgement of a focused and enriched volition on the part of the artist, but ultimately dependent on the power of the enigmatic – the inexplicable – tenor of these paintings that suggest and provoke and tease and through all this give delight. Without the stern control and professional discipline, the myths could not survive, but without the myths, the discipline must needs be sterile. Aristotle made the elegant suggestion that poiesis (read Art) needs to be a perfect synthesis between mimesis (imitation, discipline, practical sense) and mythos (the Dionysian world of the imagination. Without wanting to sensationalise the matter, I think that Annari’s marvelous journeys through both those worlds have paid off handsomely in this exhibition.

A last word on the Cats. These creatures are popular images in popular art and thus carry something of a burden, being vulnerable to over-sentimentality, and it is true that one or two of Annari’s kitties might appear to be straying into a land of cuteness. However, I would argue that the stern limitations and disciplines that the artist imposes on herself in all her undertakings prevent any embarrassing lapses.  Some, indeed, are both revelatory and even metaphorical creatures. They may claw you should you neglect to take them seriously. A long acquaintance with these beasts has taught me to resist the temptation to see them as adorable.  That some viewers will, is a response to be welcomed nevertheless.

~ Greg Kerr

view Annari’s work

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Hinterland

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“The Island is as curious about the visitor as the visitor is about the island”

“Webster’s Passage” is a 100 kilometers  of unspeakably beautiful Botswana savanna, starting close to the town of Nata and ending at LeKhubu Island in the makgadikgadi pans. Personally I prefer to experience this journey from the top of the landrover rather than inside it. Bowen dubbed it “Webster’s Passage” because a guy called Webster recommended it as a route for getting to the incomparable Kubu Island: birthplace of these pictures.

Webster’s dictionary differs from Webster’s Passage in one crucial regard. It is a dictionary and not a dirt road. Webster’s dictionary says that the word Romanticism is often capitalized. I agree that it should be. It also says, amongst other things, that ROMANTICISM is a literary, artistic, and philosophical movement originating in the 18th century, characterized chiefly by an emphasis on the imagination and emotions. It is an exaltation of the primitive and the common man; an appreciation of external nature, an interest in the remote, and a predilection for melancholy. Bowen and I are definitely ROMANTICS. He is the primitive man, and I am the common man, and between us we share the load of the melancholy. And this “Remote” in which Webster’s dictionary predicts we will be interested  is of course “The Hinterland,” which in turn is defined as “the remote part of a country, an area lying beyond what is seen or known.” Amusingly, the Antonym of Hinterland is “civilisation.”

You can see how all this dovetails very nicely indeed. Add a third Romantic, a writer called Sally  (life partner to Bowen) and then add a landrover called Leonard (after Leonard Cohen) and you have the makings of a  charmingly dysfunctional and thoroughly romantic invasion of The Hinterland.

One of my internal hobbies is the invention of different religions or world views. My current favourite – and one I am actually tempted to embrace – is called Pendulism. Its most sacred symbol is the pendulum – the pendulum that swings between joy and grief, between work and rest, between city and wilderness, between masculine and feminine, and on and on. Pendulists believe that the point of life is not arriving at a certain understanding or asset or place or relationship or spiritual state but rather the constant pursuit of harmony with  the omniscience of change itself. I mention Pendulism because for me one of the most satisfying journeys of the pendulum is the swing between HOME and, AWAY. Like ROMANTICISM, these two words should be Capitalised,  and you cannot have one without the other. But to really  be HOME (in capital letters) you have to do things like sit on the floor before a bookshelf and press your nose into the fragrant, memory-rich middles of your oldest books, or lie on the floor and look up at the dusty underside of your bed, or just sit and listen to the creaking silence of your home, syncopated perhaps by the soothing and menacing ticking of the kitchen clock. Conversely: to really say that you have been AWAY (in capital letters) something has to have shifted within you. If this has not happened you have not really travelled in any meaningful sense,  you have merely burned fossil fuels in order to  move your body from one coordinate on the planet to another.

Bowen has enriched my life immeasurably by reintroducing me to the river of travel for its own sake, and for taking me to some of the most goose-fleshing wilderness areas in Southern Africa, one of the most eccentric of which is Kubu Island – a little hill covered in giant  Boulders and deformed  dwarf baobabs, surrounded by an ocean of  compact sand in winter, and shallow water in the rainy summers – nursery to a hundred thousand flamingos. In summer you can be stranded for weeks due to mud and in winter you might find abandoned eggs and fledgelings on the windswept 1,2 million hectare plain. This is a place that is so special to me that I don’t even like talking about it. But I am deeply indebted to my colleague for the introduction.

There is no way one can do justice to Hinterland. The very idea is absurd. One can – and indeed one does – celebrate wilderness through the strongest artworks one is able to produce but it would be laughable to pretend one was somehow representing hinterland. Anyone who has  dissolved themselves in wilderness knows that  IT  cannot be represented by humans, because its essence is utterly non human.  Perversely this doesn’t put us off trying to share our  glimpses, in fact it only makes us more eager. Just as one is probably not going to become enlightened in this life but that shouldn’t stop one trying. So I  hope that this will be the first of many hinterland exhibitions. Because we have to keep traveling into the unknown, and we have to keep returning with what the unknowable inspires. One of these exhibitions will  hopefully coincide with the release of a book on the subject that Bowen and Sally and I have started gathering writings and artworks for.

The greatest conceivable value for which art can aim is the reawakening of life-affirming truth in the viewer. So tonight as we celebrate travel to wild and quiet wilderness our fondest dream has to be that these images will inspire you all to embark on your own travels to profound places.

I’d like to end by thanking my wife Ciska for carrying our household single-handedly during my long absenses, and leave you all with two quotes by the wonderful John Muir.

“Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out that going to the mountains is going home; that wildness is a necessity”

and my favourite:

“I only went out for a walk and finally concluded to stay out till sundown, for going out, I found, was really going in.”

Peter van Straten

 

 

 

 

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B. Ernest Manfunny

Heading for Spring…

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As a romantic, I dream of a distant land, free and wild, full of mystery and adventure. Here time is replaced by space. I call this place Eden. Sometimes I actually go there.
The desire to create in this space is strong. I use abstract watercolour to express what I feel and experience. Then, with pencil, I add details of what I see. ~ B. Ernest Manfunny

On view Oct 4. – Oct 27.

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Celebrating the unique beauty of a South African Spring

Joe Dolby

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Born in Cape Town in 1947 Joe Dolby has exhibited at the Kirstenbosch Biennale, Vuleka, Ava, Iziko South African Nationa Gallery and the Brett Kebble Art Awards.

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ANNE WATT

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MIXED MEDIA ARTIST

As an artist for over forty years, I have come to accept that one’s style will alter many times. Where I find myself now is where I should be, using my intuition and instinct in an artwork. Having taught art in Australia, Papua New Guinea, and here in Africa, I know my soul feeds on colour. Born in Scotland, but emigrating after graduating as a teacher, to Australia, I found the beginning of my colour . Spending four years in Papua New Guinea showed me a change of colour, but Africa as my home gives me the extreme!

INSPIRATION

During junior school I had a teacher who would draw squiggles on the blackboard, five minutes before the bell rang to go home. Those were the most exciting “lessons” of the day, as she asked anyone to come out and draw into the shape what they saw. I never stopped seeing. Thank you, Mrs Abbott, you were such an inspiration.

Africa excites and sets the scene for almost any portrait. Colour and light illuminate the form within a coloured canvas, and the process to find the subject begins.

PROCESS

Masking fluid is randomly squirted and drawn over the blank canvas, dropped straight from the bottle. This is left to dry overnight.


The next day the canvas is sprinkled with water, and Sennelier inks are dropped onto the canvas. The inks spread, run into one another, and create their own hues and shapes.

Once again, the canvas dries overnight.

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Ink and masking fluid dry, the latter is removed by peeling off from the canvas. Now there is a picture of white lines and sheer colour. The inks are very strong and will never fade.

The canvas is placed on an easel, and one can take anything from one day to a week, to finally “see” the painting inside. I turn the canvas around each day, and study it. Sometimes the subject is easy to see, other times it takes a while to see it.  Not once, when I begin a painting using this technique, do I know what will emerge.

COMPLETION

I use oil paints to paint in the body of the work. The richness of the oil, together with the vibrancy of the inks, creates a beautiful effect. Occasionally I will add some Rembrandt chalk pastel (very rich) to enhance a certain area, and balance the work.

Sometimes very little oil paint is needed, to bring out the subject. The inks play their part very well.

The artwork is then left to dry.

These paintings are totally original, and can never be copied. They are too intricate for anyone to do so.

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“Lady with a bucket”                       

 

USE OF MASKING FLUID

I alternate using masking fluid, as some works are just ink and oil paint. The masking fluid provides a certain excitement and movement, necessary in some pieces. Below is an example of no masking fluid. The inks create a subject, the oil paint enhances the subject.

 

MATERIALS

I use Sennelier inks, Rembrandt chalk pastels and a range of oil colours All of my materials are purchased from the Italian Art Shop, in Cape Town

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SOPHIE NIEMANN TEXTILE AND MIXED MEDIA ARTIST

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The talented artist Sophie Niemann is exhibiting her unique work at the ‘Beyond Knowing Nature’ joint exhibition at The Cape Gallery on the 2nd September 2018. This work needs to be seen first-hand as it is not quite as it seems…. first glance her art work looks like an oil painting but look closer… as incorporates African textiles and a technique known as ‘Thread painting’, making subjects of her work come to life with a unique texture, tactile appeal and depth.

Sophie Niemann, is a self-taught artist, who has lived and worked in Africa for the past 20 years. Art and wildlife has always been a passion for Sophie. During her time in Africa as a Zoologist, she has had the privileged to spend most of her days in nature working for a conservation and community organization, setting up programmes across Africa.

She uses her experience with wildlife and nature as an inspiration and hopes to express the beauty and wonder of nature in her work, touching a wider audience to educate them about the significance of conservation and the issues facing our vanishing species.

We asked Sophie more about her art and technique:

What inspired you to use fabric and embroidery in your work?
I grew up surrounded by fabric…literally as my mother made fabric models and I divided my time between enjoying nature or spending time in my mother’s ‘Aladdin’s cave of a sewing room’, rummaging about and creating things from all the off cuts of fabric. Through my teens and adulthood I always had a sewing machine for mending and the odd creation. However, I only picked up the hobby again when my kids went to school, when at the same time I revisited my love of art and painting. However, something seemed to be missing from my artwork, I missed the texture and patterns of fabrics and made a challenge to myself to see if I could incorporate the two. After discovering the technique of ‘Threadpainting’, basically ‘painting’ with thread on a sewing machine, there was no stopping me and love the texture it brings to my work and the challenges it brings to be to create the finished piece.

Describe the technique do you used to make your artwork?
Firstly, I have to decide on a subject matter, which is probably the most challenging part of the process for me. I keep a scrapbook of ideas, colour combinations, sketches or images that ‘strike a nerve’ with me. Then I find a particular image or subject seems to ‘get under my skin’ for a while and keeps jumping into my mind and then I know this is the one I should focus on next. Then I set to work drawing the subject, normally with charcoal on a canvas, then I used acrylic ink to mix and merge into its own creative way to form the background and colour tone of the work.

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Then I enjoy painting the whole picture in oils, despite most of it being covered with canvas later. It gives me more insight on where the shading, light and texture is, before I add the fabric over it..
Then I lay over water soluble fabric, which is transparent and proceed to choose and add fabrics over it, securing it with pins and glue. After this I remove the fabric section and add to an embroidery hoop and the many hours of sewing begins. For this part I use free-motion machine embroidery technique known as thread-painting. It is like a paintbrush, but instead of adding dark/light/details with paint, I sew layers of thread, leaving areas of design of the fabric here and there to depth and interest.
Once competed I cut out the fabric work and pin it back onto the original artwork, where I sow it on and give the last details while blending it into the picture to give the finished effect.

What is your artistic inspiration?
Nature and the vibrate African colours and fabrics. I have been honored to spend most of my time living and working in Africa in wildlife areas working as a guide, wildlife research, and traveling around Africa for a conservation organization and latterly training safari guides and living on a game farm. So I am naturally drawn to African wildlife, which I have had the privilege to know intimately, which helps in getting the feel and character of the animals in my work. Also African colours have influenced my work hugely and the fabrics I use, from the warm browns and oranges of winter to the vibrate colours and culture of the country. I love using traditional African prints such as Shwe Shwe in my work to give the artwork a more African feel and texture.
Hornbill
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Barry Jackson: Celebrating Mandela

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I feel privileged to have been part of the team that worked so well together to get the statue of Nelson Mandela up at the City Hall.

Koketso Groth, owned by Dali Tambo won the tender from The City of Cape Town.
They commissioned Xhanti Mphakara and myself and together with Sculpture Casting Services in Somerset West who did the mold and bronze casting, we took on the project.

Xhanti and myself come from different backgrounds with complimentary styles and we work well together. As a collaboration we have also done the Mandela bust in front of the Parliament building, and a life size figure of Mandela for The Long March to Freedom.

With the City Hall statue we started with a maquette, 45cm high capturing as much detail as we could. To make this we found a model with a similar physique to Mandela and took reference photos allowing us to see how the creases and folds on the clothing fall. After final approval of the maquette we proceeded to the 1.95 meter artwork. This took three months of work with numerous trips by Dali Tambo and his Project manager Sarah Hains from Johannesburg who facilitated our progress.

Like any projects of this size we had to overcome obstacles. There were moments when I feared failure but after the inevitable panic and adrenaline in the final stages we were ready. Both of us enormously relieved when we got a big thumbs up both from Koketso and the city of Cape Town.

What this means to me personally: It is a wonderful feeling to know that in time to come  my grandchildren can bring their grandchildren and stand next to the great man and say ,
“My grandpa was a member of the team that made this statue”  

view Bary Jackson’s work

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