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.

detail 2

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.
.view more work by Sophie Niemann

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Barry Jackson: Celebrating Mandela


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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Craig Paton Ash


Painting wildlife provides the usual artistic challenges of capturing the appearance,  behaviour and environment of the subject but it is easy to ignore the ‘personality’ which is seen as critical in human portrayal. 

In striving to capture more personality and visual intrique in my recent wildlife art I have firstly eliminated colour and background to help focus on the ‘jizz’ of the subject  and secondly I have been exploring different viewpoints and proximity to better investigate texture and shape and more vigorously engage the viewer beyond pure recognition.

The paintings I have on show at the Cape Gallery’s Visual Safari exhibition display this development around one animal – the elephant.

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notes, winter solstice 30.06.18


Artist: Wilna van der Walt, The orange sellers, oil on canvas 50 x 60 cm

It is as if the unconscious tells me: be patient and bear with it. A new dawn will follow.

The picture was taken by my sister-in-law during a trip through KwaZulu-Natal. What spoke to me most was the relaxed attitude of the portrayed figures.

One must have an attitude of patience and bear with many things. Preparations must be made for change in the future. The fruits of wisdom, love, have real value – something I had difficulty realising for a long time. In this roadside image the two women are now seated, waiting and ordering the oranges, the alchemical balm. There is time to bear and wait, like a mother carrying a child.

The implanting of the upside-down tree, or the tree growing back to the mother, earth, or alchemical process, is supported by the two males – one a man, the other a boy, not yet mature. They are two aspects of the animus. The implanting of the tree brings bout the arrival of the old woman. As the balm, she is the wisdom and helper.

The young woman is preparing to undertake the journey to the holy feminine (purple is the mulberry woman) mountain of their birthright from which they are still cut off by the devil’s fork hedge of the wrong kind of guilt. At first, the truth is carried in projection, on the other side. One has to take up the quest. When one takes others’accusations and projections on to one’s shoulders, one takes on guilt that does not belong to one’s own self. This needs to be differentiated out.

excerpt: ‘The old woman and the moon, an inner journey in oil’ – Wilna van der Walt

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En Plein Air – A Solo Exhibition by Christopher Reid


On View 26 March – 21 April 2018

When painting en plein air, I am not merely capturing a visual moment, but conveying
the experience of being there for the duration of the painting. I capture the light, shadows, and clouds when their patterns are most interesting. Smells, sounds, and sensations find their way into the painting and there is an urgency and freshness that isn’t found in paintings from photos. 
– Christopher Reid

Christopher Reid was born in 1975 in the Transvaal. At a young age his family moved
to the US where he later studied at the Savannah College of Art and Design. He founded
an advertising agency and worked as a graphic designer until he returned to South Africa a decade later in 2015 where he now pursues his love of fine art. He is an internationally recognised artist whose portraits, landscapes and wildlife demonstrate
a contemporary realism with an emphasis on colour and depth.

Plein air is about experiencing painting and drawing in the landscape. This practice
goes back for centuries and was made into an art form by the French Impressionists.
Their desire to paint light and its changing and ephemeral qualities, coupled with the creation of transportable paint tubes allowed artists to paint “en plein air”, which is
the French expression for “in the open air.” Today, plein air painting is a flourishing trend in the art world. Artists come together for excursions and workshops devoted
to the practice and find it as rewarding and powerful an experience as it was
for the first plein air painters all those years ago.

Preview work on show

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Something old something new

Time, tradition and change; cycle and re-cycle requires a constant reassessment of what we assign value to in each unique piece of art. How we assign that value depends upon a personal journey as we identify what resonates with us, and what is recognized as being significant in a wider social context of the society in which we live. This context is in constant flux, never more so than now.

This blog is an attempt to take what is in the gallery stock and place it in a date line to unearth the various stories that appear around a physical item. The first cluster of paintings fall into the New Group, a group of young artists who returning from Europe encountered the stultifying inertia in their homeland and decided to group together. They apposed the closed aesthetic of South African Society of Artists.

The four main artists heading the group were Gregoire Boonzaier, Freida Locke, Terence McCaw and Lippy Lipschitz. They had a common desire to form a fellowship of artists similar to the London Group in England. Boonzaier and McCaw organized the group and invited artists from the Transvaal. The aggressive young organisers wasted no time in arranging their first exhibition. Seventeen SA artists were on a show at an opening in 1938. (Berman; 1938)

At a similar time we see the story of Edward Roworth who arrived in South Africa in 1902. A tall man 195,5 cm high, who came to the country with the British Forces in the Anglo Boer war. He remained and settled in the Cape. He was a man who took a more conservative route in the art world joining South African Society of Artists and finally heading it in 1908. He was awarded the directorship of Michaelis in 1938 and there was controversy and criticism as he was accused of a dictatorial attitude and the bête noire of younger progressive artists such as New Group.


Edward Arthur Roworth – 1880 – 1964

I have compared two building paintings one of the new group artist Charles Peers and one by Edward Roworth. The composition of the new group artist is more unusual as he uses diagonal lines in his layout to make it asymmetrical and dynamic. The Roworth is more solid or traditional in it’s style as the composition divides the picture plane into horizontal planes. A central facade makes for a stable symmetrical composition. The conservatism of the solid composition seems to have been more successful in that Edward got commissions from the South African government and SA house in London.

Charles Ernest Peers 1875-194

Roworth did his formal education at Slade school studing under Henry Tonks. He spent much time studing frescos in Florence. Charles Peers studied at a Liverpool art school. He was fascinated by the local shipping activities. He intended to pursue a Naval career and ended up working as a draftsman for a marine shipping agent.

  • 1938 Edward Roworth director of University Cape Town Michaelis director
  • 1938 Charles Peers invited as a member of New Group

Both artists had an interest in travel and stayed in the Cape colony after military service. Roworth seems to have been quiet charismatic as he started up a studio in Burg street with a goal to create a distinctively South African style and joined the South African Society of artists. Charles Peers was elected a member in 1905 and worked at various printing studios as a chromo lithographer. In 1930 he published two folios of lithographic drawings. Peers worked extensively in watercolours and the 1922 he painted in oils focusing mainly on landscapes.

Seeing artists such as Peers and Roworth capture the beautiful South African architecture of the Western Cape is a testament to the high cultural values the people in the area have managed to cultivate through land ownership, architecture and painting. This value has taken over three century to be cultivated through buying and selling tracts of land in order to create buildings that appreciate in value. A more indepth study of the Nektar property reveals a history behind the building still standing today. Charles Peers painted the landmark almost 80 years ago.

The Nektar started as a plot of land near the source of the Eerste river. It was a grant of 25 morgens made to two freed slaves, Marquard and Jan Ceylon. By 1712 the land had been transferred to Anna Hocks a widower in the area who inherited Schoonzicht and took ownership of many free holds in the area. The 6 farms were passed on to Anna Hassler and her eldest daughter married Christoffel Groenewald the second in 1719. In 1762 Jacob Groenewald transfers 2 of the properties. In 1774 there is another transfer from him to two new owners his younger brothers. In 1790 the farms are transferred to Pieter Jacob Du Toit for 31 100 guilders for land that 7 years earlier (1761) was selling for 900 gilders! This can surely indicate that a house had been built. In 1790 Coenraad Johannes Albertyn brought the four lower farms from the Boedel of Anna Hassler. In 1814 Albertyn built Nektar after selling Groenhof. (Fransen 1980)

Looking at the New Group artists relative to more conservative artists such as Roworth it becomes evident that ground needed to be broken for a newer generation of artists. Many had been to Europe and could see that the solid traditional paths layed down in their homeland did not allow for a new way for thinking.


Maria Magdalena Laubser 1886 – 1973

More experimental artists in the New Group went beyond the traditional buildings as subjects and portrayed nudes. The subject is more ephemeral in nature and was used by early ground breaker members of the New Group namely Maggie Laubser. It was matched by more convensional members such as Robert Broadly. He only joined the group later. and was a well intergrated male artist. Maggie had a conservative up bringing studing at Stellenbosch and moving over seas to work with German Expressionists before the firstworld war. Then she returned to South Africa to her family farm Oortmanspoort, near Durbanville. Here she created her own pastorial style while taking business trips to market her art. She painted numerous portraits of indian and black woman. The drawing shown in the Cape Gallery collection exhibits an uninhibited and more expressive style of mark making. There is an immediacy that is not rehersed or refined, it reflects the rawness of the woodcuts she must have witnessed when working with German Experssionist such as Karl Schmidt-Rotluff in Berlin. Laubser was the first woman to recieve Honour for painting by SA Akadamie in 1946.


Robert Broadley 1908-1988

If we compare her expressive style to the nude of Robert Broadly, his style is much more distanced, refined and realistic. His career as an artist was successful in the Cape Colony as he painted regularly and was asked to do local commssions. He competed with 3 other male artists and won. He was commissioned to paint the Royal opening of parliment in 1947. He was also a good golf player becoming a professional in 1934 but he gave it up for his painting carreer.

This essay has looked at various artworks in the Cape Gallery collection and placed them historically. I have drawn a comparison between the conservative yet solid painting style of Roworth head of SASA and Michaelis and the more dynamic asymmetrical work of other established artist of the time recognised by the New Group such as Charles Peers. The discussions of the history and investment contrasted with the immediacy of female nude drawings speaks of the spirit in the shell of objects owned. In the nude studies I have selected a male and female artist and compared what they have done in the context of a conservative South African artworld. Maggie was not easily given recognition and lived a much more secluded life style as she entered the artworld. A male artist such as Broadley that followed once the group was more established used his regular practice due to his financial means and role in society to create a more realitic artwork. Discussing and comparing the New Group and other artists such as Roworth gives a historical picture of the Cape Town artworld in the times in which they were painted.

Click here to see Cape Gallery Paintings at the new Group.


Berman, Esmé (1983) Art & Artists of South Africa, AA Balkem Cape Town

Bouman AC Dr, (Circa 1950) Painters of South Africa, H.A.UM , South Africa.

Fransen H, (1980) The old buildings of the Cape, Jonathan Ball Publishers, Johannesburg, Cape Town.


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Winter Solstice Exhibition: Mandy Spiegel

Mandy Spiegel

Dreamy Boy, oil on canvas by Mandy Spiegel

Dreamy Boy

I have long been fascinated by statues as embodiments of aspirational feeling. Their historical significance is always relevant to a context which can so easily be misrepresented or misunderstood, particularly in a later context. They are sometimes maltreated or regarded as a manifestation of a lifestyle which is no longer understood or relevant. After the Rhodes statue was removed I became preoccupied with their meaning. Dreamy Boy is based on an original watercolour sketch of a garden statuette in the South of France, a whimsical character, who is unsure if he will be accepted. The fish are fertility symbols and represent hope for the future.

Mandy Spiegel

Rwandan Dream, oil on canvas by Mandy Spiegel

Rwandan Dream

Rwandan Dream is a celebration of the women in Rwanda who strive to help develop their country after the horrific genocide in their recent history. This is achieved through mutual co-operation on projects using time honoured traditional methods of carrying and transportation. The atmospheric mountain colours and bold materials which the women wear are a dreamer’s inspiration. The parrot is based on ‘The Captain’ who was an honorary worker in the foyer of a hotel in the Cape Town foreshore and strutted about the reception desk, welcoming all the guests.

Mandy Spiegel

Dream discourse, mixed media by Mandy Spiegel

Dream Discourse

I am fascinated by pattern making and universal symbols/motifs seen in decorative designs. In my early years I saw African patterns and in my adulthood have become drawn to Celtic patterns. In this piece I have examined Celtic patterns and their links to African pattern making and plants. I have created an interaction between them, and the discourse is an intense connection between two imaginary characters surrounded by a patterned environment.

Mandy Spiegel

Dreamscape, mixed media by Mandy Spiegel


Dreamscape is an extended travel fantasy incorporating a number of images, such as some biblical animals from Chagall’s stained glass windows at Hadassah, and figurines at the V and A museum in London. I have used collage, with pink and blue Korean papers and South African hand soap floral papers. The watery base represents the underworld and swimming. The Orange and blue colours are shades which I love, and are strongly representative of the Old South Africa, which is fading from people’s memories.

Mandy Spiegel

African Roots, oil on canvas by Mandy Spiegel

African Roots

This painting is in dedication to the influences of my childhood in Johannesburg, in the 50’s and 60’s when I visited a collection of masks, figurines, and Bushman paintings or their replicas. I regularly saw Maria Stein-Lessing’s collection of African Art at her home in Melville. Much of her collection was eventually donated to the Africa  museum.

Mandy Spiegel

Tokoloshe, oil on canvas by Mandy Spiegel


Tokoloshe is a much loved statuette owned and named by my family.  He was bought in Rhodesia at the time and is a much loved character in the family. I have loved him since he was brought to the family home in Johannesburg in the mid 1970’s.

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