I took a drive up the R62 to De Rust with my old friend Anton Chapman.The klein karoo was bathed in a moody Autumn light. We had a box of framed watercolours on the back seat, destined for Diane McLean’s Portal gallery. We were putting up a group show called Spektrum, linked to the KKNK. Estelle Marais, Hermann Niebuhr and Sharle Mathews completed the line up. The work ranged from Diane’s highly finished still lives to Anton Chapman’s recent meandering watercolours. Our common link is that we all – over a period of several decades – passed through the hallowed neo classical doorway of the Rhodes Art School. That’s it there above us, in case anyone’s feeling nostalgic. Ah yes, the great enlightenment project in the heart of Xhosa country. But lets not go there now. It took a day to hang the show and it looked fresh, varied and coherent.
With the show up and ready, we took a drive through to Oudtshoorn. You can see a lot of bad art at the KKNK, but in the Prince Vincent building there was good stuff, ably overseen by Sandra Hanekom. Clare Menck’s ” Vanitas” show, with still lives by some of our best painters, was a highlight. There were also good shows by Ian Grose, Pauline Gutter, and Cobus van Bosch. I really enjoyed Olaf Bisschoff”s witty and subversive “Streeksbiblioteek”: old books given new life and meaning through paint.
The 33ks back to De Rust is ostrich farming territory. A lot of ostriches died in the recent bird flu scares. There are a lot less of them now and the farms are restocking. The landscape looked desolate and dramatic, full of boom and bust stories. Only the hardy ones stick it out here.