Plettenberg Bay-based art curator Michele Bestbier has launched the Southern Cape’s first art tourism map. South takes a closer look at a few artists who have been attracting the attention of collectors and art enthusiasts in recent years.
WORDS Yolande Stander PHOTOGRAPHS Provided
Robert & Brendan Leggat
The iconic dolphin sculpture at the traffic circle in Plettenberg Bay is possibly the most well-known local example of Robert Leggat’s work, but the talented bronze sculptor’s wildlife and bird sculptures feature in indoor and outdoor collections across the country.
Robert and his son Brendan run Bronze Fields Sculpture Studio on the outskirts of town.
Robert has the unique ability to capture the essence and expressions of subjects, whether it is a life-size outdoor piece or a sculpture that can fit in the palm of your hand. He also works in a wide range of materials, from bronze and silver to wood and up-cycled car tyres.
Brendan, who started his sculpting career at the age of 16, has an entirely different approach, which is more impressionist and whimsical. His mainly free-standing sculptures – in which he uses interesting groupings – make them very interactive for the observer.
Brendan’s style portrays movement and the essence of mainly domestic animals, and the patination on his work uses soft blended colour, from green to orange through to grey and white.
The pair’s work can be seen at their gallery and sculpture studio by appointment only.
Born and bred in Knysna, Guy Thesen has always had an interest in the natural world and is inspired by the natural beauty and rich archaeology of the region. “Guy combines the probing curiosity of a scientist with the refined aesthetics of an artist. He is always concerned with the ‘what if‘ questions and the deep structure of his surroundings.
His unassuming and diffident manner masks a profound knowledge of, among other things, the process of the natural environment, of palaeontology, of the Khoisan shamans and of man’s remote past. His pieces are good, finely crafted and intellectually sound – a rare combination indeed,” says Trent Read, owner of Knysna Fine Art where Guy’s work is on display.
His more recent work incorporates themes of past solo exhibitions – such as an attempt to capture the deep hallucinatory trance state of Bushman healers in sculptures and painting, a reflection on the versatile Stone Age hand-axe and the human ability to adapt, as well as a woodcut series focused on early Bushman paintings – but this time it is brought into a more personal narrative.
Based in the Eastern Cape but with a gallery in Prince Albert and regular workshops in Plettenberg Bay, celebrated artist Greg Kerr has deep art roots in the Southern Cape. A former fine art professor at Stellenbosch University, Greg has been painting professionally for more than three decades since his first solo exhibition in 1982.
While most of his work captures the essence of people interacting with their environment, in recent years he has added animal paintings, especially Nguni cattle, to his repertoire.
“I consider myself a fairly traditional painter in the sense that I use figuration, work in oils and other familiar materials and present the images in ways that are unsurprising. I like to think the individual, perhaps idiosyncratic content of that process prevents the work from being old-fashioned or conservative,” says Greg.
Since establishing the gallery, which he describes as an ongoing window for his art, he has also held several shows, including for former students and now well-known artists Liz Vels and Rix Wellmann.
During the PArts Festival in Price Albert this month (September), Greg plans to show a selection of large works dating back to his first show. “Some will be borrowed from present collectors and some will be for sale.”
The Greg Kerr Art Gallery is in Karoo Fijnhuis, 53 Church Street.
Based in Van Wyksdorp, Yoko Reijn is inspired by the Klein Karoo and its landscape and climate. She is an abstract artist working in mostly vibrant coloured acrylics. “Colour is my medium. It is very personal and individual, loaded with feelings, triggering memories and sensations,” says Yoko.
“Everything is impermanent, about cause and effect, and ever-changing. Currently these aspects find expression in my paintings.”
While she hopes to touch each viewer deeply with her work, the true meaning of each piece is in the eye of the beholder. “I can only lay down the finished work in front of them. From there on they start creating it themselves with their own view and reality.”
Her work is on view at ArtKaroo Gallery in Oudtshoorn, Barrydale Karoo Art Hotel and Kunstehuijs Gallery in Swellendam. Her work can also be viewed at her home in Van Wyksdorp, but by appointment only.
083 558 3291
Juliet Goddard Morawski
Specialising in oil painting and mixed media, The Crags-based Juliet Goddard Morawski’s work is influenced by her many travels locally and abroad. She studied advanced art and design, specialising in fine art painting, at Yorkshire Coast College in Scarborough, England and has exhibited her work in galleries in London and Hertfordshire.
“In my collage work I like to play with different visual textures, as well as a mix of vintage and modern subject matter. I like my work to have a visual narrative, as if what you are seeing is a still frame of a surreal movie and the viewer is invited to make up the movie’s plot in his or her mind.” says Juliet, “An element of playfulness, and even teasing, is a recurring theme often present in my work.”
Her oil painting is about capturing and magnifying energy. She paints in mostly asymmetrical shapes done in block colours, which creates depth and movement, shadow and light, which then translate into a fluidity leading to detail and the overall picture.
Lisl lives on the Gamkaberg Nature Reserve in the Klein Karoo. Immersed in this environment of generous Karoo skies and landscapes – ever-changing in colour, movement and light – it is only natural that she explores it with her brushes.
Originally a graphic design graduate from Cape Town, Lisl has over the past two decades focused on painting. While she initially favoured the “fluid, light, spontaneous” medium of watercolour, her exploration with painting led to working with oils – something she has been doing for the past 15 years. “Since focusing on oil painting, I’ve experimented with the application of the medium, its range of rich, strong colours and with subject matter.”
Central to her subject matter is life around her and that which connects with her heart. She is also fascinated by light, with many of her pieces capturing ordinary moments elevated to the extraordinary, simply by the changing light.
Lisl exhibited during the Klein Karoo Klassique with Richard Henley in August at her studio and gallery – the Rosenhof Country Lodge and Art Gallery in Oudtshoorn – and will also be participating in the Prince Albert Art Festival this month (September 23 and 25) with the Prince Albert Gallery.
Michelle has been promoting South African art for more than two decades via various avenues, including consulting, buying and selling investment art, as well as motivating collaborations and commissions. She owned and managed a gallery in Johannesburg for three years and now spends most of her time developing artmapsa.com or hosting shows featuring the works of local and national artists.
She is also a photographer and filmmaker – the latest of her projects, The Art of Water, was a multi-media exhibition including photography, short films and prose celebrating the world’s most precious resource.
078 327 3459
The Cape Contemporary Fine Art Palette Garden Route & Klein
Karoo is a map of carefully selected professional artists, studios and galleries in the Garden Route and Karoo. Linked to artmapsa.com – which distributes similar maps for Cape Town and Johannesburg – the full colour brochure presents more than 40 local places to appreciate and buy contemporary art, from Nature’s Valley to Swellendam and inland to Graaff-Reinet. The map will be updated regularly, so look out for the latest copy at tourism offices and hotspots around the region.