Vicki Clough Curates

Musings on art and life.

A Sense of Place: Stop two, Cape Town

It’s kind of funny how a Google search for “art- Cape Town” brings back a pretty comprehensive list of galleries and artists (for example) , the likes of which were difficult to find when searching under Johannesburg. It’s funny, but not really surprising. Cape Town has long been an artist’s haven, with it’s beautiful beaches, unique flora, picturesque sunsets and wonderfully mysterious mountains.

(pretty old) aerial view of CT from Couldn’t help including one of these, it’s just such a cool looking city!!

I have some amazing memories from living in Cape Town, and looking back, it’s kind of hard to believe the amount that’s packed into those 7/8 years. We first lived in an area called Bergvliet, and I attended a school called Sweet Valley (true story). I have clear recollections of learning to roller blade, and riding my bike around tree lined streets with my friends during the short time we lived there. I then moved to Fish Hoek; where I quickly became enamoured with the mountains and the beach where I spend most of my free time, either doing lifesaving training, or hanging out with my friends. Long story short… This is the first time in my life I actually remember visiting an art gallery. Up to that point I had always had an interest in art, and I’d always enjoyed drawing, but here I seemed to receive more encouragement, and I even started doing art classes during the summer holidays.

Owl House, Helen Martins

The first gallery I clearly recall was showing work by Helen Martins, I think I must have been 12. (I thought I still had the catalogue, but a quick hunt this afternoon has proved otherwise.) Her work mesmerised me, and I’d always wanted to visit the “Owl House“, her home in the Karoo. She inherited the property from her parents and transformed it into her own wonderland using cement and broken glass. I had my own dreams of transforming part of my home by pressing shards of broken mirrors into the ceiling, just as she had (without the army of cement figures in the back garden) . Martin’s sculptures and interiors definitely helped spark my fascination with recycled, and re-purposed materials in art.

Interior, Helen Martins Owl house. I’ve been unable to find an image of the unfinished dining room I remember from slides shown at school; where she had painted the room bright blue, and pressed glass into fresh cement on the walls and ceiling. bummer.

view of the garden, filled with hand made cement figures and sculptures made from bottles.

One of the cement figures in the garden

This drawing is part of the Owl House visitors leaflet. Pretty neat.

Hers is a very sad story, with a sorry end- she took her own life by swallowing caustic soda, but her transformed home remains as a testament to her creative and innovative nature. The play The Road to Mecca written by Athol Fugard is based on Helen Martin’s life and explores the reality experienced by artists as “outsiders”.

Anyway, this is a blog about contemporary art, right? Okay. Back to it then…

Cassandra by John Meyer, Mixed media on canvas, / 75 X 60 cm, 2010

The Wisdom of the World by John Meyer, Mixed media on canvas, 76 X 102 cm, 2010

John Meyer is a contemporary realist and landscape painter. His paintings often show the subjects in uncertain situations or, what he likes to call the “narrative genre”. He has exhibited all over the world since becoming a professional artist in 1972, and his subjects have included Nelson Mandela, FW de Klerk and concert pianist Vladimir Horowitz.

Title unavailable, Donovan Ward, 2009

Study for a Woman and child (after Raphael) Black/Red Chalk, Acrylic, Dust, Gold Paint &Pencil on Archival paper, 53 X 36 cm, 2011

Donovan Ward’s art is somewhat tongue-in-cheek, using recognised art imagery from Renaissance artists such as Leonardo da Vinci and Raphael. Combining these with 21st century advertising and pop culture motifs, he creates a comment on contemporary life and culture and the competitive and fragmentary environment globalisation has created.

(None of these images are mine, and I shan’t be taking any credit for them. All images link directly back to the pages I found them on.)


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Vicki Clough

Vicki Clough

Vicki is an independent curator and craftsperson with a focus on socially engaged and participatory art and events. In January 2016 she helped launch Reconstructing Resilience, a research and curatorial project that explored various forms of sustainable practice. As a freelance curator she has worked with the Riverdale Hub, Myseum of Totonto/Art Spin and was the Curatorial Director of Figment Toronto from 2014 to 2017. She has also co-curated exhibitions including JAYU's iAM photography project (2016 & 2017), Move to Stillness, for the Harbourfront Centre's Kick Up Your Heels Festival (2015), The Duel, AGO First Thursdays (2014), and What Are You Made Of? OCAD U Graduate Gallery (2013). She initiated the Toronto based workshop model and website Polymers in Action: Socially Engaged Art and the Environment as part of her studies at OCAD University, where she obtained her Master of Fine Arts degree in Criticism and Curatorial Practice. She publishes on anything that interests her deeply and moves her to the point of lengthy verbal expression.

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