A day in the sun enriched by sculpture, friends and laughter

General streamI’m ashamed to admit this, but I’m sure I have more photos of Nirox general viewthan I do of my beloved grandchildren.  Well … I don’t think that is quite true but every time I come back from a visit to this most magnificent of places, that’s how it feels.   These grounds are so extraordinarily beautiful – whether in winter with the stark but delicate outlines of leafless trees, or in summer with the lushness of soft green lawns and dappled shade.

 

Deliberately low profile, one can only access Nirox when there is some event on – be it a sculpture fair or a music event. A group of us caught the end of the Winter Sculpture Fair A Place in Time which sadly finished this last week-end. I had expected that with an international curator (Clare Lilley of the Yorkshire Sculpture Park), the policy of an under-supply of information about works on display would have changed.  stone work in streamAn indication of artist, title, medium and a brief context would enable Sean Slemon Facing the sun Permanentboth visually illiterate and relatively knowledgeable people, a way of accessing works. Instead, one encounters bemused people peering over site-maps (with an incomplete and inaccurate list of works); turning the map upside down trying to orientate themselves; turning themselves around to get their bearings in relation to some landmark; closely examining freshly planted grass areas with steel protective barriers, large hose hydrants, and dead tree trunks embedded with nails … not knowing if they are looking at an artwork or a functional  piece of outdoor equipment or a little known gardening practice.  I have not met one person (both visually literate professionals (including artists) and completely visually uneducated members of the public) who has not had difficulty in reading the map; been frustrated that numbers do not correspond with works listed; and berated the lack of provision of an easily accessible catalogue with identifying images and basic information enabling some point of access to each work.

I don’t buy the argument that it is current curatorial practice to let the works speak for themselves – the more conceptual the art the more one needs some kind of hook or access point; or that ‘labels’/numbers get moved by the public – it can’t be too difficult to produce a cheap catalogue with identifying photos of each work ; or that it is too expensive and there are no funds to produce a proper catalogue – we paid R20 for a catalogue which could have been extended slightly  at minimal extra cost to include all works.   I have spoken to several artists all of whom have said that they supply explanatory texts so there is contextual information available.

Burchell's Songsmith

Burchell’s Songsmith

Burchell close up

Burchell’s Songsmith: site-specific rock, gold leaf, sound system and engraved image of ears and sound waves on the plinth

Having said all that, we loved Songsmith by Jenna Burchell – 3 interactive stone sculptures set on plinths at the far western end of the property.  Burchell takes ancient site-specific rocks and ‘repairs’ their fractures along the lines (forgive the pun) of the Japanese practice of Kintsukuroi (repairing with gold laquer). The Japanese philosophy is that something is more beautiful when broken and that damage and ageing should not be masked and hidden.  Burchell embeds site-specific sound instruments into the cracks and by combining the gold repair with technology and sound, the rocks resonate when the space around them is cradled in the hands of the viewer. Powerful, sensitive, beautiful, thought-provoking and utterly memorable.

Glistening Demoiselle out of Black Wattle/Glinsterjuffertjie uit Swartwattelboom)

Hannelie Coetzee’s Glistening Demoiselle out of Black Wattle/Glinsterjuffertjie uit Swartwattelboom)

Hannelie Coetzee started off as a photographer and in her massive site-specific installation Glistening Demoiselle out of Black Wattle, she chooses her site as a photographer would, taking account of light and view point.  She begins with a photograph and reduces the resolution to a point where it is only just legible and then she constructs a grid of pixels so that she can make the image on a massive scale.  The growth rings as well as the actual edges of the cut wattle function as pixels bringing the image of the glittering damsel/dragon fly into focus from a particular distance.   There is a symbolic paradox in the glinsterjufertjie or dragon fly, an indicator of a healthy environment, being made here of black wattle, an alien invasive species which destroys indigenous natural elements.

Hopefully this will be one of the works which will remain as a permanent addition to the Nirox Sculpture Foundation.

 

Coffee in the warm winter sun. All courtesy of Nirox

Coffee in the warm winter sun. All courtesy of Nirox

Nirox is an amazing facility so close to urbanized Joburg. We

Joni Brenner's large bronze Skull catching the last of the afternoon sun with monkeys foraging in the background

Joni Brenner’s amazing large bronze Skull catching the last of the afternoon sun with monkeys foraging in the background

enjoyed a cup of coffee provided on-the-house, wandered round the beautiful environment, engaged with the sculptures and at the end of the day, as the shadows grew long and the monkeys sat picking seeds in the grass and the air grew chilly we felt warm, fulfilled and restored.  Thank you Nirox, artists, friends and Highveld weather.

The next event where the Nirox Sculpture park is open to the public is Jazz in the Cradle on 4th September.   It will be definitely be Liz at Lancaster’s Pick of the Week and guests staying at Liz at Lancaster are sure to go.

 

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Posted in Art and Exhibitions, Joburg and surrounds: things to do and see, Origins of Humankind, Outdoors and wild-life | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Christmas In July 4th Ave Parkhurst 28th July – it’s fun

White House Interiors looked magical 39 4th Ave 011 788 1626

White House Interiors looked magical 39 4th Ave 011 788 1626

Carols wafting onto the July moonlit street

Carols wafting onto the July moonlit street

I don’t know how this maven missed the first evening of Christmas in July in Parkhurst. Having been a bit of a party-gal over the previous week or so, I was very pleased for an early night last Thursday. But then a friend said ‘Just pop into Mot Mot for a sherry, Parkhurst is buzzing and there’s a beautiful full moon’. I’m not sure which was the most compelling, the thought of Mot Mot (one of my favourite shops even before it’s excellent revamp ); the full moon in the clear winter’s sky on a relatively warm Highveld winter’s evening; the street buzz of late opening on 4th Ave; … or maybe even the sherry? FOMO struck (surely I’m too old for this?) …, and never one to miss out, I hot-footed it down the hill. Christmas lights abounded; people spilled out onto pavements chatting in groups; there were bagpipers and carol-singers; and a general feeling of festivity and good cheer prevailed.

Xmas In JulyAnd the best thing is that there is another evening of Christmas in July this Thursday 28th July. So make sure you don’t miss it. It really had a great atmosphere. Not too crowded but enough of a crowd to be fun and vibey. And Mot Mot is looking even more stunning than previously. They have joined up with Garden Bleu and have all sorts of amazing funky items you really don’t need, but know you will regret it if you don’t purchase, and equally know will always find the perfect place in your home. Mervyn Gers’ fabulous platters and bowls with stylish fish designs, stunning ceramics by Loren Kaplan, a huge section of bowls and

Loren Kaplan's ceramic vases and bowls

Loren Kaplan’s ceramic vases and bowls

beakers from Potter’s Seed and of course Strawberry Thief’s fabulous  chairs with bold multi-coloured fabrics, are all there to tempt you. The teaming up with Garden Bleu (who have long been in neighbouring Greenside), adds a great range and variety to Mot Mot’s offerings – wicker baskets for amazing cymbidium orchids, lots of metal decorative objects for outside walls, unusual plant hangers. It is a real treasure trove of wonderfully different objects and furniture. You will not be disappointed – it’s a treat.

 

 

Feast your eyes on those chairs

Feast your eyes on those chairs

Great new look Mot Mot

Great new look Mot Mot

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There are a couple of new restaurants that have opened (between 14th and 13th Streets). Salsa is a Mexican restaurant described as fun and vibey so if a whole group are going to 4th Ave, it would be a good place to get something to eat and break bread.  Café del Sol Tre is next door to Salsa. The name Tre celebrates the power of three – the 3 members of the family who run it (Mamma Luciana, daughter Chiara and son Ryan); it’s their third restaurant (the other two are in Olivedale and Bryanston); and it’s a reference to the triangular designs of Art Deco – the theme and style of the Parkhurst restaurant. The Olivedale Café del Sol has an excellent reputation so it’s worth giving this one a try.

Coobs (in the same block), has just launched the Supper Club where they provide a seasonal menu (so always fresh ingredients) paired with SA’s best boutique wines. Chef James Diack says: ‘Coobs is one of only two restaurants in South Africa which can accurately trace the provenance of its food – meaning we know exactly where our ingredients come from’.  I want to find out which/where the other restaurant is!

 

One of the BEST shops in Parkhurst - an institution.

Parkhurst Bookshop – one of the BEST shops in Parkhurst – an institution.

Along with all the restaurants, pavement cafes & coffee bars (fortunately no night clubs – which has been Parkhurst’s saving grace .. witness Melville and Greenside’s downward slide), 4th Ave Parkhurst has managed to maintain its wonderfully old-fashioned high street feel with shops like the renowned Braeside butchery; the ever-helpful chemist; and hardware (nothing is ever unsolvable here); and of course the Parkhust Bookshop – another veritable treasure trove which warrants a blogpost all of its own. There are boutiques (Desray, Banana Moon, Egality); nail bars and beauty salons (Sorbet and Africology);  specialty stores: Santos (every kind of stylish storage and display box you could want), the Kitchen Shop, Polly Potter’s Toy Store, Rick’s Secondhand Bookshop; antique shops and interior décor shops.

 

So even when its’ not Christmas in July, it’s a great street for wandering and window-shopping. It’s always a firm favourite with guests staying at http://www.lizatlancaster.co.za (only 5 minutes away by car).

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What’s in a Pop Up?

David KrutPop-up shops are becoming more and more popular for understandable reasons:  theoretically stock is moved quickly; the overheads are low; there’s a specific target market; the product can be seasonally geared, etc.  However, given all this, I think that some Pop Ups work better than others. A few weeks ago I went to Opening the Drawers: a Limited Edition Print Pop Up shop with David Krut Projects held at the Parktown High School for Girls in nearby Tyrone Avenue Parkview.  This is the second such Pop Up event that David Krut has run with Ann Roberts.

This Pop Up seemed to work particularly well  … why? I spoke to Robyn Penn who was instrumental in organizing the first David Kurt Pop Up with Ann Roberts.  In Robyn’s view there’s a ‘winning formula’ for these events. So what is this formula? Most importantly the product was superb: a wide range of great art works from both up-and-coming artists as well as established artists such as William Kentridge, Penny Siopis, Senzo Shabangu, Stephen Hobbs, Paul Stopforth, Bronwyn Findlay, Sandile Goje, Richard Penn, Robyn Penn, Diane Victor, Sam Nhlengethwa, Deborah Bell, Bonita Alice, Colbert Mashile, Nathaniel Stern, Wilma Cruise, Mary Wafer, amongst many many others. In addition it was a

A winning formula always includes space in the winter sun and chilled live music

A winning formula always includes space in the winter sun and chilled live music

Various pop-up food stalls

Various pop-up food stalls

fabulous balmy Highveld winter’s day (there’s no control over that); a great space at Parktown Girls High School with courtyards, and a large hall with big tables and lots of space to see the works; live music from The Runaway Train Cult; a couple of food trucks providing sustenance and drinks; a great child activity area where kids could make collages … leaving parents to enjoy a convivial social time around tables in the sun and most importantly for the organizers, …. child free time to browse and buy. What more could you need?

I think there are a couple of other factors which made this such a successful event. Central to consumer psychology seems to be the act of seeing what other people are buying – a little bit like the behaviour of a dog with a bone; or a child suddenly needing a toy when a sibling starts playing with it, even though she has been unaware of its existence for months. I watched people as they overheard somebody at their side picking up an artwork and saying: ‘Isn’t this stunning? Should we buy it? ’ And then adding greater incentive and reassurance by discussing why they liked it. This both sparks interest and validates any choices – rather like chatter at the communal mirror in the women’s change room at a clothing-store. The only difference being that the artwork looks the same whoever holds it up! The communal buying space also feeds into the psychology of being left out. FOMO of the real artefact. ‘This is the last work in the edition – if I don’t buy it somebody else might and I will lose out’.

Ann Roberts said of this Pop Up event: ‘We want to make art accessible to a broader market so that anybody can have a piece on their walls. … it’s not really a gallery. It’s the antithesis of a gallery in the sense that there [are] no walls and nothing hanging’.  And this explains another factor for the success of the event – the browsing experience is not alienating.

A wonderful space where all the works were laid out on tables

A wonderful space where all the works were laid out on tables

All the works are laid out on tables; fully protected so that the buyer can pick them up; (what gallery allows you to handle the artwork?); the prices are on the back so one doesn’t have to keep asking ‘How much is this?’ or peer myopically at a label; one can get an overall sense of everything available – nothing in stacks one has to flip through one at a time- and then one can return at will to anything of interest.  Several of the artists were present – there is nothing like having a lived sense of the author or artist to motivate buying a book or an art work. It seems to make the product more personally meaningful, more accessible, and more desirable – hence the success of book launches and book signings.  And finally the pièce de résistance:  there were framers on site who on purchase, would immediately measure, quote and take orders for framing … so ‘cementing’ the purchase(s) and making it all too late for any buyer’s remorse.

All in all – a great winning formula.  So make sure you get to David Krut and Ann Roberts’ next Pop Up event. It’s a great way to have easy access to a large number of works by well-known South African artists and you don’t even have to buy – much as I was tempted by several works … I resisted!

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