‘Not again’ It´s a sunny Sunday in the terraced garden of an upmarket B&B in a Western cape small town and I´ve just set up an exhibition of my paintings along with a random group of artists. On the terrace above a blonde guy sits among his frames and mirrors and a woman unpacks mosaics she made while undergoing chemo ‘for my friends when I snuff out’ she chuckles. The sun glowing through all the greenery is achingly beautiful, but my hung-over head shudders behind my shades: ‘yet another exercise in packing and unpacking the art, smiling, and then packing up again.’
It does not come easy to anyone, let alone an artist, to represent himself in business, yet this sometimes becomes a necessary supplementary measure. For every industry has their agent for dispensing its product, so why reinvent the wheel? Go get a good gallery, and get on with making art while leaving them to do their job. All that makes sense in theory, and as for my galleries I am very happy and proud to stock them. It just takes nerves of steel and busloads of faith to make a living on consignment stock, and so I pack the car with art once in awhile and venture off to some festival or other, hoping to cover the costs, determined to have a jol, and certain of gaining positive feedback.
Being a sucker for opportunity also helps identify gaps through which to crawl, while creating opportunities is far more difficult and best approached in a pack. So it has come that I have been privileged to be a part of several communal efforts in creating such opportunities. Being a champion of all things rural, I live and work remotely and tend to be on the fringes of the buzz in the city art circles. However, it is surely not only for the far-flung artist that it becomes sometimes necessary to bring the mountain to Muhammed, and surely many artists find themselves in a similar position?
The Baardskeerdersbos Art Route developed in my hamlet as a direct result of the above considerations, and three years later continues to thrive as a drive-through experience of people, the environment, and artistic endeavour. Limited to three weekends per year, it is neither a festival nor a meander, more like an extended home party.
The KKNK launches its Art Quarter project in 2011, furthering this trend in self-representation. Maybe it´s a consequence of the recession? Is it a trend that has grown from the artist and the art lover´s mutual desire to find a place to meet? Are values continuing to shift, furthering the worldwide need for authenticity at a time of diverse crises? Whatever the case, South Africans remain keen art collectors, as dynamic as the solid tradition of making art, so it makes sense to create more opportunities to meet.
Art in a Country Garden takes place monthly in Stanford, and this is where my hangover is being charmed by the enthusiasm of the other artists. Rambling through the iridescent garden, I overhear conversations that swing from appreciation of brush strokes to price brackets. Pausing to smile at two artists that feel under dressed for the occasion; I pass on the number of a musician to the organiser while another artist endeavours to list this event in the city papers´ weekend supplements. Networking, helping, and sharing.
The day rolls on to its contented end, and as I am carrying the fifth and final load to my car, I pause to see the art of the last artist still on the lawn, and a painting of a boy with penetrating eyes. The artist picks up the portrait of her late grandson. She knows not why the guy before her appears to will understand, but she feels compelled to give me a printed poem she wrote around the time of the boy´s death. I accept it with deep appreciation, slipping the paper into my pocket for reading privately later.
The drive home offers time to reflect on the small somethings that are part of this practice called art. In the sharing of art, a little something is in turn added to the practice called life. A little something of immeasurable value: the simple act of sharing.
The next Baardskeerdersbos Art Route is on 8 & 9 January 2011
Artists wishing to enquire about venues in KKNK´s Art Quarter may visit www.kknk.co.za
19 December sees the next monthly Art in a Stanford Country Garden, at Galashiels Lodge in Stanford - two hour´s drive from Cape Town. Enquiries: 0744378080.
Niel Jonker is a sculptor that also paints the landscape and his friends in situ; and hosts bread making workshops on his stoep that disturb the neighbours.