In-situ landscape paintings of the South African Cape scenery by artist Niel Jonker - art that reflects the process and power of the moment.

Niël Jonker

press article

Of Pylons and Paintings

It is drizzling as light emerges over the fynbos covered hills of the southwestern cape. A flick of the ignition and the scenery is brought back as the windscreen clears, just long enough for the artist to mix another colour, look, and mix again.

The artist partaking in this timeless act of painting in situ (direct from the landscape) is NiŽl Jonker, and he appears to be in no rush while he reaches for the palette on the bakkie seat next to him. By the time he looks up, the light has changed again, yet he continues to apply paint to the little panel stuck to the steering wheel with prestik. "This unique and wet corner of the cape is steeped in atmosphere and history. Add to it the commanding nature of the ever-changing light (thanks to the wind and moving clouds) and I'm addicted to the process."

This particular gray landscape that Jonker pores over is however loaded with more than just atmosphere as it is one of the valleys ear-marked to be an avenue for the seven giant electric pylons connecting the national power grid to the proposed new nuclear power facility at Bantamsklip a few kilometers away near Pearly Beach, just south of Gansbaai.

As we all work to cope with power outages and ESCOM searches for solutions, farmers and residents that play steward to this unique biosphere are joining forces with environmentalists to put a stop to what is seen as an unsustainable solution.

Back inside the bakkie a different battle rages between man and Nature as the artist wipes paint off and once more mixes the shade of the distant hills for the umpteenth time. "A passing farmer recently commented that these paintings are more like "ideas" than snapshots." Indeed, the resulting painting glows and moves with light and dynamic brushstrokes, reminiscent of the many painters centuries hence, as well as those still working in this way today, loosely grouped under the tag of Contemporary Impressionists.

Take a drive through this timeless landscape that continues to be a blank canvas for change, by visiting the next open-studio weekend of the Baardskeerdersbos Art Route, on 13 and 14 December 2008 where over a dozen artists have established studios and host the public to this, their third open studio event this year. Visit www.freewebs.com/artroute for a map and profile of each artist.