Plein air landscape painting of Western Cape scenery by artist Niël Jonker | Contemporary South African art | Artisan baking with sourdough.

Niël Jonker

Site_Specific 2nd Land Art Bienalle, Plettenberg Bay, August 2013

"Art feed"

Art Feed

I employed the earth as a mold to cast a sculptural tortoise-shell type of form. Into this shaped hole I cast a thin skin of refractory cement mixed with beach sand and water. This sculptural form was used as a wood-fired oven from which pizza snacks in the shape of tiny baby turtles were served. (A sandpit toy turtle mold of my daughter's was the initial spark of inspiration as well as the conclusion to the process when it served as baby-turtle cooky-cutter.) I cast the sculpture alone at night by torch-light, and regardless of every measure taken to render the image in my mind's eye, the indirect method of modeling the image in the negative conspired with the earth to deliver a delightfully unexpected result. Viewers' descriptions varied from seeing the form as a lantern-fish to a little whale, as well as a primordial creature reminiscent of early seafaring map illustrations of sea 'monsters'.

The braai area under a milkwood between the old timber shed and ski-boat club is a site upon which several colliding interests are projected, from homeless residents to municipal workers, tourists and artists, all using the landscape variously and even contentiously. This site was chosen to draw attention to the human component of Plettenberg Bay which wraps around the coastline like a sort of crust.

I hoped that when the viewers ate the baked baby turtles they would reflect upon the tendency of mankind to unconsciously consume, which seems as inherent in human nature as in seagulls' picking turtles ruthlessly off the beach. This is a choice we have in either taking selfishly or sharing within community.

Regardless, a good time was had by all.

site-specific sculpture

Life-size head, Karoo homestead

"Kwaaikop", a ten-times life-size head, was installed at a Karoo homestead. In addition to working on location, this site-specific sculpture is made of salvaged mud-brick, the unbaked bricks typically used in constructing old buildings such as this.
The angry head is rising from the earth, as if in response to us naughty humans above. At the time of making the sculpture, Karoo communities were just picking up speed in protesting against fracking, the controversial mining method that is set to dramatically change this much loved and vast arid interior of South Africa. I dedicate this sculpture to my mother who throughout here life committed to saving historical rural architecture, an effective example of activism in one's own backyard.

Mud bricks

It was surprisingly emotional collecting these unbaked mud-bricks from a farmhouse ruin, as bit like attending a commemorative ceremony like a funeral. I like to think that there are memories contained in the bricks that relate back to the many forgotten lives that they sheltered over the years.

Modular system

The modular system allows for collapsing the sculpture and reinstallation elsewhere. This is a lot more versatile than the usual permanent nature of installing an artwork this size.


Facebook Niel Jonker Painting page   
Niël Jonker Painting facebook page

Subscribe to my Newsletter.

Past Newsletters

Newsletter | April 2015 "Friends" - sculptural portraits of fellow creatives read more

Newsletter | January 2014 Introducing NiŽl Jonker's Landscape Painting Tours read more

Newsletter | October 2013 Endless Autumn read more

Newsletter | March 2013 "Grondhervorming" An exhibition of site-specific earth-cast sculpture read more

Newsletter | September 2012 read more

Newsletter | Summer 2012 Wonderboom read more

Past Exhibitions

Grahamstown National Arts Festival
27 June - 7 July 2013

13 August 2013
KZNSA Gallery

17 August 2013
Plettenberg Bay

Baardskeerdersbos Art Route
12-13 October 2013

Painting Nature

by Carin Goodwin

On some mornings it seems there is an even greater urgency to look with exaggerated concentration at the scene in front of one. If, for instance, there is a thin layer of mist just above the hills, moving gently into nowhere, it is imperative that one notices this as every moment passes, so as not to miss the event … read more

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 … read more

Silence and the art of wondering about the house

by Carin Goodwin

There is an old polemic around art and whether or not it has more value when it has relinquished the ivory tower. Niël Jonker´s work, both painting and sculpture, is positioned in a tradition which elegantly traverses, and offers some synthesis, to this polemic.

In many ways, it is argued, formalism in art alienates people from the art object. It is often said that working within a recognisable technical tradition the artist, instead of communicating with the viewer, stupefies and overpowers the very persons to whom the work is intended to make an appeal on some level. The suggestion then is that art should not be about overtly drawing attention to form itself but should be about conveying content, whether it is purely conceptual or obviously representational.

Jonker´s work sees an unapologetic appeal to some the most fundamental laws of painting and sculpture. It represents the work of an artist who cannot reject the importance of "doing it right". In looking at, for instance, some of his paintings it becomes significantly clear that these are born from a challenge to put, on canvas, something which has caught the eye of the artist. It is, therefore, evident that there was no respite until the light is captured, the colours are honest and the lines are true. And since this is not the easy flight into aesthetic nihilism, what emerges is art which convinces… read more