Archive for the ‘Article’ Category

Art for Art’s Sake or Art for Christ’s Sake?

Thursday, March 7th, 2013

Some art you look at and see nothing inspiring, thought provoking or any point to it. Most art will have at least one of these qualities to it, even if you’re not a fan of the style or the artist. Recently we saw in the news that none other than `Rocky Balboa` star Sylvester Stallone, has added himself to the list of celebrities turned artist. That in itself is a thought provoking…well…thought I suppose. However, I make jest of the subject when what I’m really trying to convey to you is this. The fact that Mr. Stallone comes across as a mentally deficient thug in most of his movies; shouldn’t lead us to think that he hasn’t a contribution to make to the world of art. Quite the contrary really, for wasn’t Vincent Van Gogh himself riddled with a schizophrenic brain due to his addiction to Absinthe. Sylvester is actually quite an astute man and meeting him in the flesh, so to speak, is quite an experience when all you know about him is that he works out a lot. He is like most historic artists, small in stature compared to his reputation and public persona, but don’t be fooled by this image as he has an awesome personality. The problem we have in terms of some artists is that they tend to portray their subjects in a cartoon style manner, almost as if the subject doesn’t actually exist in real form. Take a look at contemporary art from the 1600s to the 1800s, the subject matter is an actual replication of them or the matter, and doesn’t leave much to the imagination. Hans Holbein was an artist to King Henry VIII of England (1509-47), his job was to go to Europe and paint prospective wives for Henry. In the absence of the later invention of photography, this is the only way a prospective husband could preview the goods, so to speak. Holbein wasn’t the only artist doing this lucrative work, and I often wonder just how much of an influence this kind of art had on the general painter. Michelangelo and Da Vinci to mention two artists would be now classed as being old school, and although their work is very specific and scaled, it is still about imaginary figures. The Birth of Venus for instance is hardly something that Botticelli could have had Venus pose for, yet the detail in the skin tones and infringements are remarkable. Tamarind Schulze has a fabulous line in character paintings, I love the way she seems to capture the `look` of her subjects thoughts, yet they don`t seem real to the subconscious mind. Maybe I’m being a bit too pedantic here, I really like her work and it is up there with the best that South Africa has to offer the world. Getting back to Rocky though, he seems to be of the belief that his destiny in the art world, or should that be his contribution, seems to lie in the abstract rather than the conventional. I admire any way an artist thinks their work should go, for after all said and done, it is the artist as much as the work that we are interested in. I suppose that we should be grateful that Sylvester has chosen to go the route of Jackson Pollack, and not that of Da Vinci, Botticelli or Michelangelo and produce paintings of Christ, for that would certainly be Art for Christ’s sake, rather than Art for Art’s sake.

Thoughts for July – Sleuthing a Constable

Wednesday, July 29th, 2009

Sleuthing a Constable

Last month in the UK a rather grubby and understated painting of a cloudy sky was listed for auction (which takes place today, as it happens – at Sotheby’s in London – so you had better be quick if you want to snap it up!). The work, from a "follower of Constable" had sold for a respectable $40,000 around a year previously at a well-known provincial auctioneers – not bad considering its guide price had been just over $1,000.

Whether it was gut feel or a rather more studied expertise that inspired its purchase, the buyer certainly is looking to make a handsome profit on the deal – Sotheby’s own experts have since confirmed that the work is in fact a genuine Constable and there is speculation that the price could easily breach $750,000 when the hammer falls on it this time around.

Constable, like many other great artists, has been much copied both as tribute and as forgery and cataloguing the works of any prodigious artist who died nearly 200 years ago is never an easy task. Anyone with an interest in the art (!) and science of such detective work may be interested in Philip Mould’s latest book "Sleuth" Mould, resident art expert on the BBC’s Antiques Roadshow, has had more than his fair share of discerning "finds" during his career and has some interesting tales to tell. Some may find his slightly flowery prose grating but it tends to go with the territory in certain art circles. It’s worth a read to help understand the traumas some paintings go through over the course of a century or three and some of the attention they need before they can grace the walls of the leading museums and public galleries.

- Mark Hayhurst

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You can now follow us on Twitter

We’ve recently succumbed to the social marketing frenzy and opened a Twitter profile – Just follow us on Twitter to hear about new listed artists and other snippets of information.

Thankfully such detective work is rarely needed when selecting works on – this month we’ve picked a crop of really excellent talent that you should check out:

by Pieter Vermaak

This work from Pieter’s portfolio is one of a number that share the same ethereal quality. Wispy in nature and depicting spiritual themes, they are soft and dreamlike, inspiring and imaginative.

Andi has great skill in her use of bold, bright colours and her techniques of applying paint to canvas. She can adapt herself to various styles and her works are upbeat and lively.

"Red Fairies "
by Andi Hirschson

"Strelitzia 1″
by Arlene McDade

These vivid studies of tropical flora are Arlene’s stock in trade. Enormous, yet alive with colour – they have a wonderful depth and she has a superb eye for detail and form.

This is a great example of the sensitive work that Jana brings to you. She is a very capable artist and has clearly applied a great deal of care and thought to the pieces she produces.

by Jana Reinecke

"Moon Spirit"
by Dulcie Robinson

With an extensive repertoire of ethnic scenes and large abstract canvasses, Dulcie’s passion for art is clearly evident in this bold work. An experienced art teacher, she has a detailed understanding of technique which she employs without losing an ounce of sensitivity.

Gavin’s skill and traditional style in his portraiture is simply superb and the structure and composition of pieces such as this are exemplary. His pieces are in high demand and his commission work rightly held in the highest regard.

"The Bride in Nikitain Park Moscow "
by Gavin Calf

" Art is either plagiarism or revolution. "
- Paul Gauguin

New Artists

We have talented new artists coming on the site all the time and in recent weeks we have welcomed the following who have already listed a number of excellent works:

" Abstract art places a new world, which on the surface has nothing to do with ‘reality,’ next to the ‘real’ world. "
- Wassily Kandinsky

Tell us how we are doing?

As ever we would welcome any feedback and comments you might have. Feel free to drop us a line at with any comments or ideas you might have for promoting these superb artists even more widely. We also welcome art-themed submissions for our regular newsletters of short stories or anecdotes about art, your experiences, what inspired you or anything that you think may be of interest.

Yours in inspiration,

All the team at
The very best of South African art online

How to Preserve an Original Oil Painting

Friday, September 19th, 2008

Buying an original oil painting is easier than preserving it intact for years to come. If you have bought an original painting either from an art gallery or an online art gallery, you need to take some essential tips in learning how to preserve it well so that it remains like its original self for a long time.

If you know how to preserve an original oil painting, it is not all that difficult a thing to do. Here are some easy steps you can take to preserve your original painting:

  • Fluctuating room temperature can ruin the oil painting completely. Hence hang it in a room where the temperature is normal – neither too hot nor too humid.
  • Pay attention to the back of the painting too. Regularly clean its back by using vacuum cleaner or soft brushes.
  • Any type of smoke be it from a cigarette, small little candle or fire, can destroy the painting. Hence, the room where you choose to display the painting shouldn’t have a fireplace. And don’t ever let the smokers puff cigarettes near the painting.

The simplest thing you can do to preserve your original oil painting is to clean it regularly and keep it away from dust. Never use any rough piece of cloth for cleaning it. Always clean the painting with soft brushes, moist cotton wool or soft micro fibre cloth.

The Mask: A Vestige of Ancient African Tribal Art

Friday, September 19th, 2008

Tribal art forms come alive in all kinds of ethnic and artistic art pieces such as figures, statuettes, sculptures, ceremonial objects, and particularly in African tribal masks which are quite intriguing.
The heart and soul of Africa reflects in its unique tribal masks. These masks are known and recognised the world over and are particularly valued by art collectors for their uniqueness and appeal.

For centuries, they have been used for various kinds of African rituals, celebrations and tribal initiations such as crop harvesting, war rituals and other sacred ceremonies in Africa. They are an integral part of the attire, African tribesmen and women don for performing these various rituals.

In these rituals men and women alike put on masks, wore traditional clothes and sang, danced and prayed. The entire village participated in the ceremony. Music and prayers rant the air.

According to African tradition, the purpose of these ‘masked’ ceremonies was to communicate with dead ancestors. As part of the ritual, a dancer wore the ceremonial mask and while dancing without a break, he went into a deep trance where he communicated with the ancestors.

Usually, some learned man accompanied the dancer and deciphered the message simultaneously when the dancer spoke out something which was believed to be important messages from the dead ancestors.

Tribal masks were made from different materials ranging from leather, ivory, shells, wood beads, brass and metal. These traditions which have been handed down by generations through the ages ensured that each mask had its own particular significance.

Some masks were used to ward off evil spirits and some masks symbolized the celebrations. Families took pride in their masks as they were believed to be the dwelling place of their ancestors.

Each tribal group had its own type of masks. Some of these tribal groups included:

  • Tikar
  • Bobo
  • Fang
  • Kwele
  • Teke
  • Chokwe
  • Puna
  • Beta
  • Igbo
  • Toma
  • Bamoun
  • Songye

Even though the usage of tribal masks has declined drastically and masking rituals are not so common anymore, art collectors all over the world consider tribal masks among their most prized of possessions. From being part of private collections to items of home décor, African tribal art has always enjoyed immense popularity among aesthetic people and art lovers. You can check out our online art gallery to look for enchanting tribal masks to adorn your wall or add to your art collection.

4 Points to Know Before Buying Original Paintings

Friday, September 19th, 2008

Paintings are expressive and meaningful. And for every art lover, possessing a good collection of original paintings is a dream. Buying art is an investment. A painting by a young painter which you may have bought purely on instinct may turn out to be a prized possession in later years if the painter becomes famous and a collector’s favorite. Therefore, choose original paintings on the basis of what appeals to you and what looks good in your home. Here are some useful tips to help you select good, original paintings:

While buying a painting, keep in mind the décor of the room in which you are going to put up the painting. Choose a style which matches well with your living room or bedroom. If your room is stuffed with a lot of furniture items then it is best to go for a simple design, without too much clutter or complexity. And if the room is modest then pick up a painting which has got some action to it. Whether you wish to put it up in the living room or your bedroom, in the end it should complement the entire décor of the room and not look out of place.

The size of the painting should complement the entire room. If you like a large painting, make sure it does not look disproportionate in your living room. On the other hand, if you have a spacious living room, then putting up a small painting will be pointless because the painting would be lost among the other furniture items. Choose the painting keeping in mind the size of the room you plan to put it in.

Reflect your personality
A painting should be a reflection of your inner personality and the person you are from the core. You can browse online art galleries which contain some of the most amazing artworks. Check them out and you will surely find something which suits your taste be it African, European or American painting.

Painting to gel with the wall
The painting should blend perfectly with the wall on which it is put up also and not just with the room. If the wall is dark-colored, then a painting with light shades would look great. And if the color of the wall is of a lighter shade, then go for a deep-colored painting. In case you adore a light shade painting and your wall is light too, then get the wall painted in a dark color. Or an easier option would be to frame it in a dark wood frame. But never, ever let go of an original painting you like. You might not find it again.

Biophylia in Art

Sunday, August 17th, 2008

While looking around the site I have noticed the repeated presence of images from the natural world – plant life, animals, landscape, and as these are areas in which I also tend to specialise I found myself wondering why they are such perennial themes.

One has only to cast the most cursory glance over the history of world art across the widest span of times and cultures to find that the representation of the natural world (as opposed to human made objects and lifestyle) is by far the dominant presence. This is not to say that there is not great beauty in other subjects, in the non figurative, in modern and urban art, but something in Nature captures the human soul and draws us back, again and again.

Moreover, there is a strong and frequent link between the representation of the Natural world and religious, mythological and psychological themes. From the earliest cave paintings, created as magical acts to summon the required food animals; through the Greek, Celtic and Egyptian mythological representation of animals to the sympathetic and allegorical landscape backgrounds of medieval and early modern art, it is as if the natural world is a gigantic mirror, reflecting back to us our cultural preconceptions.

When one considers a painting like W Holman Hunt’s "The Scapegoat" for example, one of the most striking things is the utter pathos, grief, desolation captured in the goat’s expression. No human figure, nothing but the tortured colours of the landscape and the animal’s face serve to present an allegory of the whole Victorian mindset regarding religion, sin and shame.

Similarly, in the frequently analaysed "Last Supper" of Michaelangelo, what grips me is the deathly mood of the landscape seen behind the figures. If one analysed that portion alone one might guess that death and betrayal were central themes. The emotions of the subjects are vividly daubed in the colours of the canvas.

One might consider this a homocentric projection, for we, in the "Ecological Age" realise of course that "Mother Nature" is a great beast of uncertain temper, one to be feared, nutured and revered but never tamed. Is it a nonsense to see our mind, hearts and souls reflected back to us through the natural world? If so then it is a truly ancient one, as old as the first anthropomorphised deities of wind, thunder, water, sun.

Even in this modern age, where the rise of angry urban art sells for vast sums, there are a larger number of artists than ever taking Nature as their predominant theme, from the traditional watercolour landscape to colossal sculptures of semi abstracted plant forms. Reading the ‘Artists and Illustrators’ professional periodical recently I was interested to see thatin their ‘Artist of the Year’ competition, the Landscape, Animal and Botanical sections all contained (and were won by) very traditional and highly skilled watercolours and oils. The same periodical contained coverage of some vast semi abstract sculptures by Christopher Le Brun, one of a beautifully modelled horse flanked by gigantic discs, giving in a Graeco-Egyptian, mythologised appearance. I was recently captivated by the work of Judith K MacMillan, a photographer whose X ray images of plants capture a numinous sensitivity that borders on the sacred.

So what does it mean, this love of Nature, this addictive persistance of the Natural world in art? Could it be that even as we have, for the main, enclosed ourselves in urban environments and abandoned the wilderness, our hearts cry out with the loss? For me, when I see (or paint) a natural image now I approach it with something like reverence, asking myself "How does this stir my soul? Why am I moved by this? What am I trying to learn?