May 07, 2023 - May 28, 2023

32 Main Street, Riebeeck Kasteel, South Africa

In this exhibition Annelie Janse van Rensburg, Jo Roets and Monique Day-Wilde explore the idea of nature as a refuge, a sanctuary, a place to find solace from the intensity and fast pace of urban living. Look/See offers a space to pause and to breathe in the details and colour palettes of the natural world.


Opening talk by Donavan Mynhardt:

Current-day humanity has been enveloped in perpetual crisis-fatigue – sickness, famine, culture wars, political polarization, recession – this never-ending list seems to continue into oblivion. I can certainly feel the blanket of somnolence draped over my shoulders, like I believe many of you might as well.

It is quite understandable then, that humankind’s need to be coddled and comforted by the natural world grows each day. Scholar PH Bordeau wrote that the man-nature relationship had always been ambiguous, with nature being seen as both provider and enemy. In the Judeo-Christian tradition, man is set apart from nature and called to dominate it, although this attitude has been revised to become one of stewardship.

But wouldn’t you agree that it is Mother Nature – and I emphasize the word ‘Mother’ – that has befallen the task of Stewardship – for she is the one we seek out when troubled?

The exhibition we have gathered to experience today is aptly named – Look/See. Each artwork on display implores us to take note of the wonders of the natural world – and with it, the healing and comforting qualities of said environment. Art is seen as a mirror of our society, and artists are often burdened with the responsibility of forcing us to look and consider and reflect on the often warped and selfish ideologies of humankind. Look/See does just that – it forces us to really take note of this beautiful sanctuary we so often gravitate to when life becomes overwhelming – to appreciate its magnificence – its precious promise of rest and relaxation. It forces us to reconsider our relationship with Mother Nature – do we dominate and only truly take notice when we want something from her – or do we take the time to cultivate a continuous deep connection to Gaia, creating a balanced relationship wrapped in mutual respect and kindness – one in which human and nature both play the role of provider and friend.

Each meticulously crafted artwork on show celebrates the beauty of the natural world, whether through subject matter or via the chosen mediums. I believe it to be the goal of the artists – Jo Roets, Annelie Janse van Rensburg and Monique Day-Wilde – through their creations – to remind us to literally stop and smell the roses. To be mindful of how we interact with the elemental energies surrounding us. There is nothing inherently wrong with enjoying what nature has to offer, but we should take the time to be thankful as well.

I am of the opinion that the exhibiting artists believe their work not to necessarily have a deeper meaning, other than allowing the viewer to regard the beauty of the natural world. But, as mentioned, art is like a mirror, and by holding up a proverbial mirror through their creations, we as viewers, can learn to reflect on the subject matter and re-evaluate our personal relationship with the earth. It is not to say we must not become enraptured by its loveliness or find solace within Gaia’s embrace – for we need these things to survive in the fast-paced urban society we find ourselves in.

In fact, even considering the mediums these ladies make use of, one can argue that the meaning of each piece extends beyond that of pure aesthetics. Through shaping the earth, physically digging into the dirt, we ourselves become more grounded – hence the growing popularity and appreciation of pottery globally, especially after the Covid pandemic. And I’m sure that both Jo and Annelie, who mostly create by sculpting from the earth itself, can attest to the therapeutic properties offered by the medium. Then, there is Monique, whose work on show is largely created on or from paper, a support which has the unique ability to retain memories. Like clay, paper remembers each mark, each crease, every stitch or cut. Just like paper, which has its origins from the verdant world, we must hold onto our memories concerning time spent in or with nature – think about the touch of a fresh, cool breeze against your cheek when hiking in the mountains, consider the early-morning avian choir when readying yourself for work - stop – and – smell - the - roses, for the sweet fragrance is their gift to us. Remember these things, find solace in them. But do so mindfully.

Now consider the artworks so lovingly created and beautifully curated – allow yourself to be inspired by the cascading vine-like creations, find solace in the delicately stitched, efflorescent artscapes, enjoy the elegantly depicted movements of colourful painted birds and revel in the textures and tactility of natural materials. Invite these artworks into your homes and let them be a reminder of our connection to Mother Earth. May these pieces bring you escape, happiness and solace.

To end of, I implore you to consider the wise words of Pocahontas:

The rainstorm and the river are my brothers. The heron and the otter are my friends.

And we are all connected to each other. In a circle, in a hoop that never ends.’

Congratulations Jo, Annelie, Monique and Astrid on a beautiful exhibition. And thank you for providing us with the opportunity to find solace in Nature’s embrace.

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