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Updated: Jun 11, 2021

I was dozing in the winter sun at the beachfront in Britannia Bay when an idea for a painting blew across my mind. I saw what looked like building rubble, with a seedling struggling through the old building blocks, a scrap of blue…

I had completed a number of paintings that week and decided to tune out in order to tune in to new ideas. One way I do that, is to doze off and wait for ideas to come in that half-sleep state. When I woke up, I went to the Old Palm Restaurant at Sandy Point Farm, opposite St Helena Harbour, where there was an old ruin under a tree next to the restaurant. I wanted to take some photographs of the rubble. Maybe I could match that up with the idea that came to me.

I got a perfect match. 

I mixed some beach sand into the first layer of paint on the canvas and proceeded to do a realistic painting of a close-up picture of the rubble. It looked like an abstract landscape. When Steve Walsh, Blues Broers founder member and owner of the restaurant, held a bash at the Old Palm, I decided to exhibit some of my paintings. I tried to make a corrugated-iron frame for this painting, but it did not work out. I was working in the workshop at the restaurant and went to search for alternative materials on the scrap heap behind the building. I found an old, worn-out frame of a sash window which matched the painting and framed the picture in it. Again, a perfect match.

Just then Steve arrived and told me that the window belonged to the same ruin on which the painting was based. Seemed like that old house used me to bring its parts together again.

When I told West Coast artist Corrine Pienaar about the painting, she said the old house and Sandy Point Farm used to belong to her husband’s family. They originally shipwrecked in St Helena Bay on the way to the Cape of Good Hope, stayed there for three years, and eventually got a lift to the Cape with another ship. Didn’t like it there and gradually moved up the coast until settling at long last in the same spot they stayed after having been shipwrecked. And that ruin was the first house they erected on the farm.

The people were drawn back to the land that claimed them in the first place; the window frame returned to its house. History retraced its steps. The damnedest thing is how that image stepped into my mind...

I think artists must have aerials that reach up towards a cloud of ideas that is always present above our heads and can be tapped into by anyone who has grown his or her aerial long enough through creative practice.

I have had many similar experiences with art. Some artworks and ideas definitely have a life of their own and the artist who is attentive becomes a medium through which it speaks. It makes life rather magic.

Some artworks are your own creative children, other artworks are the ideas of other people which you give form to, some are just exercises in skill and sentiment. But some are truly magic - and maybe the rest of them too, but we don’t always notice it.

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