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Art Month at Welgemeend highlights achievements of women artists

  26 July 2018     Archived

Collectors Frank and Lizelle Kilbourn have over the past three decades amassed a remarkable treasure trove of works by South African women artists, a selection of which will be on view at Welgemeend, a historic manor house in central Cape Town for the duration of August 2018.

Mary Sibande
Have Not, I Have

The exhibition Shifting Boundaries: A Selection of Works showcasing South African Women Artists of the Past 100 Years features over 80 works by more than 60 artists, exclusively drawn from the Kilbourn Collection. The selection covers works in a range of media and genres.

Among the highlights are many arresting portraits of women by Georgina Gratrix, Maggie Laubser, Mary Sibande and Irma Stern. Shifting Boundaries explores three main themes: body, space and society. The selection includes portraits of women by women (body); still lifes, landscapes and interiors as seen by women (space); and works engaging contemporary social issues (society).

This timely exhibition of women artists forms the nucleus of a busy programme of events and talks at Welgemeend throughout August. The month-long programme includes four masterclasses, notably by respected painter Penny Siopis (4 August) who will focus on colour, materiality and process in her recent work. Art enthusiasts will also be able to hear collector Lizelle Kilbourn talk about art appreciation and collecting with art critic Amanda Botha (18 August).

Strauss & Co senior specialist Wilhelm van Rensburg will present a masterclass on Irma Stern’s still lifes (2 August). Van Rensburg recently curated the exhibition Life Force: The Still Lifes of Irma Stern as part of Strauss & Co’s participation in the 2018 RMB Turbine Art Fair. This showcase of 17 Stern still lifes was the biggest public exhibition of this aspect of Stern’s output since 2003. Visitors will be able to view Stern’s gouache Still Life with Poppies and Fruit (1935) at the talk.

August Art Month is the brainchild of collector Frank Kilbourn and auctioneer Stephan Welz, Strauss & Co’s founding director who passed away in 2015. The initiative aims to shore up support for Welgemeend, a historic home built on the slopes of Table Valley in 1693. Declared a national monument in 1944, Welgemeend is owned and managed by Jan van Riebeeck Hoërskool, in collaboration with the Friends of Welgemeend. This volunteer organisation ensures the preservation of the home and its historic collection of earlier 20th-century masterpieces formerly owned by Afrikaans poet and scholar Izak Wilhelmus “Boerneef” van der Merwe (1897–1967).

In an effort to drum up support for this initiative, the Kilbourns have every year selected works from their extensive collection of art for public display during Art Month at Welgemeend. Last year they collaborated with the Pieter Colyn Collection to produce the exhibition, Abstraction: South African art from the 1950s to the 70s, which included major works by Hannetjie van der Wat, Cecily Sash and Dorothy Kay, among others.

This year’s exhibition, Shifting Boundaries, draws attention to the diverse and pioneering contributions of women artists to the South African canon. Rather than revisit the stellar women artists featured on last year’s exhibition, Shifting Boundaries presents some of the other powerhouse women artists in the Kilbourn Collection.

The artist list covers three pivotal periods from the last century and includes works by pioneer modernists like Cecil Higgs, Maggie Laubser and Irma Stern, mid-century trailblazers Nel Erasmus, Esther Mahlangu and Judith Mason, and respected contemporary artists Jane Alexander, Deborah Bell, Marlene Dumas, Helen Sebidi, Diane Victor and Mary Sibande.

The exhibition also includes sculptures by, among others, Beth Armstrong, Wilma Cruise, Noria Mabasa and Rina Stutzer. There are also photographs by Nandipha Mntambo, Thania Petersen, Mary Sibande and Sue Williamson’s important photo installation A Tale of Two Cradocks (1994).

Noteworthy individual works on Shifting Boundaries include an enigmatic marine scene in oil, Seaweed (1964) by Cecil Higgs, one of two works by this important New Group member. Laubser, Stern and Maud Sumner will each have a number of works on view; most of them are portraits of women, including Stern’s Woman in the Kitchen (1941), which depicts an elderly woman in a headscarf appraising the painter askance.

Shifting Boundaries also gathers work by four members of the Everard Group of painters: Eleanor Esmonde-White, Bertha Everard, Ruth Everard-Haden and Edith King. Writing in 2016, art historian Marion Arnold noted how artists like Bertha Everard, along with Laubser and Stern, “took the initiative in creating and exhibiting progressive painting” in a chauvinist society.

Art Month at Welgemeend is a collaboration between the Friends of Welgemeend, Strauss & Co, Delaire Graff, Frank and Lizelle Kilbourn and others, with the support of Jan van Riebeeck Hoërskool. This important winter arts event kicks off on 1 August with a fundraising gala dinner. Please consult the programme for a detailed schedule of events.

For bookings and information: | Tel: 060 563 2822

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