A horse, a horse, her kingdom for a horse

2011-09-22 00:00

“WHAT! Your horse watches TV with you?”

There’s a little wooden window in Inge Dagmar Manders’s lounge that opens to the stable where her ­28-year-old black Arabian stallion Yogi sleeps. He sticks his head through the window almost immediately, and affectionately nuzzles her hair with his muzzle. All horses are special to her, but Yogi is the horse she has owned for the longest (since 1993), and the gentle little soul is her friend.

“Yes, he watches TV with me by looking at the reflection in the window,” replies the artist, who also looks after seven rescued cats.

Horses have always been her life, and her equine art reflects the love and respect she has for these magnificent creatures.

“My family have always owned horses when possible and, as a baby, my mum found me in our Welsh/Arab stallion’s stable. Funnily enough, this stallion was also called Yogi.”

Born in Holland in 1966, she has lived in countries across the globe, ­including Kuwait, Ethiopia, Lebanon, New Zealand, Brazil and ­Switzerland. At 16, she used to ride horses with her father in Holland and in ­Brazil, and she trained stallions.

“Latinos (Andalusian horses) are highly intelligent and sensitive ­animals. I used to work with troubled horses to calm them down, and make them trust humans again. Horses are amazing animals, they mirror the way in which you treat them. ­Therefore, if you treat them with ­respect, they treat you in the same way. And when you train these ­beautiful, regal animals, it fills you with something that is so much more. It’s like being in love. And in each ­painting, I try to capture that alluring presence and the individual ­personalities of horses that I have known.”

When she relocated to the Dargle she worked as a horse breeder, and ran an equestrian establishment with up to 86 horses and ponies, including 40 wild ponies and about eight brood mares.

“I never really intended to pursue art, and always saw it as an enjoyable hobby. From as far back as I can ­remember, I wanted to be a zoologist. Going through those haywire teen years, I wanted to be an animal ­trainer, and then a stewardess. I wanted excitement, and not the ­isolation that an artistic career would inevitably lead to.”

Nevertheless, Manders had started producing art from the time she could hold a pencil, and at age four she was already creating drawings and paintings for her grandparents.

Her studio walls are hidden behind canvas upon canvas of paintings, ranging from horses to unicorns, cats to wildlife and jungles to people. The vibrant colours almost pop out at you, making the room come alive against the creams walls.

Ethic artefacts, collected over the years from the different countries that she has lived in are as abundant as her paintings, and peep at you from every corner of the room. While her ­studio table is completely hidden with preliminary sketches scattered over the table, as well as pencils, pens, ­bottles, tubes of paint and paintbrushes.

While the subject of her paintings depicts the style that she utilises, Manders enjoys working with diverse mediums such as oil paint, wood ­carvings, leather paintings and ­sculpture. Predominantly self-taught, ­Manders has a variety of ­influences which allow her work to be versatile.

“I can draw and paint almost ­everything. I used to be big on jungle subjects — big cats, African scenes, forests ... and sold quite a few pieces when I was in my late teens. Now my work is a lot more equine. These paintings all start with this lump that I feel in my chest. It’s hard to explain, but it’s that feeling that you get when you feel your eyes brimming with tears because you have seen or felt something so powerful and beautiful. That’s the feeling that I get when I paint my stallions.”

She also makes jewellery, dream catchers, green catchers and horse skulls that are painted and decorated with jewels, which hang on the walls of her house. Working gold leaf and gems such as rubies, garnets and diamonds into her paintings, her artwork can sometimes end up selling for over R20 000. One of her more frequent clients was the late Rob Taylor, who bought some of her most precious ­pieces.

“One of the hardest parts of being an artist is that it’s pure emotion. For a painting to work, I have to feel emotional about it and, once I get into it, I lose all track of time, like I’m in a trance. It’s like driving; sometimes you don’t remember how you got from one place to another. My paintings never end up the way that I had first imagined them; they take on a life of their own.”

A subscriber to the ethereal realm, Manders’ art contains a multitude of symbols and spiritual elements. Her love for unicorns is influenced by her interest in mythical worlds and magic.

“If I could be the ideal breeder, I would breed unicorns and Pegasus. In my art, I take things that are real and make them magical.”

• Manders will be exhibiting at The Kiln Gallery in October. Her work is permanently exhibited at her studio, and the Graceland Gallery in Mooi ­River. The gallery will also be holding an equine-themed exhibition, where Manders and various other equine artists will be displaying their paintings, photography and sculptures at the end of October.

• Manders’s home-based Sakabula Country Estate studio is open daily, but appointments are essential: phone 082 780 7859 or 033 330 2888.

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