Humour meets nostalgia

2009-04-02 00:00

A SERIES of paintings inspired by family portraits in ancestral European homes will be on show at the Blue Caterpillar Gallery in Pietermaritzburg from April 3 to April 30.

Durban-based Sandi Beukes came up with the idea for the exhibition, entitled Historical Portraits, late last year after reading the book, The Glass of Time, by Michael Cox.

“It was set largely on an old English country estate and it got me thinking about the portraits that always hang in the gloomy interiors of these houses,” the artist said.

That initial seed was watered when she watched three old Merchant Ivory films — Remains of the Day, Howards End and A Room With A View, read Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment, and then watched the films Anna Karenina, Doctor Zhivago and The Duchess.

“I have tried to get the atmosphere of those old country houses in these portraits — the smell of the cigars and old leather, the dusty old red velvet curtains and everywhere those dark, varnished and cracked portraits of people who have, over the years, belonged to the house,” Beukes said.

“Historical Portraits” is her first solo exhibition at the gallery at Butterflies for Africa in Willowton Road. Beukes has previously exhibited in Pretoria and as part of group exhibitions in Durban.

Asked where she draws her inspiration for her landscapes, townscapes, and stylised portraits from, she said she was a huge fan of artists like Toulouse-Lautrec, Degas, Picasso, Monet, Cezanne and Renoir.

“I love their pure enjoyment of life, their love of the world and its beauty. They documented their time so beautifully, each from their own perspective, and they had the courage to stick to their guns,” she added.

“I also love olden day scenes as they are slow-paced and nostalgic and I try to bring this out in my work. There is often a lot of humour in my paintings. I think our modern world is very stressful and if I can just make a person stop and smile for a few minutes, then I feel that I have achieved something.”

• The Blue Caterpillar Gallery is open Tuesday to Sunday. Phone 033 387 1356 for more information.

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