Clare Burgess has her own practice as a landscape architect, also lectures both at UCT and CPUT, and had a wealth of knowledge to impart to the audience. She has an incredible passion for landscaping and the impact this art form has on the emotional state of the people who move through the dance between sculptures and nature. Clare explained how it is necessary to position art in a landscape, and not just put it down anywhere.
She took us on a journey through a variety of local installations, including both Delaire Graff, and Paradyskloof, in Stellenbosch, which houses over 60 Dylan Lewis sculptures. She also referred to the Dylan Lewis's "Untamed" exhibition in the Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden in 2010.
To her, the viewer experience is of utmost importance, and she took us on a virtual stroll through these gardens, highlighting the balance of hard with soft, masculine with feminine and how landscape artists married these concepts through vegetation in the landscape and natural elements of the sculptures.
She took us through the Khayelitsha Hospital gardens and Mitchells Plain Public Transport spaces, which were two local projects that she has been involved in. She emphasized the importance and pleasure of involving the local artists and communities in these art pieces, as it creates ownership and pride. School children from Mitchells Plain designed the playpark and the projects also acted as an employment initiative. At the hospital the mosaic on the sculptures were all done by locals who could explore their inner creativity.
Clare took us on a history trip, teaching us about the most memorable and ground-breaking sculptures on the planet, including The Statue of Liberty in New York; Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro and then most importantly, Michelangelo's David in Florence, which is an ideal example of Renaissance art which celebrates balance, harmony and symmetry in all art forms. She also spoke about Henry Moore's sculptures and how they are placed in the landscape. She also referred to the Zimbabwean stone sculptures.
Clare’s passion for the town of Nieu Bethesda in the Eastern Cape came through as she spoke about the surrounding landscapes, the wildlife and the charm of this little town that houses the famous Owl House, the house of Helen Martins, which is one of South Africa’s best examples of Outsider Art installations. Outsider art, sometimes referred to as naive art, covers a broad range of media. The hallmarks of outsider artists often involve spontaneity, influenced by the world around them, and often involving the incorporation of found materials, such as broken ceramics, glass, wire and cement. The execution of the works often includes a high degree of stylisation of form, and an unconventional conceptualisation of theme and application of media. Outsider artists are mostly self-taught individuals, who in many instances often remain obscure until their deaths. (1)
The Owl House was declared a National Monument site in September 2017, and with a very dedicated group of volunteers we can see why this historical house draws so many art lovers to the area. Clare volunteered her time to prepare a landscape masterplan for the Owl House Museum in Nieu Bethesda.
Helen Martins’ fantastical sculptures inspired Athol Fugard to write the much-loved play, “Road to Mecca”, which later became a film. The play is currently running at the Fugard theatre until the end of March.
1. From http://lnxwebs88.cpt.wa.co.za/~theowlho/helen-martins/