The only constant thing in life is change – well, that is what the ancient Greek philosophers said and who am I to suggest otherwise? In fact, the amount of change in our Hermanus gallery scene since my last complete survey in 2010 is rather breath-taking. So many art spots have disappeared: Opening a gallery may be a great idea, but a licence to print money? Perhaps not.

But the good news (and there is good news) is that our ‘art destination of the Western Cape’ continues to offer an unsurpassed range of contemporary art, much of really high standard. Let’s look at our local galleries in town, many of which are hosting special exhibitions during the FynArts Festival from 7–17 June.

We’ll start in Harbour Road – the artistic ‘down-town’ of Hermanus. Certainly there are some outliers down the Main Road and in High Street which shouldn’t be missed, but galleries jostle shoulder to shoulder in Harbour Road and its alleyways. (Margaret Fourie, the piano-playing gallerist, used to say “tourists love alleys”.) And if you follow your nose you will find yourself in the delightful space of The Courtyard – with The Wine Glass, a crisply-modern tasting room and restaurant,  doing a neat linking job with Harbour Road.

Orange paper lanterns identify the galleries on Hermanus First Fridays – a splendidly successful monthly Artwalk. And it’s no wonder – what’s not to like about these evenings of late opening, complimentary glasses of wine and snacks, plus a cheerful crowd of art lovers. (Hermanus First Fridays is taking a winter break and will be back on the evening of 6 September.)

Starting from the top end, nearest to the ocean, you’ll find Originals Gallery, owned by artist, mover and shaker Terry Kobus and his partner Roelof Coetzee. Originals is moving – but only after mid-June – across the road and round the corner to set up next to Hermanus Gallery. For FynArts, they are hosting an exhibition entitled ‘Tale of the Whale’ – a humorous series of illustrations celebrating the ‘Gentle Giants’ that visit Walker Bay each year, delighting locals and visitors alike.

Terry’s neighbours are Ed Bredenkamp and Ian Macdonald whose flagship gallery, Lembu, is packed with artworks, hand-painted fabric, glassware, jewellery and other enticing objects. Ed and Ian are also the owners of Forty X 40 Gallery, just around the corner down the alley called Warrington Place, where a group exhibition entitled ‘Little Treasures’ will feature paintings and ceramics by various artists.

Rossouw Modern, which is approaching 25 years in existence in the historic cottage on the Village Green at Lemm’s Corner, fronts on to Harbour Road. The owner, Joshua Rossouw opened a second gallery, SPACE, down Warrington Place so he has plenty of wall space to show off his stable of well-established artists. Both galleries will be open daily during FynArts and offer a glass of full-bodied Sumaridge wine to assist your viewing enjoyment.

A stroll down the colourful Warrington Place will lead you to Charmaine De Jongh Gelderblom’s gallery, right next to Lembu’s workrooms. And if you are sharp-eyed you may spot a staircase which takes you up to a balcony, off which is the new base of Studio G, simply signposted as Art Gallery. It doubles as the entrance to Zzzone, a brand-new budget accommodation establishment which is aimed at the sort of young crowd who throng the street-level bars, pizza places and other cool evening spots.  

Malcolm Bowling, known for his fine bird and wildlife studies and Bernard Chikwenhere, the artist in wood from Zimbabwe, are to be seen in Malcolm’s studio and gallery down Warrington Place. At the end of the alley comes SPACE, from where you can take a shortcut laterally and discover the side entrance of The Courtyard, home to an assortment of fine arts spots.

These include The StArt, a bright and trendy gallery which shows affordable and varied art. Geta Finlayson’s studio with hand-crafted jewellery and artworks is sandwiched between The StArt and FynArts Gallery, now hosting an exhibition by FynArts Festival artist Phillemon Hlungwani, curated by Trent Read in association with Knysna Fine Art and the Everard Read Gallery.

This exhibition, entitled ‘Nwansati Wa Matimba A Nga Heli Mongo’ (A Strong Woman Never Gives Up) will be opened on Saturday 8 June at 14:00, with a walkabout with the artist on Sunday 11 June at 11:00. There is so much more on at FynArts and not just visual arts – check their website or pick up a programme booklet at the Tourism Office in the Old Station building in Mitchell Street. You can book festival tickets there, too.

Still in The Courtyard is Kunskantoor, where Renzske Scholtz is setting a high standard as befits the current tenant of what used to be Ortrud Mulder’s gallery, Abalone. Kunskantoor will host a special exhibition during FynArts entitled ‘Sitting Pretty’, showcasing works by Bastiaan van Stenis and Karlien de Villiers that explore the theme of non-traditional portraiture. Visitors can also view the embroidered textile pieces of the Keiskamma Art Project. Next door is Renzske’s new neighbor, Barbara Lindop at Intethe, who has settled here with her husband, after a successful Johannesburg art world career. Intethe presents mainly leading African artists.

Before strolling down to the other end of the Old Town, pop into the Whale Museum on Market Square where the Hermanus Art Circle has reverted to their previous pop-up gallery. Our local ‘painters for pleasure’ offer a varied show of attractive art at most affordable prices – and for FynArts their theme is ‘Four Seasons’.

Follow the Main Road as it turns sharp right at the traffic lights and you will find Makiwa Mutomba and friends, bursting with African energy and colour. Makiwa owns several other galleries in South Africa and we are happy to see him in Hermanus. The works of a few established South African artists have been selected for Makiwa’s FynArts exhibition, entitled Contemporary Artisan Art.

As you walk along Main Road, you pass Royal Lane which leads through to High Street and on that corner is The Art Gallery, run by Erna Dry, Christine Henderson, Louise Hennigs and Jeandré Marinier. They have a special portrait exhibition at the moment, entitled ‘The Winter Salon’. Just across the road from them is FLAG (Fearless Little Art Gallery) at 5C High Street, but you have to look carefully if you want to find it, tucked away in the corner. FLAG shows Fred Hatman’s photography plus paintings and sculptures by guest artists.

Back in Main Road, Pure South, a little gift and ceramics gallery established and previously owned by energetic and knowledgeable Liz Coates, has changed hands but is as enticing as ever. New owner Amanda de Vos is presenting a group exhibition, ‘Weightless in Water’, with talented artists and ceramicists exploring and expressing this theme through various mediums. Meanwhile Liz has again curated the FynArts ceramics group exhibition at the Windsor Hotel, bringing us the cream of ceramic art.

Further down Main Road towards The Marine, there’s Walker Bay Modern, which is expanding from their previous space, which included the existing stark modern room. The new owner has taken over the whole of Walker Bay Gallery’s space and will concentrate on modern art, as their name suggests. During FynArts, Walker Bay Modern will host ‘Be Awakened, Be Transformed, Be Enlightened’ – an intriguing body of work focusing on the moods of Cape Town street scenes, by Mandy Herdien. (Previous owner, Francois Grobbelaar, has opened a new gallery in Cape Town but says he’ll be back in Hermanus after winter to open an art spot “closer to the town centre”.)

A shortcut through the gallery’s courtyard will bring you to the bottom end of High Street, where you’ll find Gallery 19, Jenny Jackson’s intimate gallery. Jenny is a nut-brown gypsy-like figure who will entrance you with her stories of a late start in art and her successful career as she found her style. She was launched in Hermanus by Joshua Rossouw and the two remain close.

Jenny’s neighbour, Leon Müller was a previous occupant of the property which is her studio/home and he now has a gallery two doors down, Art Thirst. Leon and Petrus Viljoen, whose talent was nurtured by Leon, work from a bright and attractive gallery leading on to a colourful garden and the buzz there on First Fridays is always appealing.

And don’t overlook plucky Lize Smit, who is showing her own and Anton Burger’s work in an exhibition entitled ‘Bedazzled’ at Lize Art Gallery’s new home at 12 Aberdeen Street. I use the word plucky because Lize is just that – having overcome a number of life’s nasty tricks and now going it alone at her new premises which are under the same roof as The Barefoot Cook. Lize was previously part of the quartet who own The Art Gallery in Royal Lane.

Worth a visit – by car or using the Wine Hoppers – are the FynArts exhibitions at various wine estates up the Hemel-en-Aarde Road. If you miss the exhibition of tondi finalists in the Tollman Bouchard Finlayson Art Award in the winery’s cellar, you may regret it. And in Hermanus itself are the Sculpture on the Cliffs complemented by the smaller sculptural works in the banquet hall of the Civic Auditorium, where you’ll also find The Art of Thread (stunning textile art). And then there’s the ceramics exhibition at the Windsor Hotel and… and… and!

Do enjoy your visit to the galleries and all the other treats laid on by FynArts.  Remember that Hermanus is THE art destination of the Western Cape! The late Derrick Dickens, artist and marketing guru, said: “There are more artists per square kilometre in Hermanus than anywhere else in South Africa.” Nobody has yet proved him wrong!

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