The four co-owners of The Art Gallery – artists Jeandré Marinier, Christine Henderson, Erna Dry and Louise Hennigs – recently decided to set themselves a new challenge of producing portraits only, on square canvases. And to make it more fun, they invited four other local artists to join them.
“Portraiture is not a genre that any of us specialises in – and some of us have not really done portraits at all – but we’ve really enjoyed going down this previously unexplored path,” says Jeandré. The result of this collaboration with fellow artists Catherine Brennon, Christa Clark, Celesté van Beek and Tracy Algar, is a vibrant collection of portraits in various styles, sizes, mediums and colours produced over the past two months.
They decided to call this group exhibition, which opens on Saturday 1 June, ‘The Winter Salon – with friends and faces’. It will run until the end of June at The Art Gallery.
Although each of these eight artists have their own distinctive identities and artistic styles, they clearly share a nurturing bond of friendship and respect. So who are they? Well, to start off with, three of them are sisters – Erna Dry, Louise Hennigs and Christa Clark – who spent their childhood in Bulawayo in the former Rhodesia.
“I am privileged to have both my sisters close by,” says Christa, who has lived in Hermanus for 27 years. “We regularly paint together, and although we are so different, we produce a creative energy that feeds us and keeps us motivated. The invitation to be part of this exhibition has been exciting, and also scary. But the participating artists have been a source of huge inspiration – what a joy to be exhibiting with this great group of artists!”
Erna and her architect-turned-winemaker husband, John have also been in Hermanus for two decades and until recently, Erna oversaw the production of ceramic and bronze sculptures in their Hornbill House studio and gallery. With the closure of the ceramic studio earlier this year, she now has more time to devote to her special love for painting and drawing – mostly of fauna, flora and the human form, often combined with traces of mythology and iconography.
Christa and Erna’s ‘baby’ sister, Louise, who joined The Art Gallery in December last year, says their partnership has been her driving force to be in her studio every day, painting, experimenting, and exploring new materials and techniques. “With winter being our quiet time I’ve needed the challenge of producing work for this exhibition and it has pushed the boundaries of what I normally paint. And that is exciting!”
Christine Henderson also spent her school years in the old Rhodesia but returned to South Africa to study Interior Architecture in Cape Town. Years later, she and Jeandré Marinier were both members of the Hermanus Art Circle when they struck up a friendship – and shared the mutual dream of starting up a gallery where they could exhibit their work. That dream came true in September 2015 when they were joined by Erna and opened The Art Gallery. Lize van der Walt was their fourth partner until she left last year and they invited Louise to join them.
Christine’s preference is abstract work, and portraiture presented her with a new challenge. Even more so for ceramic artist, Catherine Brennon, who is better known for her exquisite dream boxes and lace-impressed bowls and plates. “I was amazed when the four artists at The Gallery invited me to take part in this exhibition,” she says. “Although I’ve periodically dipped into painting over the years, I’ve never painted portraits before and I’ve really had to shut up the critical voices in my head and trust myself to explore this avenue.”
Catherine credits Tracy Algar for giving her the courage to experiment and have fun. Known for her intuitive abstract art workshops, Tracy recently moved to Hermanus from Stanford. “About a year ago Tracy and I started ‘skill swopping’ by getting together weekly to play in clay and paint at each other’s studios,” says Catherine. “We both wanted to expand our skills and be open to see what would develop from this interaction. It’s been one of the most exciting and stimulating experiences in my creative life.”
Jeandré has gained wide recognition as both an inspiring artist and a passionate art teacher. Although she usually works in oils, Jeandré says for this exhibition she’s worked only in acrylics, using large brush strokes and pallet knife work. “I feel a continuous need to explore and to create,” she says. “At the heart of my work is a desire to express my joy of life with others. The creative process is natural and intuitive. By not ‘trying’ and just ‘doing’, the art becomes the experience, the experience becomes the art.”