Art at Saronsberg
Saronsberg is home to a collection of contemporary South African art.
The Saronsberg Art Collection
Saronsberg Cellar nurtures a unique artistic heritage of South Africa and continuously extends this heritage with new influences in order to evolve within a changing society. The collection features three unique characteristics: it hosts a diverse South African art historical record, secondly it displays artworks in a unique and intimate way and finally it offers a significant sculptural component.
The collection spans from early twentieth century South African history, Modernistic pieces influenced by indigenous cultures and Europe, such as Bettie-Cilliers Barnard and Walter Battiss, the Polly street centre era featuring Sydney Khumalo, to modern Contemporary fine artists such as Robert Hodgins, Norman Catherine, William Kentridge, Colbert Mashile, Angus Taylor and Diane Victor and many more.
Saronsberg is distinguishably different from most contemporary galleries and other wine estate collections for this collection is presented in a uniquely intimate manner. The cellar has an inviting and casual ambiance and offers an close-up experience with iconic artworks. This is made possible by placing artworks thoughtfully yet casually around the space, not separated from its audience through plinths and sterile white cube spaces, but integrated throughout the larger cellar and its surroundings.
Saronsberg treasures a large collection of contemporary South African sculpture. Visitors relish the large sculptures nestled in and among the wine yards on route to the farm cellar and are mused by the insitu sculpture ‘From Earth From Water’ (2004) who sentinels the cellar entrance. This well-liked icon of the farm embodies the concept of archetypal and matriarchal fertility goddesses. The goddess’s dress is fashioned from pebble stone, local to Tulbagh, for the whole region was once a riverbed, signifying the fertility of this wine land area. According to the artist, Angus Taylor, since the creation of this sculpture ‘From Earth From Water’, he has worked continuously in local natural stone, utilizing slate from the Marico bush veld, granite from Mpumalanga as well as granite from Rustenburg. For the artist honesty and integrity towards material in art, has now become very important to him. The presence of the stone in the installation, allows the concepts of land and life to connect with water. The Saronsberg collection features a large body of Angus Taylor’s oeuvre, including ‘Ma Afrika’ (2005) , ‘Co-presence’(2008), ‘Donkie I & II’ (2008), ‘Archytype’ (2004) and ‘Grounded’ (1999) and ‘Disclosing Decay’ (2008).
Sculpture of Sydney Khumalo, Norman Catherine, Ruhan Jansen van Vuuren, Guy du Toit, Claudette Schreuders, Brett Murray and Jacques Coetzer can also be found through out the cellar area.
Sydney Khumalo (1935 – 1988), is held in high esteem by the art community of South Africa. As such he was an important influence especially on younger African sculptors, by whom he is greatly revered. He studied under Cecil Skotnes and Eduardo Villa at the Polly street Centre during the 1950’s and later formed the Amadlozi group with Skotnes, Sach, Villa and Gunter. Khumalo successfully challenged the stereotypes from the times he was born in. His bronze sculpture ‘Mother and Child’ (date unknown) reflects the influences of German Expressionism as well as the sculptural traditions of West and Central, retaining much of the formal aesthetic qualities of classical African sculpture. His work contains the monumentality and simplicity of form. He was in many ways the doyen of South African Black art.
Norman Catherine (1949) is undoubtedly one of South Africa’s most brilliant visual artists. His visual representation is often described as startling and darkly comic. According to Catherine, ‘Banzai!’ (2006) is a play on consumerism, fast foods and over indulgence as well as the consequence of men’s exploitation of our natural resources. Man is ready to stab nature in the back at the drop of a hat and is therefore the main Predator to be feared above all others on the planet. Taboo is a satirical depiction of a man’s surprise at being confronted with his own primitive instincts.
Claudette Schreuder’s (1973) bronze sculpture ‘Bird in Hand’ (2007) presents a sense of familiarity, embracing universal iconography evident from the figurine’s clothing and archytypal nature as the child figure. Her work also carries the strong storytelling and narative tradition true to African art. Schreuder says ‘I enjoy art in which you can see the life where it comes from. Art that is solely about art is not as attractive to me as when there is life outside the work’. Schreuder is particularly well known for her wooden carved and painted figures.
The Saronsberg collection also features magnificent painting, drawings, silkscreens and mixed media works.
Paul du Toit’s (1965) painting was incorporated as the Provanance label (2008) and has in this way also become part of the image of Saronsberg wine. The story of the Provenance label revolves around the joy of drinking wine and playfullness expressed through the artists personal symbolic vocabulary of crisp graphic line, bright signature primary colours and a good dose of humour - as the figure on its head, demonstrates this so wonderfully. More of du Toit’s works included in the collection are ‘Energy Supply’ (2004) and ‘Off the Wall’ (2004).
Colbert Mashile (1972) is a dynamic emerging young contemporary artist. In his painting ‘Supa-Supa-baloi’ (2004), Mashile merges traditional and contemporary African symbols and icons in vibrant colours, allowing a magical reality to exude from the painted surface. According to the artist, ‘the title of the work refers to the malicious way of pointing the index finger to a person who's despised for some alleged crime. Mashile instils a mystical quality to natural elements observed from his surroundings. Motifs such as huts, pods, horns and ethnic textile pattern often figure as part of his visual language. Through his paintings he wishes to reveal a type of truth about the land, its people and his existence in South Africa.
The painting ‘The Hand of God’ (1990) clearly illustrates what the artist Robert Hodgins’s (1928 – 2010) approach is to his work: ‘there are paintings that stem from memory and from a somber look at the human condition. Paintings about the construction and confusion of contemporary urban life, but also paintings about the pleasures of being alive, pleasures that crowd in upon the pessimism everywhere – that crowd in and refuse to be ignored’. For half a century Mr Hodgins had explored the medium of paint and the potential of colour in creating images that are often intense and sometimes humorous.
The charcoal drawing ‘God’s Rottweiler’ (2005), by Diane Victor (1964), one of South Africa’s most masterful draftspersons, comments on contemporary political, social and moral injustices of our time as well as the overlooked presence of violence, racial anxiety and sexual repression.
she is credited as being one of South Africa’s most influential visual art lecturers in printmaking and conceptual drawing. This highly talented artist, renowned for her expert etchings and charcoal drawings has established herself as a major figure in the South African and International art communities.
Most extraordinary of this collection, must be the work of Walter Battiss (1906 – 1982). Battiss mastered and explored many different mediums. An accomplished print-maker and watercolourist, he was one of South Africa’s most versatile and inventive artists, the first to to exhibit abstract painting in South Africa. His interest in abstraction evolved out of his fascination with African art, more specifically rock art. An early advocate of indigenous rock art he first encountered in 1933. He was the first to bring the aesthetic value of the Bushman art to the public’s attention. Battiss’s love for oil painting is evident in the artwork featured in the Saronsberg collection (tiles and dates unknown).