Ahead of the annual Solo Studios art encounters in Riebeek-Kasteel, Benn Ndzoyiya popped in for a special preview.
Even if you are reading this after the event, Solo Studios is a highlight of the local Art calendar. As such Benn’s experiences are relevant year-round for anyone wanting to visit this art hub of the West Coast and make the most of this small friendly town collective of artists, winemakers, and restaurateurs.
A key component of Solo Studios is the idea of artists not only showing off their latest works but also opening up their working studios for public viewing. There’s something really quite intimate and almost voyeuristic about walking around in a space where someone spent days and months fine-tuning their practice and creations. Even though all the walkabouts are guided.
Andries Dirks is once again taking part and watching him quietly perfecting detail to the mostly sculptural works is art in itself. Another artist to watch out for is Emma Willemse who recently exhibited at House Union Block in the CBD. So it was an extra special moment to get a glimpse behind Willemse’s heavily narrative-driven unpacking of displacement.
You get a dignified, almost Great Masters feel walking past André Francois van Vuuren’s gallery-Esque studio. You know you’re in the presence of something profound. The abstract works are very layered and a few are bound to make an impression on art lovers.
And another worthy mention is Riaan van Zyl’s collection of contemporary canvas and sculptures in monochromatic tones. The space itself ties together Van Zyl’s gritty work venue with mood boards, nature, and the type of polish of a gallery space without the pretension.
THE WHAT’S ON IN CAPE TOWN PICK
Land artist Strijdom van der Merwe worked alongside director Victor van Aswegen for months to capture Sculpture This Earth, a documentary featuring the artist’s works. The work as a capsule challenges our perception of art which in most cases is something tangible that can be commodified. Here the medium landscapes make the entire process moving yet fleeting due to the whims of nature. The film is certainly a must-see – a beautiful collaboration between artist and filmmaker set against the moving soundtrack of Kristi Boonzaaier. Locations include Stellenbosch, the Tankwa Karoo, Langebaan and other evocative spaces.
Visitors to Solo Studios will be able to catch the world premiere of the film.
THE FOOD AND WINE
A little-known fact is that Riebeek-Kasteel is home to over 30 restaurants. As we were running on a tight schedule, I only got to experience La Parrilla which specializes in freshly made contemporary fare. The rest are all on our bucket list!
The mood at La Parrilla is casual and easy-going marked by friendly service. Cosy up close to the fireplace with soup and other hearty dishes all made from scratch with fresh produce. And interestingly enough, art is a running theme throughout the restaurant. You’ll find unique works even in their restroom and deck areas. La Parilla is open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
For sundowners or late afternoon G&Ts, we suggest the bar at The Royal Hotel. Make a point to have a walk around the property where you can catch vineyard and mountain scenery plus the hotel’s very own outdoor theatre space.
WHERE TO STAYOVER
Although single-day tickets are on offer if you’re up for a drive, we recommend making the most of your visit with a multi-day stay. Take some time to explore not only the art but also what’s on offer in the small town.
Quite a few fairly priced accommodation options are available. We stayed at Eden Studios, a self-catering retreat space with a tranquil pond and ample areas to meditate surrounded by the olive trees. They offer a range of units with heating and are suited to couples and larger groups.
The Royal Hotel is another great stay option that is centrally located. They’re centrally located with all the modern comforts making it easy to explore the town on foot