12 December 2010 by Dianne Tipping-Woods

A Karoo state of mind

The Karoo is a state of mind, a way of being and an endless source of inspiration for writers, poets, painters and mere mortals, like me. With intimations of immortality in every line, landscape and texture (“Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting”), it is a place that makes me feel smaller than I’ve ever felt, but also more alive.

It’s a hard job to articulate this sense of place through art. But the challenge proves irresistible for many and the small towns of the Karoo attract artists who, using various media, work to bring the world closer to you and at the same time, render it astonishing and new.

So it was no surprise to stumble upon ArtKaroo, a gallery that has evolved to represent a number of Karoo artists and share their work with the world. The gallery is in Oudtshoorn and exhibits work by both internationally acclaimed and emerging artists.

The gallery is in a beautifully renovated sandstone cottage on one of Oudtshoorn’s main streets. It is open 7 days a week and when I stumbled in on a Saturday afternoon in December, I found an exhibition of works by South African artists Chris Spies from Great Brak River and Elsabe Pretorius from Oudtshoorn.

The works of potter Elsabe Pretorius display a tangible empathy for what is ancient and the larger vessels and masks demonstrate influences from Egypt and Jordan, where she has spent time. They are warm and gritty works and I enjoyed seeing them.

Chris’s work is themed around ‘The Tree of Life’, a subject that has occupied his canvasses for many years. In his series on The Tree of Life and The Tree of Wisdom, Chris pays homage to his archetype of creation, with work that is symbolic of vitality and growth. The exhibit also featured some of Chris’s facial studies, (which personally I liked less than his other work).

The gallery participates in the Klein Karoo Klassique and the Klein Karoo Nasionale Kunstefees, as well as holding exhibitions throughout the year. You can e-mail news@Artkaroo to find out what is happening, or join their facebook page for regular updates.

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