05 August 2011 by Dianne Tipping-Woods

Westcoast life on canvas

I ended up at Marina Clunie’s studio in Bokkom Avenue more by accident than by design. I was on one of those road-trips through the Western Cape, where the best-laid plans are subject to the beauty of the route. And the route was stunning, winding down from the mountains of the Picketberg to the coastal village of Paternoster, on a perfect spring day. You have to stop and, you have to stop often.

Initially it was the estuary that interested me, where the slow moving Berg River makes its way into the sea, fringed by reeds and wetlands alive with birds. But Velddrif has more to offer and it wasn’t long before the quaintness of this historic little fishing village worked its charm and bid me stay awhile and, I stumbled on Marina’s ‘River Studio’.

It looks out over the estuary, where Marina, a well-known Western Cape artist, is exposed to the changing moods and seasons of the Berg River and wetlands that she portrays in her art. She works to capture its light and movement, as well as its West Coast character - old boats swaying against jetties, typical West Coast buildings and,  beaches and seascapes. Everything is tinged with slow and silky silvers and blues and flashes of light.

It’s her relaxed, friendly approach as much as her beautiful work that compels me to stay and chat a while at the studio. She tells me about the River Art Route, a fairly new initiative to make it easy for visitors to discover the area’s artists and, about the seasons in a person’s life. It is her season to paint. I am especially taken with a large seascape using a simple, clean palette that seems to smell like the sea, with the brushstrokes that make the water move and glint in the light.

There is a painting of some fish she has recently completed that catches my eyes as I’m leaving. Just next door, I see the actual fish, strung up to dry in the sun. This is a famous West Coast delicacy, Bokkoms, a kind fish biltong. Personally I prefer them served up in one of Marina’s paintings. It’s real-life on the West Coast - just made a little more palatable through art.

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