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Villa and Skotnes: An exhibition of major works

Paul Murray

Click on the photo's for enlargement and caption

A landmark exhibition of major works by Edoardo Villa and Cecil Skotnes was opened by the Honourable Minister of Finance, Trevor Manuel, at the Lanzerac in Stellenbosch on Thursday evening, 9th December 2004. In his address the Minister referred to the beauty and history of the place, and the fact that amidst such beauty and history, we could celebrate the work of two extraordinary men, Villa and Skotnes.

They had come from different backgrounds: Villa as a prisoner of war, whilst Skotnes was a descendant of a Norwegian missionary family. Individually they had contributed much to the artistic tradition in our country. Now, in this space and landscape their works combine into a powerful expression creating a strong bond between two of South Africa's greatest artists.

Although the exhibition was made possible because of the friendship of Villa and Skotnes, the idea originated with a friend of both artists, Emiliano Sandri, who saw the opportunity and approached a long-standing friend, Christo Wiese of Lanzerac. Wiese, himself a patron of South African art, warmed to the idea.

By making the Lanzerac available for the exhibition, Wiese has provided a spectacular setting, allowing full justice to be done to the works of these massively important South African artists. Few other places could have lent themselves so favourably to making the occasion the momentous one that it is.

There are 63 sculptures by Villa exhibited in both the front and back gardens of the Manor House, and inside the homestead there are 25 works by Skotnes. Both the Gardens and the Manor House will be open for viewing by the public, free of charge, between the 08:00 and 19:00 daily until 10 March 2005.

The works of Skotnes and Villa represent a new movement in South African Art. Their European roots have blended strongly with an African influence. In this way, their work is renowned for breaking barriers, enabling groups of local artists to interpret 'their African artistic heritage for a contemporary market'. For instance, the Amadlozi group founded by them has meant artists such as Sydney Kumalo and others could exhibit locally and abroad.

The Villa sculpture on exhibition at Lanzerac provides an overview of his work over the past five years. There is a strong fascination with the cone shape. This is enhanced by a minimum of other forms such as pipes, triangles and discs from circular sheets. The statuesque figures are characterised by an energy enlivened by startling primary colours, such as African Astronaut (2003, 3.3m, Steel), although others are in more gentle matt shades, such as Dinosaur (2004, 3.3m, Steel).

Apart from some eight paintings, the Skotnes works on exhibition, mostly acrylic on wood with some exceptions, are from the period 2002 to 2004. In these we see Figures at the Coast I and Figures at the Coast II (2004, 122 x 122cm, acrylic and pigment on wood) showing the artist's 'move to a more contemplative way of interacting with the landscape'. In Metaphysical Landscape I and II (2004, 122x122cm, acrylic and pigment on wood), in the words of Skotnes, we see 'the concept of landscape in its broadest sense, of the landscape of the mind, of an artist's mindscape, of the link between landscape and memory'.

Skotnes, referring to his relationship with Villa, says: 'We understood each other very well and we seemed to be looking for similar things. It was a bondÖ.' Viewing the works on exhibition will enable one to gain a closer understanding of these 'similar things', and develop a stronger appreciation for the 'bond' that lies in the works.

The exhibition has been staged in association with Lanzerac, The Art Museum of the University of Stellenbosch and Sandri Art. For more information, contact Laetitia of Sandri Art on 021 882 8335.

The milestone exhibition is worth it, every step of the way. It is not to be missed!

LitNet: 15 December 2004

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