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Clay ceramic exhibition at Solo Studios

Clay is a group exhibition by local artists, ceramicists, sculptors and potters brought together by their use and love of clay. As an exciting added feature this year, artists have been challenged to work in clay found on the banks of the Berg River, the source that feeds our grapevines and wheatfields. This clay has been fired using ancient raku techniques.

It was whilst enjoying some fine Swartland wine with friends that Li came up with the concept of sourcing local clay for a group exhibition, when local farmer Willie le Roux claimed that he had a good source on his nearby farm Konstansia. Their farmhouse had apparently been built over a hundred years ago from clay, and it was still in impeccable condition.

The proposal was made by Li to have a group collaboration of local artists all being given a bucket of clay sourced from the valley, producing works for a group exhibition during the Solo Studios event. A number of the resident artists enthusiastically embraced the initiative, although some of them had never worked with clay in their distinguished careers, let alone understand how the product would react in the intended traditional method of pit firing.

The story of local ceramic artist Andries Dirks

Andries Dirks grew up in an impoverished environment in Riebeek Kasteel, and discovered his love of sculpting as a child whilst forming figures and shapes from mud while playing along the river banks of the Riebeek Valley.

It was only many years later however, when he was incarcerated in the Riebeek West Correctional Facility that his deft and artistic talent was noted during skills development programs offered by the prison staff. Upon his release he was encouraged to pursue a career in ceramic sculpture and pottery, and managed to secure a number of commissions for his creative works.

Intermittent periods of incarceration, combined with attempting to hold down various part time jobs, have prevented Andries from making a full time living from his exceptional skill.

Li Nepgen obtained her National Diploma in Fine Art in 1996 from the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University (then Port Elizabeth Technikon), and in 2007 opened her Love Art Studio in Riebeek Kasteel, from where she practices her art and conducts classes. She has held numerous solo exhibitions around the country and has won various awards for her ceramic works.

Andries and Li first crossed paths in 2010 when Andries was sponsored by the Goedgedacht Trust to undergo ceramic classes with Li. He brought Li a sculpture which was produced from clay he had sourced from the local river banks.

Now the two sculptors will collaborate again in an exhibition titled Clay, part of Solo Studios 2019. Besides Li, Andries would share a platform with acclaimed artists which could include Anton Momberg, Riaan van Zyl, Jenny Parsons, Leila Fanner, Gordon Williams and Ade Kipades.

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