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Brooks brings history of province's art to life

Date Released: Wed, 3 July 2013 08:59 +0200

Exploring the arts of the Eastern Cape 1900-2013. Venue: Nelson Mandela Metropolitan Art Museum, until July 14. 

 This is a "fantastic" exhibition says Professor Robert Brooks and, if you were in the audience walking around with the larger- than-life former head of fine arts at Rhodes University, you probably would agree. Art lovers not fortunate enough to catch the "walkabout" last week at the NMM Art Museum will have to take a DIY tour but I can promise you it won't be half as entertaining.

Brooks of the booming voice, after starting the walkabout with only a glance at his own majestic oil painting Baviaanskloof, highlighted the talents of fellow Grahamstown Art Group member Hilary Graham. "He paints with such freedom, look at the ease of his brushstrokes, it's masterful," he said. As for the vivid subject matter, "there is always lots of fighting, drinking ... and baboons".

Tom Matthews and George Coutouvidis received similar treatment — as did dozens of others. However, although the exhibition as a whole received praise, Brooks was not shy to criticise selected pieces, such as the "rather awful hotel type decoration" on the Keiskamma Art Projects three-panelled altarpiece. Frank Pickford Marriotts tableau was "all technique, no content" with John Muff-Ford's landscape written off as "too sweet".

One of the most fascinating stops on the tour was the discussion of two Dorothy Kay works hanging side by side. "This is one of the best paintings in the collection, its a stunner, it is the one that I would steal," he raved over the small scale The Eye of the Beholder, a self-portrait of Kay reluctantly having a haircut.

Next to it was "a total disaster": the oversized Wm. Pagel, Esq. with Caesar, Rajah, Suzie and Rita. "You can see that she hated painting this picture, maybe she was doing itfor the money."

As for townships photographs, "don't do them unless you are Obie Oberholzer. He's been through Africa, he's not scared. He is a national treasure." And so are you, Professor, so are you ...

Review by Gillian McAinsh

Article Source: THE HERALD