We’re lucky. On the morning we decide to visit Hennie Meyer’s exhibition at Rust-en-Vrede in Durbanville – having missed any chance of meeting him at the opening night by, oh, a week at least – we encounter Hennie in the foyer, one of his distinctive vases with flower in hand, a greeting on his lips.
I don’t know whether Rust-en-Vrede is where Hennie hangs out. I doubt it, although he mentions that his studio is just up the road. But he’s remarkably at home here.
Hennie would probably be at home anywhere. He’s a relaxed, warm and generous individual inspite of, or despite, his obvious artistic accomplishment.
I’m not a ceramist or even vaguely knowledgeable when it comes to local art, but I do know a good thing when I see it. And Hennie’s hallmark jugs, teapots, bowls, candlesticks, vases, plates and mugs go flying off the shelves at the annual Potter’s market in Rondebosch.
And these are his ‘disappointments’, the duds he would not usually exhibit in galleries. We’re too glad to get our paws on them (ask my friend Patty, she’ll tell you). Not that there are any discernible flaws on the merchandise.
But then I get the feeling, when I chat to him, that Hennie might be something of a perfectionist. Not in the negative sense of the word at all, but there is an intense dedication to the way he speaks about his work.
Monica Ross, who capably runs Rust-en-Vrede, is obviously a fan. She assumes the part of guide and begins to talk us through the book Qunci inspired in the front hall; Tabu Stegmann’s photographs inspired by Qunci against the wall behind us.
Photographs: Left – Monica talks us through Hidden – offcuts of the spa water feature / Right – Hennie Meyer in amongst his work
I soon understand why. Hennie was commissioned in 2008 by Scott Coffey to do the artwork for the entrance of Qunci Villas on Lombok Island just off Bali. This soon grew into a whole project with major artworks commissioned for the villas themselves. The work is very different from anything we’ve seen by him before, and you need the background of the project before venturing into the rooms beyond.
Hennie is excited by the project. He is keen to talk about it, and joins us by perching on the windowsill of the sash window that allow light to spill inside the beautiful, old building.
The project has allowed Hennie a lot of artistic leeway to explore his fascination with multiples, something that has developed in his work over the past few years (fans will remember his multiple displays at the KKNK).
This soft spoken gentleman (for despite the obvious artistic temperament, there is no artifice about Hennie) spends some time eloquently explaining, without going into the type of detail that makes the novice feel alienated, about his ‘pypies’ and how they were used in walkways that allowed light to filter through them from behind, and people a spyhole on the front – like an old fashioned telescope.
He shows us pictures of his ceramic panels, talks us through how his works mirrored certain aspects of Qunci, how he painstakingly worked on the water feature in the spa that also incorporates his pypies (open ended cylinders) that bear a more than a passing resemblance to his well known vases.
Photographs: Left – Hennie’s vases / Right – Pypie wall art
We’re now inspired enough to venture through to the exhibition proper. The floors have been laid with Heynsturf in a playful attempt to emulate the grass of Lambok.
I’m not going to give an opinion here, for it isn’t my place to. Hennie’s work is beautiful, all the more so because we had the story from the artist himself. Both of us leave with one of his vases (gifts for others, unfortunately) and an intimate sense of the man’s art.
Rust-en-Vrede is not only an exhibition space. It also has a Clay Museum with exhibits by well known South African ceramists, including Hennie’s work, where you can also buy ceramics.
We grab a bite to eat at the café and whip past the other studios also worth a visit whilst you’re here.
Qunci Inspired is on until 20 December 2012.
Find Rust-en-Vrede at 10 Wellington road, Durbanville or contact Monica Ross on +27 (0)21 976-4691.
Hennie’s most recent international exhibitions include a solo exhibition in China, the World Ceramic Biennale in Korea, and Ceramic Art London at the Royal College of Art. He lives with his wife Heleen and their two sons, and he works and teaches from his studio, Hennie Meyer Ceramics.
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