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Friday, September 12, 2014


(Monique Pelser’s photo version and Carl Becker’s watercolour version)

Our Land / Ons Land - an astonishing exhibition revisiting the iconic Pierneef Johannesburg Station Panels, will be presented by painter Carl Becker and photographer Monique Pelser at the Durban Art Gallery, opening on September 18.

Carl Becker and Monique Pelser both visited the Pierneef Museum in Graaff-Reinet in 2007. The two had not met, but each decided to embark on a search for the original sites of Pierneef’s Station Panels.

JH Pierneef (1886-1957) was commissioned by the SA Railways in 1929 to paint 32 works showing the natural splendour of South Africa. They were completed in 1932 and were hung in the concourse of the new Johannesburg Station. The works were intended to depict “places of historical interest or natural beauty” and were meant to encourage tourism within the Union of SA. They depict landscapes from Hermanus in the Western Cape to Louis Trichardt in Limpopo. These works are seen by many as the most important single body of landscape paintings made by a South African painter. They have been seen by thousands of people over the last 80 years.

Monique Pelser, a photographer currently working and living between Cape Town and New York City, and Carl Becker, a Hermanus-based painter, met by chance in 2010 and decided to collaborate. This exhibition is the result of the search for the sites of Pierneef’s paintings.

Both artists work at the sites, observing the landscape over time. Pelser shows stills and digital screens depicting the play of light from sunrise to sunset. Becker works in traditional media – drawings, watercolours and oil paintings. The result is a conversation about an “Old Master” between photography, installation, drawing and painting.

“We are negotiating a complex history,” says Pelser. ”The Utopian views I held in my hand were a far cry from what I faced. But there were also moments when I was moved by the sheer scale of what I saw.”

“Pierneef’s paintings were hugely popular because South Africans identify strongly with the land” says Becker,” We are bringing that legacy into the present moment and hoping that a new generation will interact with it. The photographs and paintings suggest different ways of interpreting the landscape. Monique and I have a visual conversation about the land – how “old” and “new” media vary and concur in their representation of it.”

Ons Land /Our Land is an ongoing project that is constantly being revised and extended. It has been shown at the Stellenbosch University Art Gallery, the Oliewenhuis Art Museum in Bloemfontein, and the Ann Bryant Gallery in East London. It travels to the Durban Art Gallery in September 2014.

JH Pierneef’s Station Panels are currently on view at the Rupert Museum, Stellenbosch. For more, go to ISSUU. com/carlbecker  (online catalogue- pics of work and essays)  or  Or Google Travels with Pierneef” (Carl Becker’s blog)

A series of workshops, walkabouts and events will accompany the exhibition.

Our Land / Ons Land runs in the Durban Art Gallery from September 18 to October 26. The Durban Art Gallery (DAG) is on the second floor of the magnificent Durban City Hall building, enter opposite the Playhouse.

DAG is open seven days a week: Monday until Saturday from 08h30 until 16h00 and Sunday from 11h00 until 16h00. Entry is free and all are welcome! For more info, contact the Gallery on 031 311 2264/9 or (weekdays)