national Arts Festival Banner

Friday, October 10, 2014


(Painter Carl Becker and one of his Pierneef-inspired paintings on the exhibition)

Our Land / Ons Land - an astonishing exhibition revisiting the iconic Pierneef Johannesburg Station Panels, by painter Carl Becker and photographer Monique Pelser is currently on view at the Durban Art Gallery until October 26.

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 South African 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. JH Pierneef’s Station Panels are currently on view at the Rupert Museum, Stellenbosch.

Photographer Monique Pelser, currently working and living between Cape Town, Grahamstown and New York City, and Hermanus-based painter Carl Becker 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.”

Becker says: “Pierneef’s paintings were hugely popular because South Africans identify strongly with the land. 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.

For more, go to ISSUU. com/carlbecker (online catalogue- pics of work and essays) or or Google Carl Becker’s blog “Travels with Pierneef”

Ons Land /Our Land runs at the Durban Art Gallery until October 26. The Durban Art Gallery (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 information, contact the Gallery on 031 311 2264 / 9 or (weekdays). DAG is on the second floor of the magnificent Durban City Hall building, enter opposite the Playhouse.