Valley of Art

Cluny Jan

The Clarens valley has drawn artists from around the country for many years, to explore its scenic beauty with paint and brush, to participate in group painting retreats, or even to settle in the area as resident artists.

This week’s photograph is taken from the access road to Sunnyside Guest Farm, between Clarens and Golden Gate, looking back towards the eastern flank of Mount Horeb.  Sunnyside has played a significant role in furthering the art culture of this valley, hosting many retreats led by well known artists.  Many paintings hanging in the galleries of Clarens have been conceived in the picturesque and tranquil settings of this well known guest farm with its dramatic sandstone landscapes.

Sunnyside was originally one of the farms owned by the Mousley family who settled in this area in the mid nineteenth century.  It was sold to the Bolands in the 1950s, having already made its name as a successful guest farm for more than two decades, and the Bolands continued the tradition.  Long before Clarens became a tourist town noted for its art galleries, even before Golden Gate attracted visitors on any significant scale, this valley was the holiday destination of many regulars from around the country, returning again and again to the simple and welcoming hospitality of Sunnyside Guest Farm.

The earliest artists in this valley disappeared during the nineteenth century, but their legacy remains in the several San rock art sites in the area.  The nearby Schaapplaats site is a superb example of our indigenous art heritage, this ancient exhibition of cultural talent and antiquity drawing numerous visitors to its silent walls.

Clarens has just completed its first spring art fair.  Many galleries participated by hosting visitor artists, giving demonstrations and courses, or putting on special exhibitions.  This promises to become an annual event, further establishing Clarens as the art town of South Africa.

It is small wonder, though, that Clarens has, over the years, so successfully attracted the visual arts culture into its midst.  Against a backdrop of golden rock formations and distant blue summits, with slopes of green and grey and yellow, with splashes of cosmos painting colour to the crests of roadsides, with emerald fronded willows meandering through the fields, with clean white winter vistas, and with tall Lombardy poplars pointing red and gold against an autumn sky – this valley cannot begin to fail the artist.

The inspiration of this valley, its vistas speaking with such visual eloquence to the artist, has stirred a host of interpretations of these scenes.  In oils and watercolours, and in other mediums, these art pieces hang on the walls of the galleries around the town.  And many, in their full array of moods and styles, now too adorn the homes of families around the country, and beyond.

The photograph above  features in the 2014 calendar produced by and sold in aid of Cluny Animal Trust.  Calendars can be purchased at The Gallery, Clementines Restaurant and the Old Stone Bottle Store, in Clarens.  Alternatively they can be ordered from Katherine on 0827886287, Jan on 0782462553, Helen on 0582230918 or by email to jansander22@gmail.com .

Mary WalkerArticle and photography by Mary Walker

Clarens News: September 2013