News and Trends

All Soul

Text Laura Twiggs Styling Laureen Rossouw Photographs Russell Smith 'Art is an anecdote of the spirit,’ said Mark Rothko, ‘and the only means of making concrete the purpose of its varied quickness and stillness.’ These words of the Latvian-born US painter known for his large ‘multiforms’ are particularly appropriate in the home of mixed-media artist Jewel Closenberg. For not only is Rothko one of the painters she most admires, and not only is the magnificent threelevel Green Point house quite literally ‘concrete’, but the building itself, the lovingly collected and eclectic array of objects and furniture it houses, and the works of the artist herself that adorn the walls, come together to embody and exude pure soul. Despite being almost all concrete, the home manages to be a warm and welcoming space that’s perfectly cosy on even the coldest of wintry nights. There is absolutely nothing here of artistic pretension, and nothing of the formulaic or predictable, either. While the glass-and-concrete shell of the home is a superb example of contemporary and modern architecture, there is nothing remotely clinical, detached or antiseptic about it. With its large central fireplace, it pulses with vibrant inner life, from the way that the views have been maximised at every turn, drawing in city, sea, and even forest, down to the way that Jewel fought to incorporate as much of the raw,  textured concrete into the interiors, and moreover, to the way that the artist’s own works seem to quietly reverberate throughout the open, generous spaces. But deciding to live with one’s own work is not always easy, says Jewel. ‘I was concerned that it might seem, well, egocentric, but the man who came to hang my artworks convinced me that my works were exactly right for the space,’ she says, adding with a self-deprecating smile, ‘My brother says I paint spooks.’ For there is a shadowy, otherworldly quality about Jewel’s large canvases, with their evocatively mottled palettes and ambiguous forms. They’re superb companions to the ‘faded glory’ of her many kelims and to the original pieces of old Afrikaner yellowwood and teak furniture – such as a jongmanskas and a nagmaal table – that she has had ‘forever’. ‘I didn’t buy one new thing when the house was completed in 2008,’ she says. ‘Most of my furniture, objects and artworks I have had since the seventies.’ These pieces add to the warmth of the home, and include a Richard Wake abstract head (in concrete, of course) called ‘The Moon Man’, which rests on what Jewel calls her little jungle – a lush internal courtyard with delicate tree ferns that leads off the third bedroom and filters light into the living area. Outside on the slate terrace that skirts the lap pool is a David Brown sculpture, and other particularly treasured works are an Andrew Verster drawing and a Kinnaird print. Jewel admits to ‘a lifelong passion for rescuing broken and interesting things’ and objects with a past, such as her two Indian Sikh figures, now a little battered but still invested with a strong presence. ‘When I bought these everyone thought I was mad!’ she recalls. She might have a taste for the quirky, but Jewel knows there are certain things that have to work. These include the high-tech black Smeg fridge she jokingly calls ‘my black Cadillac’, and state-of-the-art kitchen and bathroom appliances and fittings. These keep any notions of musty oldness at bay. ‘These days, I won’t use anything that can’t go into the dishwasher,’ she laughs. Because, ‘these days’, Jewel focuses on her work. She ran a successful fashion boutique before turning to painting seven years ago and has now totally immersed herself in her new passion. ‘I used to entertain a lot in my previous life and channelled my creativity into cooking. But now that I am more fulfilled with my art, I find I no longer need those outlets and I’ve become more insular, and more solitary,’ she says, radiating absolute serenity and contentment. ‘I have found my soul.’   Jewel Closenberg, jewelclose@gmail.com   This article originally appeared in the June 2010 issue of House & Leisure.