If asked to name the greatest artists that have called South Africa home, most would dare not fail to mention Irma Stern. So far-reaching is her legacy that 50 years post her passing, she’s still very much alive in the minds and conversations of the art community.
To mark this milestone – half a century since her death – the UCT Irma Stern Museum commissioned Michael Chandler of Chandler House to curate a show, The Spirit of Stern, that would honour her memory. Because Michael wanted to celebrate Irma as, in his words, ‘an artist, not an auction house statistic’, he took an approach that would encourage a real, truthful exploration of her world – he invited a number of local artists to harness her energy and character and create pieces that capture her distinctive style.
Contributors were given only four weeks to put their works together because Michael wanted ‘to treat the whole exhibition with the same spirit with which she approached her work – spontaneous, joyous and with relaxed ease’. The result is over 15 different interpretation of Irma Stern’s technique by the likes of Lucie de Moyencourt, Kirsten Sims, Michael Taylor, Alice Toich, Jenny Parsons, Daniella Mooney and Carol Mangiagalli, all working as a whole to embrace and reproduce her thick, effortless brushstrokes, her unashamed use of colour, her penchant for portraits and lush florals.
What makes the show especially meaningful is the fact that it’s being held at the Irma Stern Museum, which is housed in the Cape Town home that Stern lived in for almost 40 years (some of the rooms are still furnished as she left them). Visitors can therefore view works in the same setting where Stern once painted.
To add another layer to the exhibition, artists are also invited to visit the museum while the show is running with their paints and palettes in tow to create works inspired by Stern, her home and her life in her own former home. This opportunity has to be arranged beforehand – email firstname.lastname@example.org to do so.
The Spirit of Stern exhibition runs from 10 December 2016 to 28 January 2017 at the UCT Irma Stern Museum in Cecil Road, Rosebank.