BY ALEXANDER BRAND
The corner of Bird and Du Toit Street in Stellenbosch was recently blessed with a wall mural of a woman’s face surrounded by exquisite protea flowers. The piece was done by Riaan Bosch, an artist from Peacock Art & Design in Pretoria. It is part of an initiative by Dorpstraat Properties to incorporate art into public spaces.
Bosch started his artistic career in 1990 as a Scenic Painter at the then Performing Arts Council of the Transvaal (PACT) at the State Theatre in Pretoria. As a Scenic Painter, he was responsible for painting the backdrops and sets for ballets, operas, dramas, and other productions. During his time there he learnt the art of painting on a very large scale, without ever compromising detail and impact.
Co-founder and Executive Director of Dorpstraat Properties, Hannes Pickard, says, “We try to incorporate some public art in every development we do because according to me art is what creates civilisation. So the more people we can expose to art, especially children, the better.” It is their way of participating in the gift economy, giving back to society. He says with all the bad news going around these days, a hint of beauty is always a bonus. One of their most successful pieces is an upside-down cow sculpture in Irene Village Mall, Centurion, labelled ‘The Udder Side’. “Art and culture is the heartbeat of any society,” says their Asset Manager, Liné Knoetze.
The Protea flower was not only chosen for its strong design elements but also because of its mythological associations to change and transformation: it represents diversity and courage.
“The mural is situated in a public space and we wanted the community to identify with the artwork and not only see a ‘pretty picture’. We, therefore, incorporated a human element through the use of a face,” says Bosch. They chose this particular image, as it represents the diversity of Stellenbosch as a community. The juxtaposition of the human element (in the greyscale against the bright colours of the protea) further enhances this imagery.
Bosch also did a three-story mural at the African Pride Hotel in Melrose Arch in Johannesburg last year. He says that he sees each artwork and mural as a unique experience. “Our clients are quite diverse, ranging from corporates, restaurateurs, hospitals, and even people who want to enhance their living spaces. Each has its own ideas and preferences and we try to accommodate these,” he comments. So the technique and scale may differ from project to project, but the thought-processes and impact of what they would like to achieve remain the same.
When asked about Peacock Art & Design’s future, Bosch says that they are passionate about bringing beauty to different spaces. “Hopefully we will be involved in many more public projects such as the Bird Street project.”