“To develop a complete mind:
Study the science of art;
Study the art of science;
Learn how to see.
Realise that everything is connected to everything else.”
Leonard de Vinci
Every time I visit in England, my final two days are spent in London. I say goodbye to family and friends and… a whole morning is spent at The National Art Gallery. I love my time there. Fresh from the hustle and bustle of Trafalgar Square, ‘B’ and I tumble into The Gallery. And give a happy sigh of contentment. I think after a four frenetic weeks, the quiet and stillness of the National is a heady experience. ‘B’ and I happily meander from room to glorious room.
I know so little about art. But I like it. A lot. I was visiting a friend of mine when I saw the most beautiful painting on her wall. “What a stunning painting! And it’s an original.” I observed as I got closer. I read the artist’s name and drew back in surprise. “Lisl Barry! Your daughter. Shytenhauzen!” I exclaimed. I knew that Lisl painted but I had thought that she merely did the odd bit of hobby stuff. More advanced than paint by numbers, sure, but not much! I was obviously very wrong. Smile. VERY WRONG indeed.
Let me tell you about my friend, the artist, Lisl Barry.
On meeting Lisl, one is instantly struck by her eyes. They are this mesmerising blue and they seem to take you in, all of you – a good thing for a painter.
Looking around her beautiful studio, which is in an old waenhuis (wagon house) located in the grounds of the Rosenhof Country House at the foot of the Swartberg mountains in Oudtshoorn, one is surprised by the sheer diversity of her work.
Yes, there are paintings that you would expect from someone who lives in the heart of the Karoo: pictures of wide open dusty plains with huge blue skies, rusting water pumps, men herding goats and sheep, and children playing games in the dust.
But as Lisl says herself, “she now paints that which resonates with her eye and steals her breath – mostly quite ordinary moments transformed by the changing of light.” Looking at her paintings it is obvious that Lisl’s awe of the wonderful effect of light greatly influences her work.
Some of more recent works were inspired by an incident with her two young daughters standing on a bridge looking at the water running and tumbling below them. It swirled, puckered and foamed, leaped into the air as it hit a rock and continued on its way. The water fascinated her and she wanted to portray the tumult of what she saw.
I love the paintings that she does from her artistic imagination.Childs Peace is definitely my favourite. It has an innocence and a childishness to it that I find utterly entrancing. Last Christmas I was given African Dream Tree. The painting seems to vibrate with a colour and mirth all of its own. It also seems to echo my enchantment with rainbows.
In Lisl’s studio there is a painting of a Moroccan looking church.Standing outside the church is this goat. Lisl told me that there were also chickens, people, the odd cow ambling past. And yet here was this place of refuge amidst the vibrance and tumult of village life. It was kept beautifully. There might not be that much money for food and yet the door was painted regularly – green! I fell in love with the paintings name: God’s Green Door.
At the moment Lisl is working on a painting that I would sell my body for! It is of a grove of Silver Birch trees. They look other worldly in their delicacy and strangely enough, their strength. It is captivating in it’s gracefulness.
Tucked away on a shelf was a pile of books, 52 Ways to Grow Creative Children. I love this book that Lisl wrote. Lisl studied photography at Cape Town Tech and it is put to such good use in this book. It inspires parents to spend time connecting with their young children doing simple creative activities.
One’s art changes with oneself. I asked Lisl “where she saw herself in five years time?” and she replied: “I take each day as it comes.”
“And her best critic?” There was no hesitation in her response: “My husband, Tom.” She laughs. “He is my best and worst critic!”
Jacana have kindly given me a number of copies of Lisl’s book to give away to my blog followers. If you would like to enter a draw for one of these, please post a ‘Reply’ at the end of this blog saying why you would like a copy! I will contact the winners via email for postal address details. The draw will take place on Friday 15th November. I am afraid because of postage costs this ‘giveaway’ is only open to SA residents.