In May last year I was invited to join a group of ladies from Gauteng for a weekend of art making at Ann’s Villa, a self catering early settler Victorian mansion, that stands alone in the rugged terrain at the foot of the Zuurberg Mountains in the Eastern Cape. Helen Lunn, owner of the villa, had met me over the telephone when I had inquired about renting her space for my big birthday celebration a couple of months earlier. After the party, when she learned of my involvement in the arts, she asked if I would like to join her group of friends on an art retreat at the villa. It was an unexpected invitation and a bit of a risk to accept, given that I had never met her or anyone in the group, but I was curious and the thought of having another weekend in that beautiful environment, was enough to make me take up this opportunity. After all if I didn’t fit in, I could always return home to Grahamstown, a mere 88 kms away. That, as it turned out, wasn’t necessary and it wasn’t long before we had all settled in like old friends. It was a great weekend and so much fun to work alongside people whose experience, interests, talents and skills differed from my own. I learned much and came away from the those few days in the outback of the Karoo, wishing that I could have stayed longer, but feeling enriched, relaxed and inspired.
With the limited time available, my output was fairly minimal, but I did manage to produce a few sketches.
So what is it about retreat that is so enticing? The idea of it is filled with possibility. For me it’s being able to legitimately withdraw from the madness of modern living, to step out of the predictable and well defined grooves of daily life, to enter into a space where anything can happen, where I can take time to intimately explore the outer environment and free fall into my inner world to see what’s going on in there. It’s having the time to express myself in an honest, uncompromising manner, knowing that what I produce doesn’t matter because it’s the process of doing it that counts. I love having no responsibilities and minimal expectation, where I can do pretty much anything with my day and take my time in doing it. I love the fact that I can indulge without the slightest whisper of guilt in the pleasures of making art in an environment that offers so many possibilities.
Over the years, I have been on several such retreats, and in my next post I will share another very memorable occasion when my sister, Nicky, brother Anthony and I took ourselves off to a beautiful conservancy in the low veldt of Zimbabwe.