In two weeks time the sleepy hollow of Grahamstown will be rocked by the National Arts Festival once again. This year I am joining forces with my talented siblings, brother Anthony and sister Nicky, both accomplished artists, to bring what we hope will be an interesting exhibition of our work. We come from a big family of pioneering stock and have had an amazingly rich, though somewhat off-beat upbringing. There is much that I could tell you, but will leave it to my eloquent brother to explain a little of the background to our exhibition…
“Artists Anthony Stidolph, Sally Scott and Nicky Rosselli grew up in a large family of seven children in what was then Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe). While they were all still relatively young, their father, an experienced airline pilot and free ranging spirit who had served with distinction in various bomber squadrons during the war, suddenly decided that the life he had really been born for was that of a farmer.
Acting, as he invariably did, on such ill-thought out impulses he quit his job, cashed in his life savings, bought a battered old Land-Rover and proceeded to relocate the entire family, lock, stock and barrel, to one of the most remote and inaccessible parts of Zimbabwe’s Nyanga Mountains.
Although the area proved ill-suited for agriculture and the farm was never a financial success it was a wonderful place to grow up.
Bordered on the east by the great wall of the Nyanga mountain range, the landscape seemed to possess an uplifting, transcendental, almost spiritual quality; it’s beauty penetrated the soul. Every now and again, in life, one comes across a place which for some mysterious reason exerts a deep personal attraction and the farm did just that for all three children.
It provided them with some of their richest childhood memories and would go on to play a pivotal role in their subsequent artistic, spiritual and emotional development. It was here that their love for nature, for places still regarded as wild, came from.
Moving to South Africa, albeit at different times and in pursuit of slightly varying goals, the three siblings mutual passion for landscape would continue to nourish and sustain them, each, in their own way, endeavouring to observe and capture the scenery that has inspired them over the years without pretence or posture.
Always something of a humourist, Anthony would choose to go into the field of political cartooning, where he worked for The Witness newspaper under the nom-de-guerre “Stidy” for almost 26-years, while his sister Sally’s early interest in batik work would later transform itself into a distinguished career in Fabric Art (and, in turn, pastel work) which would see her win several international awards for her innovative pieces. Nicky, very much the family afterthought, also inherited her mother’s artistic genes (the other four family members chose to follow more scientific paths) establishing an early reputation as a highly talented and original artist and etcher while, at the same time, opening and running her own Art Gallery with her husband John.
Over the years which have followed, Anthony Sally and Nicky have continued to regard their art as a form of self-examination, providing not only a reflection of the physical world without but the secret world within. For each one, art is not only a vocation to be expressed but lived as well.
Employing the notion of travel as a metaphor for living, this joint family exhibition serves, then, as a both a record and a re-evaluation of three journeys that began from the same starting point in another country many years ago. Although their roads may have diverged and detoured along the way, Anthony, Sally and Nicola’s lives have remained linked by a shared passion and a common ancestral background.
As such their work is infused with a certain homesickness, a longing to connect and get back to a place – or places – that exemplify their early ideal of happiness.
Intensely personal and reflective of their continuing bond with the earth, the artwork bears out TS Eliot’s poetic statement on how the end of all our seeking is to arrive back at the beginning and know the place for the first time…”
The exhibition will be officially opened at 5.30pm on 29th June and will thereafter be open daily 9am-5pm 30th June – 10th July. The artists will be in attendance.