Saturday, July 21, 2012

Personality Magazine, feature article Linda Goodman, 1968

Linda Goodman carries the name of a world-renowned art gallery, the Goodman Galley, in Johannesburg and Cape Town. The gallery specializes in contemporary African art, representing artists such as William Kentridge. There were, however, more artists who benefited from the Goodman Gallery before Kentridge. Linda describes the connection to her artists (Personality Magazine, 1968) :

Linda Goodman would be unable to deny that she and Bill Hart had worked together in as agent and artist (repectively). It is a conceivable idea that they must have influenced each other in their professional lives. Linda saw potential in Bill and Bill saw a window to success. The Goodman Gallery represented Bill Hart during the crucial years that formed his fame as an artist. His first exhibition with Linda was in 1967, with consecutive exhibitions in 1968 and 1969.

In the early years in the gallery, Linda boldly took the initiative to combine artwork against a dark wall. In one location of the Goodman Gallery, the walls where adjustable by a rail system mounted on the floor.

Below, Bill is photographed in a primitive-looking Goodman Gallery (possibly in Hyde Park), where one room was painted black and the other white.

Bill seems to enjoy posing next to his work

Curriculum Vitae
the information below has been compiled from Personality Magazine, 1968

1938         Linda Goodman is born, Johannesburg

1960         Teaches Drama in London, UK

1964         Assistant to Mr. Estoric, owner of Grosvenor Gallery in London
1966         Opens the Goodman Gallery in Johannesburg

While scanning the internet, I came across this article from digital magazine A R T T H R O B where it is interesting to read Linda's artistic statement, it also confirms her extensive CV. In other, more recent articles (dated 2011) on and Art Times it is apparent that Linda is currently busy opening up a new gallery in Braamfontein, Johannesburg. She explains: "the new gallery will specialize in developing new artists and concentrate on the local market". Very exciting news!

It would be an honor to have the opportunity to speak with Ms. Givan about her experience as a female art dealer and curator in promoting contemporary African art. I am in utmost admiration of her bold approach and determination, which has been consistent throughout the years.   

Monday, December 12, 2011

True to Form 
collecting inspiration to shape Bill Hart's biography 

excerpt from "Soon the Moon", 2009

This blog has always been intended as a source of information & memories that surround Bill Hart. For you, the reader, to follow my journey and share a glimpse some of the amazing things I've discovered so far about this otherwise mysterious man.

As 2012 dawns upon us, I feel more aware of the choices I will have to face in making this book. One obstacle is returning to South Africa, specifically Johannesburg, a complicated affair if without the support of an artist residency. A pending application for the Bag Factory in Johannesburg could be the ticket to complete the research regarding Bill's life, however, while currently in limbo with few options, I must consider the alternatives. As one friend stated: "There are more then one way to skin a cat" -- mieeouw!

One way to bide time before the next voyage au afrique du sud is to actually START WRITING THE BOOK. I've been thinking...far too much...about the formatting and lay-out of the book. I want to give justice to Bill's artwork and the style of the comic has to have something of a retro 60's feel... It's very difficult for me to even make a little sketch without knowing just what kind of paper it will be printed on!

While searching for inspiration, I was introduced to Cyril Pedrous, who wrote & illustrated a graphic novel about his grandfather's life in Portugal, the book is simply titled "Portugal". His work reminded me that there is a certain level of consciousness in the dosis of auto-biography narrative when writing about influencial family members...

Excerpt from an interview with Cyril Pedrous in ZozoLala (read the full interview here):  

In hoeverre is Autobio autobiografisch?
...ik neem telkens een echte situatie als uitgangspunt, om er dan een aantal zaken aan toe te voegen of te vermengen met de gangbare clichés. En ik sta mezelf ook toe om te liegen! Het moet grappig zijn, dus ik vergroot soms wel het een en ander uit. (lacht)

Cyril concludes that thought with a witty:

Allez, het gaat hier over mijn eigen ervaringen en besognes. Ik begrijp niet dat ze dit opvatten als iets serieus. Bizar. We nemen onszelf toch niet al te serieus, hoop ik? 

A sense of humour is obviously very important!

Cyril was also very good about documenting his work process which he shared in this video:

Another artist who is currently following his path of family roots his JP Kalonji, whom I had the pleasure of meeting in Grahamstown, SA during the National Arts Festival. It took us a few days to figure out that we were both on a similar endeavor which ultimately gave us little time to compare notes, as it were, on how each story would unravel.

JP has a very strong graphic technique which I admire for it's simplicity and ease. He uses graphite black pencils and special brush-pens from Japan but that's besides the point! JP has something likeable to comics superstar Will Eisner, by excluding standardized panels and letting the drawings overlap and feel the flow of the story.

African Suite, JP Kalonji
On our last night in Grahamstown, I took the opportunity to visit my aunt's long-time friend, Erin, who had been very welcoming to me at the beginning of my stay there. She didn't mind at all that I wanted to bring two friends along to her house for our last supper in South Africa...

the best lighting was in Erin's kitchen
Later, JP and I shared the 2 bottles of wine that we had brought with us, while Erin searched the house for Bill's artwork, which was given to her at some point or another by Bill himself. I took some photographs but insisted that Erin keep the artwork at her house, as it would have been quite awkward for me to take those pieces back to the Netherlands with me.

All the while I couldn't help but think that I had kidnapped JP, exposing him to real South African family vibes! During our dinner, I received many text messages from the Co/Mix team asking me where was JP!...Sorry guys, this was something that had to be done.

Now it's time to crack the whip and consider the narrative of my comic about Bill Hart: how much auto-bio is permitted in such a book, I wonder?


Sunday, November 13, 2011

daughter, sister, mother, grandmother, wife, artist & rebel
1931 - 2011

Eileen departed from life in the night of May 29th, 2011.

Her daughter and granddaughter were already in bed and the lights were low. Eileen rests her cigarette in the ashtray. She stands up from her chair next to the sliding glass doors of their cottage. She hesitates slightly under the intense pain in her legs. Eileen needed to drink something other then wine to digest her many painkillers.

When Eileen reached the kitchen, leaning on her crutch and moving with baby steps, Death took her from the shadows. On the mantelpiece, the cigarette burned peacefully in the ashtray coupled with half a glass of wine. Eileen was granted 80 years of life and an immediate decease, sans wine, sans song...

Omar 1048 - 1131 
The poem above occurred apt to me and I think Eileen would have agreed. Before we die, let us sing and enjoy, so our spirit will be sans End...

The poem is derived from one of Eileen´s remaining possessions in life: a leather-bound pocket-sized book of poetry by Omar Khayyam. A unique treasure, soft to touch and worn with age.

The inside cover is signed E.D. Banks, April 7th 1925, which would indicate that it once belonged to Bill´s biological mother, Edith Banks. The circumstance surrounding the book otherwise, is a mystery.

RUBAIYAT of OMAR KHAYYAM, Fitzgerald translation

Eileen Barnes Biography (abridged!)

St. Ives, Cornwall, England, 2011
Eileen spent two summers catering to tourists on the remote and beautiful shores of St.Ives, Cornwall. It didn't matter if she was young and ambitious, there were tables to clear and floors to sweep!

It is here, in the quaint fishermen village, that Eileen met Bill. A place where many artists had found solace after the damage of WWII on the rest of England. 

Bill and Eileen were married in a heartbeat and she was bold enough to move to South Africa, far away from her British upbringing.

Eileen let go off her ambitions to became an artist with the Rambert Ballet Company, she had an opportunity to travel with the London dancers as a seamstress. Instead, she was about to do something unheard of, something completely different: she was about to follow her love to foreign lands.

As for Bill, he was going home to Johannesburg with a new bride and babe. His heart triumphed, he was about to embark on his path to success as an acclaimed artist.

Living alongside Bill was certainly not an easy task for Eileen. Their marriage was rocky at best as Bill's career took precedence. Eileen's role was to be the wife and mother, although I'm sure she felt reminded that she was an immigrant above all.

What I know of Eileen is that she fought for emancipation and feminism; she wasn't afraid to smoke cigarettes at the dining table (when it was not tolerated by the host she accidentally broke a crystal glass!) and she never considered herself a South African, even after living in the country some 60 odd years.

We will really miss that argumentative, opinionated, stubborn personality. Her life may not have been an easy one, but her courage, Cockney humour and stoic strength was undeniable!

Eileen, circa 1981, home in Johannesburg, South Africa

Thursday, May 26, 2011

op soek na Bill Hart in die Johannesburg Art Gallery

Please let me know where I can find a copy!
Monday April 11th, 2011

Scurry along the side streets. The glare of the sun hits bleaks your view but still you don't look down at one week's worth of neglected garbage from the Pikitup strike.

You duck into Joubert Park and find solice in the Johannesburg Art Gallery. You are greeted by the terribly witty and charming Jo Burger, Head Librian. 

Below the gallery rooms, you will find a goldmine of information all relevant to South African art history. Certainly more then the 5 books at Centraal Bibliotheek, Amsterdam -- you scoff!

This one called Polly Street, the Story of an Art Centre -- there's a book you haven't seen before. Wasn't this the formally known Jubliee Center, where Bill once worked? Surely...during the years of Apartheid?

Jo hustles the shelves and comes up with the original issues of ARTLOOK magazine. At her suggestion, you spend some time scanning...

ARTLOOK 18 May 1968. Registered at the GPO as a Newspaper, 30c

Jo has now supplied you with carbon copies of every possible article with the words "Bill Hart" in it. Some of the books which linger in your memory are:

- Land & Lives, a Story of Early Black Artists by Elza Miles
- Art & Artists of South Africa by Esmé Berman
- Contemporary African Art in South Africa by EJ de Jager
- Dictionary of South African Painters & Sculptors by Cecil Skotnes

Would you have ever found these books without Jo's help??

outside the paradise of books
reality struck
There are plenty of other books that need your attention, but for now it's back on the streets of the smelly CBD.

Of course you don't leave without signing the guestbook, copying some of your archive files into the library computer and feeling quite proud, because:

"the Johannesburg Art Gallery now holds a file on Bill Hart"

Many hearfelt thanks to Jo Burger and the Johannesburg Art Gallery for helping us define the search for Bill Hart.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011


Saturday April 9, 2011 : a visit to Dr John and Sasa Mosendane in Soweto

The photograph above left was retrieved from Bill's cut + paste portfolio and appears to have been taken in Mosendane's garden some 30 years ago. The photograph on the left depicts the same garden today... not much has changed at first glance although Bill's piece is faded substanially from outdoor wear. The darlings in the old photo are: Msindi, Thabo and Tshinakaho, now grown into beautiful, successful women.

I was particularly interested in meeting Dr Mosendane, having understood that he is still a prominant citizen of Soweto. Perhaps one of the few people to continue living in a township once he had gained fortune in his medical practice. This shows endurance and dedication, well respected attributes in times of oppression.

Bill, I imagine, must've been equally proud of the fact that Dr Mosendane had commissioned him to do this garden relief and two tower sculptures, which flank a rounded window in the living room.

I had asked Dr Mosendane if Bill had ever invited him to the Hart House for a sunday evening film & braai (as Bill had often done). Dr Mosendane admitted that he had been invited once but for one reason or another wasn't able to go. I couldn't help but wonder if a friendship was pending between these two men and if Mosendane had been there on said day their relationship would've changed in any way.

Regardless, Bill's work is featured in Mosendane's extensive South African art collection which includes artists such as Edoardo VillaGerard Sekoto and Lucky Sibiya.

Dr Mosendane his still retains connections with some of the remaining artists (whom active during times of Apartheid) and he is familiar with Linda Goodman, once Bill's main agent in the art world.

signed L.Sibiya, collection Mosendane

Many thanks to Dr Mosendane & his lovely wife
for sharing their wealth of culture and history.

...oops! I almost forgot this l'il beauty !

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Bill Hart played "Flank"  1946  -  1947

 Thursday April 14th 2011

One of Bill's most favourite things in the world: RUGBY!

I knew that he had attended the Parktown Boys High School and a drive down to Auckland Park to visit the school proved to be worth the effort!

Thanks to the Parktown Head Coach, Mr.R, I was able to obtain copies of the rugby team photographs where a young William Hart shows his grubby elbows.

Mr.R simply removed the photographs from the wall of the school gymnasium and gave them to me to get them scanned and xeroxed down the road..!

Mr. R: you're the best!

Historical Background of the Parktown Boys (as cited on their website):

The origins of Parktown Boys' High School may be traced back to 1920 when the school was established on a site now occupied by the SABC in Auckland Park, Johannesburg.  In 1923 the present school was founded in Wellington Road, the original building now being a National Monument.  Past Parktonians have acquitted themselves as leaders of commerce, renowned academics and international sportsmen.

hmmm...they seemed to have forgotten to mention ARTISTS??

For more information on Parktown Boys go to:

Sunday, April 10, 2011

DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER .... at least in human years


Bill Hart's mural is monitored 24/7 by security cameras
From what I can gather, this mural in Kimberely is Bill's last surviving public artwork. It was commissioned by Hanns Bergs (see previous blog) for the De Beers diamond sorting building located in Kimberley and erected in 1974. Here it stands in it's full glory: 5 x 10 meters, resulting in 60 panels of sheer brilliance! Modelled in clay and cast in plaster, it is a fairly durable material (although disasterous if it ever were to fall from the wall!).

Bill's artwork always had a sense of timelessness about it: he would mold the shapes of his sculptures not with precision, instead, he welcomed imperfections. He would allow scrapes and jagged edges which would represent the weathered appeal of objects over space and time. It is for this reason that Bill's artwork, and I refer to this one in particular, stands proud and undarnished from the past 37 years.

setting up the panels for construction of the mural
 Bill is aided by friend & fellow artist, Keith Alexander

Bill models the clay to create his signature shapes

detail of the finished product

Hanns once told me a funny antidote about this mural:

   When Bill and Keith were finally assembling the enormous mural on site in Kimberley, I often went to supervise the building construction and watched Bill and Keith labour to lift up the heavy panels which were then fixed to the concrete wall. When I arrived on this day, I had the gut feeling that the mural was somehow smaller then Bill had promised and so after much discussion, Bill finished the argument by saying that as an artist he was entitled to change his mind and make the mural smaller!  "OK", I said, "but then we will will have to reduce the payment due to you!" He didn't like that at all and we finally agreed that the mural looked great and suited the design of the building.
   After some years, we all had a drink at my house when I showed Bill the maquette of the mural, which was decidedly longer than the mural in Kimberley. Bill then admitted that he and Keith had "f...d" up and had made the mural some 6 panels shorter and they were desparately hoping I wouldn't notice! Needless to say, we opened another bottle of wine and had a good laugh about the whole thing.

A short video pan of the building, designed with slanted & tinted windows to aid the sorting of precious diamonds. But the gem I admire most appears at the end of this clip...

a BIG THANKS to Hanns and the people of HOH who allowed me
to touch some REAL diamonds and spend time with Bill's mural.