the exhibition

The opening was so special.
It was a balmy evening and a whole lot of my friends were there as well as other people who came as a result of invitations.
I had thought I would set up on Friday morning but Maresa my framing lady advised me to do it the day before.  So I went in on Wednesday afternoon put my stands together and began to re-arrange the room.
I took all the paintings out of my house on Thursday morning and took them up to the reserve and then fetched a load from Maresa.
Calvin came and helped me set up the room and then another friend of mine came and helped me do final set up.
All the big stuff was done by Thursday afternoon but there was lots of fiddly things to do.
Which took all of Friday.
I was still faffing around in my shorts and crocs when some people came in.
There had been a constant stream of hikers and other visitors who came in for tickets and route maps and had a look at the paintings.
So it took a while for me to realise that these were real exhibition visitors.
I ran out and changed into smarter clothes in the car park.
And then it all happened.
It was magnificent.
There was a lady from the reserve taking pictures and I want to get them from her and do a post.
My friend James spoke so beautifully (it made me want to cry)
I want to get a recording of his talk to put on as well.
What a great evening.
And I sold 12 paintings!  Lekker hey?
I sold two more over the weekend but still have a way to go to break even.
There was someone agonising over how to take the big paintings in his luggage (he was from USA) so we shall see.
There is other stuff pre-occupying me and I was awake till 03:00 the next morning and Sunday was hectic – so this is the first time I have had a chance and space to sit and write.
Thanks for you care.
In my thanks talk I mentioned all of you and told the story about how you sent me  a t-shirt.
It was all so magical.

My exhibition of watercolours opened on Friday evening.

I had thought I would set up on Friday morning but Maresa, from Rialto Art Centre, who did my framing, advised me to give myself at least a full day before the opening to set everything up.  So I went in on Wednesday afternoon put my stands together and began to re-arrange the room.

I fetched all the of paintings out of my house on Thursday morning :

exhib-7-D exhib-8-D

Calvin and Neil came to help and all the big stuff was done by Thursday afternoon.  But there was still much to do.  We really needed the second day.  On Friday afternoon I was working in my shorts and crocs.  There had been a constant stream of hikers and other visitors looking for tickets and route maps who stopped by to look at the paintings.  At 17:00 I suddenly realised the people in the room were my guests and I shot out change into smarter dress in the parking lot.

And then it all happened.

Here is the information centre where we held the exhibition:


And here is how it looked inside:



This is my friend James, Dr JB Krohn,  doing  the talk about creativity.


And here are the guests standing in the garden:

exhib-4-D exhib-3-D

It was a wonderful evening.  Magnificent!  One more milestone.

This is Rene who organised stuff for me, with the Friends of the Helderberg Reserve:


OK and here is the artist – hem hem


Here are the notes from James’s talk – he filled them out some more and one day – if I sell enough, I will get a video recorder and record the talk for this blog.


By Dr James B Krohn

Friday 27 Nov 2009, Helderberg Reserve


I am delighted to have been given the honour of saying a few words at the opening of this watercolour exhibition by Stephan Quirke. And it is an even greater honour to honour in this way, albeit very briefly, a remarkable friend.

Richard Nichols said that:

“Art is the representation of that which the mind can imagine – but only the heart knows to be true.”

“That which the heart knows to be true”, is not only a wonderful description of the essence of good art, but also a description of the character-intentionality of the real artist. And I think this is especially true of Steve. Because, to make and enjoy art, is a barometer of our humanity. As GK Chesterton put it; “Art is the signature of man”, no animals practice art any more than they worship.

Let me tell you how I met Steve …

Our lives intersected at a very impressionable stage in my life, and I like to think of it’s providence as a little bit of shrewd and sagacious orchestration, a pulling of the strings, on the part of God. I was sentenced to military conscription in WalvisBay, and in my pursuit for freedom threw out a line of inquiry for a rock-climbing partner, the giant desert monolith of the Spitzkoppe was beckoning. And in an uncannily ordinary unfolding of events I was introduced to Steve and Aura, who were living in nearby Swakopmund. Never would I have realised then how significant that meeting would be, not only in terms of a few epics on the mountain, but also in terms of an awakening within me what has become two major strands in my own life (and in this sense I was just mimicking Steve); the first is the formation, the shaping of an integrated Christian worldview—the reading of Francis Schaeffer’s book “The God who is there” from Steve and Aura’s bookshelf (so influential in my life!), and secondly, the beauty and the lure and the inevitability of art. And of course, all that came so easily in the haunting desert of Namibia

In his spare time, Steve was doing painting lessons with a locally celebrated artist, Nicholas Galloway. Nicholas painted these beautiful desertscapes. And Steve started doing desertscapes too, and in some ways may have had a greater influence on Nicholas Galloway, than Nicholas thought he had on him. (I was devastated to hear the other day, in chatting to Steve, that he had sold most of those paintings, and I for one can kick myself for not getting one.) But, he has been there again, and in Brandberg #2, the centrepiece of this exhibition, you will see exactly what I mean.

And Steve would so often go on his “small adventures” (as he loves to call them); cycling across the Namib-Naukluft (desert) on his own, wandering alone in the Brandberg, or hoping to be forgotten in the Cederberg. I suspect that’s why he chose watercolour, because unlike canvas and easel, it can travel lightly, and with it the artist can travel with light, and luminosity, and make shade filled with reflected light, the way you would for yourself in the desert.

About ART

Allow me to say a few things about ART and in relation to Steve’s paintings.

Hillary Brand and Adrienne Chaplin in their book “Art and Soul” (Solway, 1999) wrote a chapter on “Art and how art works”. I want to pick out three aspects that I think are applicable to the Quirk work. [Much of what follows are direct and expanded quotations from this chapter.]

1. Elusive Allusivity

Perhaps the characteristic that best defines art is allusivity—a state defined as ‘hinting or referring to something indirectly, without being explicit, in a covert manner or in a passing way’. Art can never be, and never has been, simply a carbon copy of reality.

As Virginia Woolf put it: “Art is not a copy of the real world. One of the damn things is enough.”

So art always suggests, or hints at, something beyond itself. It depicts the subject matter not as is, but as experienced.

Bear in mind the allusive quality of the work you are enjoying tonight.

2. Evocative Memory and subsidiary ambiguity

Contrary to common belief, artists do not usually give form to preconceived meanings, but instead discover meaning in the forms and shapes and colours. In this sense the work of art becomes an allusion to the way we experience the world. Good art creates forms which not only concern an artist’s incidental private associations, but which tap into the deeper stock of common human sensations and feelings. This is what gives good art a universal quality, the power to transcend boundaries of time and place and nationality. The artist manipulates the particular medium, in this case watercolour, in such as way as to allude to sensations which we all have but are normally unable to grasp because they defy verbalisation. Herein lies the seductive power of art.

Alfred North Whitehead said that “Art attracts us by what it reveals of our most secret self.”

Ask yourself what evocative memory is stirred within you as you look at each painting.

3. Unconditional generosity and playfulness

Art is not a good vehicle for literal meaning. This is probably where many Christian artists go wrong, or even the concept of Christian art goes astray. Art does not do well in service of a direct statement of dogma, simply because the audience is invited to explore it with all its hints and nuances as they see it appropriate. In this way art is generous, an unconditional and uncontrolled gift. The artist entrusts it to others with the knowledge that they may use it in more ways than he/she ever anticipated or intended. Art is a generous gift. However, make no mistake, art always carries with it spiritual implications, because even though there may be ambiguity in intention and reception, it is still truth-telling at the most basic level. It reveals the heart of the artist, and attracts us only in what it reveals in ourselves.

Finally, there is a playfulness in everything that Steve does that reminds me of one of my favourite anonymous statements,

that “angels can fly because they take themselves lightly”

Concluding remark

Stephan has put on display for you tonight his delight and joy in what his eyes have seen and his mind has imagined, and his heart has come to know to be true …

It is his gift to us, and we are grateful to him for it.


12 thoughts on “the exhibition

  1. Thank-you, thank-you, Stephen, for sharing your experience of your show with us. This is wonderful. The introduction is beautiful. I love his statement about art being “truth telling at the most basic level”. Your display of your art looks spot on and we finally see you in person and not just your crocs! Happy painting!

  2. Ah! All becomes clear – this is what has kept you away from us. How fantastic. It’s about time you had your own show and received some proper recognition for all your beautiful work. Amazingly beautiful venue and you and your pictures look very good all together like that. Many congratulations, it’s very special indeed.

  3. Stephen,
    This is indeed a wonderful exhibition! I’m glad you had such a good turn out to the opening and great success with it both from a visual standpoint and sales too. You are very fortunate to have your friend James to open the show for you. He was very thoughtful in bringing such pertinent ideas to his discourse. And that’s a great story on the beginnings of your friendship with him.

  4. Ahhhh, you’re back. Thanks so much for sharing the photos and pictures of your big event. My oh my, you certainly have a lot of work. And it all looks amazing. I’m sure you will sell out.

    The artist standing next to his work is a great shot. Better than the pictures of the crocs we usually get on your blog.

  5. Thanks guys – you are all so special and I said as much in my address of thanks after James. So… in a way you were there with us at the opening.
    Hey -and Cecily came through from the other side of False Bay to see the exhibition and she bought a painting – thanks Cecily. I was sitting at the duck pond trying to paint the Helderberg so I missed her – which is probably appropriate for our community, but too bad.

  6. Congratulations on your exhibition day! A real success for a talented artist! You deserve it. I am very very happy for you… Yahoooo! Yepeee dee yeaaaah! (I’m doing the “happy dance” here!!)

  7. Hi. Yes, I am the proud owner of ‘evening at the pipe’. It was so nice to be at an exhibition where you know the story behind every painting. Two days after the opening there were already many red dots! Well done!

  8. Well done – it’s exhausting isn’t it ?! It was a nice idea to get a friend to do an opening talk. What a beautiful setting to have an exhibition in.
    I see you’re already busy back with the painting – not surprised you’re feeling tired though.

    • Hi Sonya
      thanks for visiting the exhibition – I was so relaxed for the exhibition until everyone arrived – crowds of friends is not my forte. I remember long ago I used to run in Newlands Forest every evening. There was a guy who used to run with his border collie – the poor thing would go demented trying to round up all the runners – heh heh – but it has been a wonderful stressor – S

  9. Hi Stephen,
    I was taking another look at your paintings on display and am curious about the two at the end where the panel joins the other in a ‘T’. It looks like a bird of prey flying away (or maybe coming for a landing). If you get a chance, could you please post those two paintings for closer inspection (ha ha!).


    • Very good K – did I mention that the exhibition was held in an information centre which included a museum – heh heh – but… actually – there is a quite a good idea for a painting don’t you think? I actually did some painting last night for the drawing jam on I will post when I have a chance – cheers hey S

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