Country kitsch

One man’s kitsch is another man’s treasure. This is true for Vladimir Tretchikoff (aka Kitschikoff in many circles) whose art epitomised kitsch and was considered as being in very bad taste. It didn’t deter thousands of South Africans from hanging prints of his luridly coloured pieces all over their homes. The last laugh is on him, or would be if he was still alive, because one of his most reviled works – the Chinese Girl, also one of the most reprinted paintings of the 20th century – recently sold at Bonhams for close to a million pounds. It was bought by the owner of the Delaire-Graff wine estate in Stellenbosch and will be ‘launched’ in September, when it’ll join the rest of Lawrence Graff’s fabulous art collection.

So much for kitsch. I still think it’s a revolting painting but I will make a point of viewing it when I am at Delaire-Graff since I often take clients there for lunch or tastings. I doubt I’ll be getting the nod for the gala launch event, though. By the way, the rumours that Vladimir was having it off with his models are not true – here’s the Chinese girl’s story with a photo of the painting in question. If you’re at all interested in this man and his story Google his name – there’s loads of info out there, the story of where the Chinese Girl lay for decades, unloved, unwanted, is fascinating and the man himself is a classic case of someone completely unknown in the country of his birth but madly loved elsewhere. Well, here anyway.

Back to kitsch.

The countryside is full of kitsch and, thanks to my friend Caroline (who loves kitsch), I now make a point of taking photos of kitsch whenever I can. Here’s a selection from my recent Overberg roadtrip.

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This beauty is on the pavement outside a house in Hermanus. I did a double take and reversed to get a better look and take the photo. In the city it wouldn’t last 5 minutes. I’d hate to think what it cost. In terms of style, it has absolutely no visible connection to the house – I think that’s what makes it such utter kitsch.

I spent a night in Stanford a lovely little village with loads of character and pretty houses. I booked into a guesthouse I’d found online and nothing prepared me for this place. The owner is a very sweet lady who has an immaculate garden full of succulents collected over many years. It really is the most amazing collection and this is what makes the interior of the house all the more surprising – it is choc-a-bloc full of geegaws and vases  filled with artificial flowers all over the place. I couldn’t believe my eyes. There was a massive bunch of gorgeous fresh proteas on a pole at the street entrance but artificial flowers all over the house. Go figure.

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This was the piece de resistance in the dining room. Not a speck of dust anywhere.

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No comment

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Despite the strange interior, outside was lovely with many containers full of unusual and pretty succulents. Oh, and the rabbit … huge, with spiky fur standing on end as if he’d been blow-dried. I tried to stroke it, many times, but it kept hopping out of reach until I had exhausted myself and I really needed to get back on the road.

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See what I mean? A really pretty place.

Two days later I was in Gansbaai and, under strict instructions from Caroline, popped in to Rosemary’s place. Oh my god. Hidden away behind a dark and over-cluttered interior is an equally cluttered garden dining area. It’s so over the top, photos won’t do it justice. There’s a central pond and around it a variety of different types of tables and chairs, or things to sit on, and many many containers with plants. Many of the chairs and tables are totally unsuitable for eating because they’re either recliners or the chairs are miles away from the table and immovable.

You have to walk very gingerly to reach your table because of all the stuff you need to step around. However, the service was excellent and my Caesar salad would’ve been perfect if not for the liberal quantity of fresh coriander – I loathe the stuff. As peculiar as it was, I will probably go back to Rosemary’s, kitsch and all, because it’s cosy and friendly and I can always tell them to hold the coriander.

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The toilet walls are papered with old newspapers, really really old newspapers, and sheet music.

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A garden brimming with lovely plants but they couldn’t resist a few silk lilies.

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A statue is a prerequisite in a kitsch garden, and a chair made only for drinking or finger food because it’s half a mile away from the table.

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Upcycling, recycling.

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I almost stood on it.

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I don’t get why the tree trunks are covered with green cloth.

About Francoise Armour

I run a small touring company (Tours du Cap) at the bottom of Africa, to show visitors the beauty and vibrant culture of the country I have lived in since my parents brought me here from France as a child. I enjoy taking photos and wish I had learnt to do it properly. I enjoy writing but don't do enough of it. I enjoy walking in the mountains that surround me and I marvel over the views and the flowers and the amazing rock formations. I have a small, cute, clever, black dog of indeterminable breed, named Vida, who reminds me regularly that walking and getting out is not only for when tourists want it.

3 responses to “Country kitsch

  1. Pingback: The other one | A pic a day from the Cape

  2. Oh my word, I am not sure I would have navigated my way through these establishments without breaking something!
    Those tree trunks are covered to protect against harsh winter weather. We use them here, but not sure such a condition exists in SA?

    • I don’t think so, that garden is completely sheltered and we don’t get frost in the Cape.
      Caroline is going on a trip next month into the countryside where the kitsch promises to beat everything shown here – watch this space for a guest kitsch blog!

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Disclaimer

A note to all accidental visitors:

I am not a photographer and do not claim to have any particular skills whatsoever in that department. I have enormous respect for those who can see the potential in a scene and can create a great photo. Good photography is an art, in my opinion.

I am just a happy snapper, I have no special lenses or accessories, my camera is very simple and it's usually best to leave the setting on auto.

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