Good Art from a Good Place – the sixth Spier Light Art Exhibition  

By Richard Kilpert

It was possibly not the best idea to visit this after-dark exhibition on a full-moon night, but the energy of my kids and their friends carried us to all the corners of this truly immersive outdoor experience. 

The 2023 exhibition saw over 6000 visitors to this free and I am sure the numbers were similar for the month of March this year. Stretched out between the Owl sanctuary (raptor rehabilitation) and the vineyards, 21 artworks by artists from around South Africa (and three international guests) were carefully curated by Jay Pather and Vaughn Sadie to create another brilliant journey for the nocturnal picnickers. 

As we waited for dusk, Jenna Burchell’s Singing Stones, (which have been an attraction since 2018) stirred the fascination with the synaesthetic experience of interacting with the lovingly repaired rocks from the Karoo which represent ancient extinction events. 

High-lights(!) for us along our two-hour art-safari were many, but here are some of the ranges of media presented this year: 

“Floodlight”, by Abrie de Swart plays on the word flood, but by re-creating a downed sports-field floodlight on the banks of the Eerste Rivier, sporadically flashing and fading, an eerie post-apocalyptic premonition provokes the viewer to re-consider their electrical privilege, especially in light of our on-again, off-again loadshedding and fragile relationship with nature. 

“Mycelium” by Stevie Thompson is a Avatar – like glowing mandala of mushrooms which could so easily be from Afrika Burns (if there were trees).  A trippy crowd-favourite and certainly a great spot for an evening meal break. 

Kenneth Shandu from Durban presented “Invisible People”, a poignant relocation of life-size figures from the periphery of society – the street-cleaners, the everyday recyclers appear in silhouetted wire outlines across the manicured lawns of the farm to remind us of how our lives are intertwined. 

Op-art genius Berco Wilsenach’s 2009 piece “Written in the Stars”, commissioned by the late Spier patron Dick Enthoven, was re-mounted in all its cinematic glory, displaying the cosmos degrees of magnification across billboard-size plexiglass screens with luminous galaxies and star formations.  A wonderful way to see oneself in a Hitchikers’ Guide to the Galaxy perspective. 

“ZZZ” by the enigmatic Alan Alborough was a return to whimsical form, with the complex onomatopoeic structure, densely woven from recycled functional plastic tubes and cable-ties in a post-pop gesture that harkens to the eternal sleep. 

I enjoyed watching the families looking for the artworks, discussing meaning and following their moonstruck children around as they discovered new ways of seeing.This was truely accessible moment of connection with high art and social commentary, and an experience to diarise for 2025. 

As the show is over, you can get a glimpse of the action and read the reviews here: 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M-nhlT7ys9A

https://www.spier.co.za/growing-for-good/art-experiences

https://artafricamagazine.org/spier-light-art-2024

https://www.spier.co.za/blog/songsmith