The 'lavenhof' chapel
It's not every day that someone commissions you to make a chapel, so when I was asked to create one from hand-painted ceramic tiles I almost had a religious epiphany.
The owners of this chapel are a special pair of people, who fell in love with Cape Town and bought a beautiful home in Noordhoek that had an existing chapel attached to one of its exterior walls. The property was stuck in the early 1990s and it was decided that the home and garden required a revamp with a fresh, sophisticated eye. The chapel really should've been demolished, but out of respect to the previous owners and to whatever powers that may be, it was decided that the chapel should go through a little Renaissance of its own.
The patrons of this project were a dream to work with. They trusted my vision and signed off the project the day I showed them my vision.
I grew up in an Eastern Cape Methodist Christian family, which luckily was never forced upon us. Between the ages of twelve and fourteen I flirted with being a re-born Christian, before denouncing any beliefs in a monotheistic power and entered an extended period of Agnosticism where you can still find me today. While I don't believe in any God or Goddess upstairs, I am a big believer in Nature and the Mystery of Life and all the things in between. For this Chapel I wanted to capture the mystery and spirituality of Nature, yet at the same time borrow from Renaissance imagery which is almost part-and-parcel of any Madonna imagery. And so I designed a space for the mother Madonna and her Child figure to rest that was partly architectural and part nature. To channel some esoteric mysticism, I borrowed Classical columns from the Tarot Card "The High Priestess". I brought in the mystery and awe of nature by using the mountains that form a backdrop to Noordhoek and the home that the Chapel was installed in. Lastly, the flowers that grow between the background and the architectural space are elements remembered from a second-year UCT Art History lesson called Sacred Art.
The old Chapel had an existing Madonna and Child figure that resembled Lot's wife more than the Mother of the Son of God and so I suggested that it be replaced with something that felt contemporary and fresh - yet still timeless. I have known Olivié Keck and her ceramic work for awhile now and have always used the word 'serene' to describe it. Its quite extraordinary that an immobile lump of manipulated earth can evoke such feelings and I thought that Olivié would be perfect to create the totemic female power figure. The client generously agreed to the suggestion and signed off on Olivié;s proposal immediately. The Madonna is not just the central part of the Chapel itself, but the reason the whole Chapel is so successful. Using the same material as her surrounding space, she exudes a quiet peace and joy that you feel every time you look upon her graceful face. Her child plays off her mood with their light touches of gold, they complete the Chapel perfectly.
Beneath the Chapel is a space painted with an Indian-style portal that is filled with an urn of flowers and fruit. The reason that this was painted as such is personal to the owners and cannot be elaborated on this website. Needless to say its a very special part of the commission and has deeper meaning.
The chapel was blessed, purely by chance, on February the second, 2018 - the day in the Christian Calendar where Jesus was taken to the Temple by his Mum to be blessed by the priests. This day is known as 'Chandeleur'...