The naked truth about a Kloof Street bar regular - Cape Town artist paints her drinking buddy

30 September 2016 - 13:23 By Roxanne Henderson
subscribe Just R20 for the first month. Support independent journalism by subscribing to our digital news package.
Subscribe now
Image: Worldart Gallery

Boy meets girl in a bar. Boy becomes girl's drinking buddy. Girl gets him naked and paints him.

That pretty much sums up how Catherine Ocholla's “Late night‚ early morning” series of paintings‚ to go on exhibition in Cape Town‚ came to be.

The Kenyan-born artist‚ 32‚ sat throughout the night and painted nude portraits of her pal at the local watering hole they both frequent.

TMG Digital caught up with Ocholla and asked her about it...

What the name of the bar?

“Mixa's. The restaurant has been there for 15 years. Some of the regulars that I started painting last year‚ some of those people are there like it's their lounge.

“I live in the area and it's the best place to go if you go up or down Kloof Street. So I met a lot of people there.”

Who is the man?

“The man's name in Alan Bowen. He was a freelance journalist at Media24.”

Why did you choose him?

“We met at the restaurant. It's my local watering hole. He used to be one of the regulars there.

“We just used to hang out and he was kind of quiet. But he was very intense and he did have a bit of a troubled air about him. He was a little bit of a loner‚ I guess. He didn't really engage much with people. Everyone knew him.

“He had a routine. He would just come in‚ in the evenings‚ and drink. He had a specific routine every day that he would follow.

“He was a very intense person and he was very mysterious in that lonesomeness. He's a great guy to know.”

Why is he nude?

“In the regular community‚ that hangs out together‚ the bar is like a bit of a church‚ or a confessional or even a community centre sometimes.

“I think in the regular community everybody knows everyone's business. Everyone is kind of naked in front of the people that know all of your goings on. Everybody knows who you've been together with or broken up with. For me I think we are stripped bare.

“In Alan's case it's different because he was an enigma and in his nudity he's actually the opposite. He stays mysterious.

“It's a series of eight different paintings. I discovered that in each case‚ with him being stripped bare like this‚ it's almost like he has multiple personalities. In each one has a different attitude and feeling. It's almost like there's all these people in one person‚ just by changing the composition – up or down‚ left or right.”

Does he become bleary-eyed as you paint through the night?

“No‚ he does not... He's one of those stoic individuals who can drink and you would never know in what mood he was.

“That is what you would expect if I said I am going to be doing a series of a person in a bar‚ but actually he was drinking coffee that morning.

“Around him are all the remnants of the night before. All over the place there's all these bottles and chairs are upside down. There is that residue.”

What does the series of paintings say?

“It's about repetition‚ every single day‚ late night to early morning. It's about loneliness because he is completely stripped bare in an empty bar‚ seemingly sitting by himself.”

"Late night‚ early morning" will show at the Worldart Gallery in Cape Town from October 6 to 27.

- TMG Digital.

subscribe Just R20 for the first month. Support independent journalism by subscribing to our digital news package.
Subscribe now