Kurt Pio at SMITH

WORDS Malibongwe Tyilo


When we first featured Kurt Pio back in December 2006, it was his botanical paintings that caught our attention.

Inspired by the indigenous life around him and excited about the country, he told us back then, “It’s as if South Africans are allowing themselves to look at their own beauty and the immense beauty of their country again, without feeling guilty about their past. We’re allowing ourselves to be proud and feel infatuated with what we see. Which is why the present climate is perfect for South African-themed art.”

Fast-forward eight years later and Kurt has done a whole lot more creative exploration, which has included murals, portraiture, a particularly popular series of graphic paintings inspired by faceted diamonds, and a millinery business. On 24 February 2015, Cape Town’s newest gallery space, SMITH, will open with a Kurt Pio solo exhibition that takes its inspiration from the city he calls home.

“Cape Town always pops up on these top ten lists, and it tops a few, but it’s easy to forget how beautiful it is when you live here,” explains Kurt. “So I developed an interest in other people’s experiences of Cape Town, which led me to the #ilovecapetown hash tag on Instagram.”

Inspired by the images, Kurt repurposed them into paintings, which will form part of his new exhibition, titled Cape Town. I asked them if I could use their images and they were thrilled. In fact, some of them will be attending,” he adds. These images are just one element of an exhibition that seeks to materialise Cape Town as the globally recognised destination that it is through a variety of artworks.

Other pieces that are bound to catch the attention of the city’s art lovers are his reinterpretations of the universally recognizable “I (heart) NY” image often seen on tourist tees. “I know the ‘I (heart) CT’ version has been done on tees, but I have translated it into prints, with colours inspired by different areas in Cape Town. For example you’ll find the Bo-kaap inspired one in magenta and turquoise like the homes in the area, Clifton in yellow, granadilla and granite, and Kloof street with a bit of gold,” he explains.

Alongside other Cape Town themed works, the exhibition will also continue to explore his fascination with minerals and objects of desire through new paintings of gemstones. While Kurt has moved on from the flora that initially caught our attention nearly a decade ago, we are even more excited to see him still finding inspiration in his surroundings, reminding us as he did in 2006, to allow “ourselves to be proud and feel infatuated with what we see.”

Kurt Pio’s solo exhibition will run from 25 February until 25 March at SMITH on 56 Church Street, Cape Town. For more information, visit smithstudio.co.za or kurtpio.co.za.