Adele Van Heerden’s exhibition is a field trip revealing Johannesburg’s often forgotten beautiful side

By Edward Tsumele, CITYLIFE/ARTS Editor

She could have easily focused on the ugly side of the City of Gold, such as the crime and grime, focusing her gaze only the ugly side of the City of Gold. Factually that would be Okay as all these other ugly things are unfortunately part of this historic city, dating back to when Gold was discovered in 1886 on the reef.

But that would not be the whole story about this city as it would be a one story narrative.

Therefore Cape Town artist Adele Van Heerden, on a one month residency at David Krut Projects in deliberately decided to focus on telling Johannesburg’s other, often not so much told story of its beautiful landscapes.

In June/July 2021, van Heerden spent a month in residency at the David Krut Workshop, making prints and completing works in other media . Unlike many artists visiting the big smoke of Joburg, who produce work that focuses on the gridded, geometric and building-centric urban landscape of the city and the other ugly things, ,the artist sought an urban jungle of a different kind. As a self-proclaimed lover of “human-made spaces which work in symbiosis with greenery and plants” Johannesburg proved to be a feast for the artist’s imagination, especially because Joburg is often heralded as the largest man-made forest, and is also home to many a plant-filled nook and cranny and so a fileld trip began.

And it is important that someone who is not from this city has decided to look at Johannesburg from its lighter, beautiful side, instead of its darker ugly side, because so many stories have been told about how Johannesburg and its streets can be so ugly so as to be repulsive to would be visitors. Unfortunately this narrative is sometimes pushed by those who live in this city, feeding negative energy to those that maybe planning to come and give Johannesburg a chance, such as tourists, both from the other parts of South Africa, and those from overseas.  This last fact is important in light of the devastation visited by the global Covid-19 pandemic on the tourism sector. Van Heerden spent 9 months working on a body of work that now constitutes an exhibition at David Krut Projects Gallery in Parkwood, Johannesburg. This exhibition aptly titled Field Trip is a poignant portrayal of Johannesburg’s landscape, focusing on its green side, and there are many such green sides of Johannesburg as it has the distinction of being a home to the biggest man-made forest in the world, with a greet carpet of streets being part of its topography, covering mainly the northern suburbs of the city from Houghton to Sandton.

The artist has used ink and acrylic to recreate these green off shoots, specifically focusing on well known patches of green around the city. She has in an aesthetically  pleasing  way recreated  the green side of such places as Victoria Yards, a popular arts hub east of Johannesburg, that is mainly visited by both South Africans and overseas people because of its art studio spaces and the positive energy and ambience of its green off shoots, such as its well manicured gardens. Van Heerden has captured Victoria Yards with her ink and paint in a way that is amazing to view through the monotypes on display.

The  nterpretation of the now well visited The Wilds,  by Van Heerden is great. This green off shoot of Johannesburg that has been made popular by artist James Delaney, who over the years has rehabilitated this place, by simply volunteering to take care of it by for example, adding an art element to the suburban wildness, The Wilds in Houghton is, has been well captured by Van Heerden’s brush and paint, transforming this place into pieces of artworks that one can take home. These would definitely lighten up the mood in someone’s home as they are pleasing to look at and make one to think about all the beautiful parts of Johannesburg that we often take for granted during our busy lives. These monotypes will make you rethink on how you view your city, and hopefully make you more conscious about its beauty.

“Having been born and bred in Cape Town, coming to Johannesburg, I was impressed by the green parts of the city, its tree lined streets captured by attention. This is definitely unlike Cape Town where I grew up where we have Winter rains, making our winters wet. In contrast, Johannesburg in Winter is different.

So first of all I would take photographs of the landscape, and later in my studio look back on what Is on the photographs and start reimaging what these green parts of Johannesburg would look like from an artist’s paint perspective. Basically that is my art practice,” van Heerden said at the opening of Field Trip on Saturday, March 26, 2022.

The other pieces are mainly on Joubert Park in Johannesburg and its Green House  Project constituting a beautiful garden right in the inner city of Johannesburg. During her one month residency, the artist spent a lot of time investigating this inspiring project and produced some impressive pieces in the form of eye capturing monotypes that she produced in the David Krut Projects Workshop in collaboration with its in-house printmakers. In fact it is these monotypes that constitute the Field Trip exhibition.

Essentially what Field Trip is, is an exhibition of paintings, unique watercolour transfers and an edition hot-off-the-press by  Van Heerden and the printmaking team at David Krut Projects. Her unique way of drawing and painting on architectural drafting film produce images that have both graphic and ephemeral qualities. The use of film gives the impression of either early morning or late afternoon light. Van Heerden juxtaposes the natural world with human history, and is particularly interested in the interaction of botanical and natural elements with the urban, the architectural, the material culture of our society.

 “I was really impressed by the Joubert Park Green project simply because it is not something one could expect in such an area, but here it is,” Van Heerden told CITYLIFE/ARTS in an interview. She was referring to the hustle and bustle that constantly takes place around Joubert Park, a part of the city whose neighboourhood is mainly struggling working class residents of inner city Johannesburg flatland of Hillbrow and Johannesburg CBD. In fact the project is less than a kilomtre away from one of Johannesburg’s busiest taxi rank, Noord  Taxi Rank, and is adjacent to the Johannesburg Art Gallery.

.Field Trip is on at David  Krut Projects Gallery, 26 March 2022 – 23 April 2022, 151 Jan Smuts Avenue, Parkwood, Tel: 011 447 0627 Email:

Please share

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *