Monday, November 22, 2010

Video of the Lilian Road Studio Show

Have a look at the studio show video we made on 20 November.  There was a fantastic turnout, and the weather was warm and sunny so we hung out on the balcony, where the kids drew with sidewalk chalk.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Cityscape with Memories

This commission is going to live in Australia.  The people wanted an amalgam view of Johannesburg so I combined three perspectives and then overlaid local figures.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Inside Joburg, the book

Nechama Brodie's new book Inside Joburg: 101 things to see and do has a feature on my work in the "What to Buy" section -- thanks, Nechama!

Her text reads:

There is also a handful of established artists working outside the conventional gallery/curator structure.  One of Joburg's most interesting (and affordable) emerging talents is painter Hermann Niebuhr (, who has exhibited several series exploring Joburg's city spaces -- from empty lobbies in Hillbrow apartment blocks to a recent show inspired by the city's disappearing mine dumps, exhibited at the AngloGold Ashanti gallery in Newtown.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Exhibition 14 August Casa Labia, Muizenberg

I'm happy to announce we've set the date for the exhibition opening at Casa Labia:  14 August 2010.

It will be a solo show.  I'm working on the paintings now.

From the Casa Labia website, about the venue:

Built in 1929 to reflect the spirit of 18th century Venice, Casa Labia is the former Muizenberg residence of Count and Countess Natale Labia.

Following a complete two-year restoration by the family, this much-loved national monument was re-opened to the public on 5 May 2010 as South Africa’s most exquisite multi-functional cultural centre and up-market venue; complete with modern art gallery, Africanova boutique and an Italian café.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Time Magazine Asks Me for Joburg Tips

How to Kick Back in the World Cup Cities is a feature Time Magazine is currently running.  They asked for suggestions from "prominent South Africans" and somehow I qualified. 

Here's my text.  Go to the site to see what the other people suggested one does in Cape Town, Durban, and Joburg when the games are not on.

38, artist

A brisk walk through the Wilds, one of our oldest parks, would be followed by quiche, cappuccino and the Mail & Guardian at the Service Station café, tel: (27-11) 726 1701, in Melville. After perusing the galleries on Jan Smuts Avenue, I'd head to my studio in Fordsburg for some painting and eat lunch at Shayona, tel: (27-11) 837 2407 — the best vegetarian Indian food in town. I'd work for a few more hours, then call up some friends and go for calamari and prawns at the Troyeville Hotel, tel: (27-11) 402 7709, my scruffy, friendly local, specializing in Mozambican cuisine (there are always takers for this outing). Last, I'd take the M2 highway — the scenic route — circling the city with its lit-up skyscrapers and mine dumps back home to my apartment in Killarney.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

New Joburg Painting, Stage Five - FInished!

After a two week hiatus in the Karoo, I came back home and finished this painting.  It's hanging on the wall in our flat and my wife said she wished we could keep it!  It's 1m x 1.5m, nice and big. 

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

New Joburg Painting, Stage Four

I've worked on the buildings a lot and now I've also laid in the sky.  The painting takes on much more of a 3-D look.

Monday, April 26, 2010

New Joburg Painting, Stage Three continued

In these blog entries, I'm documenting the process of painting a complex cityscape, step by step.

Plugging away, still on stage three, in which the buildings in the foreground come to life one by one.  Next I'll work on the sky.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

New Joburg Painting, Stage Three

In Stage Three, I pick out surfaces of different buildings and paint them in their right shades.  This stage takes a long time, as you can imagine.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Inspirational Film

Last night I attended this pre-screening.  I know the director, Tim Greene, and he is using some of my paintings in a later episode of this series.

The showing was held atop the arts building in Braamfontein, the one shaped like a flying saucer.  There was a great turnout, and I loved the film.  The team (it's produced by Curious Pictures) put together a wonderful combination of images and sound in this first episode, on the Karoo.  They used paintings by my old colleague Ben Coutavidis, as well, which evoked the landscape beautifully.

I enjoyed meeting Johnny Clegg and didn't hesitate to ask him, based on the inspiration of the programme we'd just seen, "What work are you doing to take this country forward?"  He responded positively to my question, as did Ivan Vladislavic who was attending.  I was fired up by the film and ready to commit to making South Africa what it can be.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

New Joburg painting, stage two

I'm in stage two of this Joburg skyline painting.  Stage one was drawing in the black and white outlines of all the buildings, and now I'm working on the shading and contouring.

This is a commission for an executive who is moving to New York and will miss his Joburg.

I took the shot from the Carlton Centre, our tallest building (usually cited as the tallest building in Africa).  In the far distance, on the horizon, you can see the Brixton Tower.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Painting in The Joburg Guidebook

My friend Nechama Brodie is the author/editor of The Joburg Book, published in 2009.  It's an informative and well-written collection of history and geography, and I've enjoyed reading it.

Now she has been tasked to transform The Joburg Book into a handy guide for visitors.  She tells me it's nearly finished.

In turn, she asked me to provide an image for the new guidebook.  I sent her one painting, and we'll see what happens next.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Joburg with Bridge and Figures

I must say I really like this recent commission.  It has a "fun" feel but also a sense of dignity.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Tin Ned

This is my dog, Ned.  He has starred in many previous artworks, mostly paintings.  Now he has been immortalized in metal.  I took a drawing of Ned and had it made up in laser-cut metal as a commission for a veterinarian's office.  This is a miniature version of the one the vet used.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Panorama Tondos

These two tondos are the long-distance views of Joburg's central business district. 

The four pieces (with the two close-ups from yesterday's post) will hang in the entrance foyer of a corporate headquarters.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Downtown Tondos

This is what I've been working on, in between my new parenting duties.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Gallo House

Sometimes it's a single building that catches my eye.  This beauty, called Gallo House, sits in the centre of Joburg near the Fashion District.  I liked its Art Deco lines and the way it responds to the light.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Jeppe Overpass

I'm always seeking out new ways to look at Joburg.  It's a city that can be viewed from many directions.  Lately I've concentrated on the "bird's eye view":  not straight down, but at a flattering angle.  Joburg's geometry continues to fascinate me.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Langermann's Kop

I used to live near Langermann's Kop, a rocky ridge in "the heartbreak East" of Joburg.  The view of the skyline is fantastic, particularly at sunset.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010


I loved visitng New York in September, and then a few days ago I found this painting of Joburg I made a while ago that reminds me of New York.  Our metropolis Joburg is the Gotham of Africa.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Dekat Article by Carina van Heerden

I was featured in an article in the most recent Dekat magazine.  While the reporters interviewed me, I took them up onto the mine dumps and helped them choose vantage points from which to take photographs. They also published a number of my paintings from the mine series.

Here is an excerpt from the article, and you can read the full text after the jump:
“Without the gold mines Johannesburg would not have
been here, and the mine dumps are what’s left of that
era,” says Hermann. “That’s why the mine dumps are so
specifically ‘Johannesburg’: they are handmade and iconic
and they represent the reasons why we’re here.”

For the past 10 years, Hermann has been portraying
Johannesburg’s growth, decline and flow in his paintings
– from lights flashing past on the highway to picture-perfect
panoramas at sunset. His latest exhibition titled Mine is a
documentary of the mine dumps, from Randfontein on the
West Rand to Boksburg on the East Rand. In the middle
is the Top Star drive-in, also portrayed in Hermann’s
paintings, and so we set out to visit this legend out there on
the Johannesburg horizon.
The well-known, sky-high Ster-Kinekor screen still sits on
top of the mine dump next to Simmonds Street South, while
Johannesburg in all its glory buzzes in the background. “To
open a drive-in here was an absolute stroke of genius,”
Hermann tells us, squinting slightly against the bright sunlight.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Oxford Road Overpass

This is the piece I contributed to the 'on the rhodes' show opening tonight at These Four Walls fine art gallery in Observatory, Cape Town.

I painted it in homage to Edward Hopper's 1946 work Approaching a City:

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Rhodes Group Show opening 5 Feb 2010

The fine art gallery These Four Walls at 169 Lower Main Road in Observatory, Cape Town, opens a show tomorrow night of work by Rhodes University art graduates.  I contributed one piece depicting a highway overpass (I'll try to post a photo).

From the gallery's website:

on the rhodes
05 Feb 10 - 27 Feb 10

Some two decades on, this exhibition gathers together a generation of artists schooled in the Department of Fine Art at Grahamstown's Rhode's University in the late 1980's and early 1990's. From that common ground in the small frontier city at the end of apartheid have led various roads followed by these diverse artists, some very well known, others less so.

'on the rhodes' provides an opportunity for reflection and retrospect, a celebration of shared skills and outlooks, but most of all it suggests the exciting destinations still promised by those early trajectories. It is a timely show and ironically fitting that these once-Grahamstown artists now living all over the world should reconvene momentarily in Cape Town.

Artists exhibiting are Cathy Layzell, Anthony Strack, Benjamin Coutouvidis, Hermann Niebuhr, Diana Page, Jane Henderson, Jeremy Franklin, Larissa Hollis, Bretan Ann Moolman, Cindy Britz, Mary Visser, Janet Anderson, Tom Gubb, Ian Garrett, Carl Becker, Kerri Evans, Richard Mather- Pike, Carl Schonland, John Hodgkiss, Mary Slater.

169 Lower Main Rd

tel: +27 (0)21 447 7393
cell: +27 (0)79 302 8073

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Interview on Radio Today by Joburg heritage maven Flo Bird

I was interviewed on 1 December 2009 by Flo Bird, whose programme Heritage Today runs on the station Radio Today.  Here is the transcript:

Flo:  Now today I'm speaking to someone who has great and colourful meaning for us all, for all Joburg people, and that's Hermann Niebuhr, who has just opened an exhibition at the Anglo Gold Ashanti Gallery in Turbine Hall.  It's called "mine."  It has a double meaning, but it's about the mine dumps.  Welcome!

Hermann:  Good morning!  Thank you, Flo, and good morning to all your listeners.  It's a great pleasure to be here.  Just as you were talking about the Rissik Street Post Office [in the previous segment, about the historic building that burned down in the city centre and whether it would be restored or not], I sort of took my cue with the work I do, which is documenting Johannesburg, I took my cue from a line, and I can't remember exactly where it comes from, that "Johannesburg is a city that doesn't remember itself."

And it sort of struck me, like, "What's going on here?" that there's no books on Joburg, you know, you go to Cape Town and there are a gajillion coffee table books available in every bookstore.

Until Nechama [Brodie]'s The Joburg Book came along, there was to me a real lack of memorialising the city, celebrating the city, and documenting the city, in fact.  I know there were people doing stuff, there was stuff going on, but generally in the mainstream there just seemed to me to be a lack of it, and I was struck by that, you know -- the greatest city in Africa, effectively.  And we're not remembering it.

The work you're doing, and the work The Joburg Book is doing, and hopefully some of the work I'm doing and other people are doing is to elevate the city. I mean, we're going to have several visitors here next year [for the 2010 World Cup]...

Flo: We do hope for a little more than that!

Hermann:  Exactly!  And we've got a great city here.  Anyway, so my journey of documenting the city, of looking at it -- this is the third part of an exhibition trilogy of work I've done around Joburg, this one being the mine dumps. 

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Interview by Fred de Vries

Fred de Vries is a well-known journalist who lives in Johannesburg. He writes for South African and Dutch publications.

This interview comes from his book The Fred de Vries Interviews: From Abdullah to Zille (2008, Wits University Press), a collection of 39 interviews with South African artists, writers, musicians, and thinkers.

Hermann Niebuhr
Fordsburg, Johannesburg, April 2007

Neon lights, dodgy characters, gunshots, the smell of junk food, traces of piss and vomit. Hillbrow doesn't seem the most alluring part of town to explore at night. And certainly not the place to get out of your car and take photographs of lobbies of dilapidated apartment buildings. But that's exactly what Joburg artist Hermann Niebuhr has been doing for the last two months. Those lobbies, devoid of physical human presence, form the basis of a new set of paintings.

"There are parts of Hillbrow where you keep the camera down, because they shoot back, ha ha," says Niebuhr in his studio in Fordsburg. On a more serious note he adds, "When I first started driving around Hillbrow, it was like yeeakgrrrrrr. Then, phase two, I stopped the car and took a picture. By phase ten you get out of the car and you're fine. And you realise you're unpacking a whole lot of your own crap. I'm not saying: wear a Rolex and walk around Hillbrow. Don't be stupid. But you can get out of your car. Nothing has ever happened to me. I walk into those lobbies and say: 'Hi, I'm here to take pictures.' Sometimes they chase me away, sometimes they say it's fine."

Niebuhr's latest project is the logical follow-up to his 2005 exhibition Night Ride Home, which encapsulated the nightly journeys from his studio to his house in Kensignton. It resulted in a beautiful, almost dreamlike overview at the Absa Gallery, full of blurred visions and shattered lights, a kind of Edward Hopper for the twenty-first century.

The new paintings seem to go even deeper. "As your language develops, you're able to describe more authentically the things that you can see," says Niebuhr. "That's what I'm doing now. I go into the buildings. And once you're inside them, they still carry the knowledge from when you first saw them and thought: oh my God."

Both projects form part of his exploration of the state of the city. They lead us to pertinent questions about our aims, ideals and sense of belonging. Is Joburg a failed project or a success? Why are we so scared? Is this fear justified?

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Second Hands

I was looking through art books I had picked up at second hand shops, and it occurred to me to focus on the hands from classical works. I selected 25 of the most beautiful hands from Titian and other masters, and painted them onto one canvas.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Corot's mine

This painting from my recent exhibition mine is called "Corot's mine."

Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot was a French landscape painter (1796-1875). He is the leading figure of the Barbizon School of painting and became as well known for his portrayals of human figures as for his plein-air (working outside the studio) landscape paintings.

The woman in my painting is a direct reference to Corot's reclining nude, but I have placed her in front of a Johannesburg mine dump. The dark brown "roots" of paint trickle from the landscape over the human figure.

"Corot's mine" is both homage to this master and a merging of the current-day man-made, toxic scenery with the tradition of 19th century landscape painting.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Artist's Residency in Brazil

I've just been accepted to an Artist's Residency programme in Sao Paulo, Brazil. We'll be there from 15 August until 15 November 2010.

The programme is run by the Foundation Armando Alvares Penteado, or FAAP. It's attached to a university with an art department, and I'll be giving lectures as well as having dedicated studio time in a beautiful 1920s building in the center of the megalopolis.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010


"Collateral" - oil on canvas, by Hermann Niebuhr.

For the story behind the painting ...

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