Anton Brink shares his thoughts behind the The Blue Door, an installation artwork reflecting his relationship with his deceased father, André P Brink. This work is part of the solo-exhibition Unspoken/Stilswye currently on view at the Breytenbach Gallery in Wellington.
My most lasting childhood memory of my father is the sound of loud classical music and sporadic typing coming from behind his closed study door. This was what inspired this work, which I first conceived in 2007, around the time of the birth of my own first child. It remained a page of scribbled notes until after my father’s death in February 2015.
|• Ampie Coetzee oor die solo-uitstalling Unspoken/Stilswye|
All the components of this found object and assemblage work have some personal significance for me in the context of my relationship with my father. The door itself comes from my first house, which my parents helped my partner and me to buy. The soundtrack features Johannes Brahms’s Missa Canonica, the first movement of which, “Sanctus”, is particularly mentioned by my father in his letters to Ingrid Jonker (qv Vlam in die Sneeu). The sound of intermittent typewriting interrupts the music from time to time.
The two upper panels of the door have been turned into printers’ trays or shelves (appropriate for an author), and contain (clockwise from bottom left):
- A condom and a copy of Playboy: my father’s collection of Playboy and Penthouse to a great extent comprised my “sex education” when I was growing up. The Playboy in question is the September 1962 edition, the month and year of my birth.
- A fond photo of my father sitting with me at 3 or 4 months, and my old bath thermometer: bath time with him was a special event.
- Film and some oil paints he gave me many years ago, symbolising our shared interest in art and photography.
- Vlam in die sneeu, the intimate correspondence between my father and Ingrid Jonker in published form. This was a painful read for me: I was a few months old when this was happening, living in a tension-filled house with parents who were avoiding each other and the elephant in the room. The photograph is of a tedious Brink family gathering in Potchefstroom, mentioned with irritation and gloom by my father in his letters.
- His wedding to Marésa de Beer (his fourth) was attended with some misgiving and unspoken pain on the part of his children …
- ... and ended with her discovery of Viagra in his pocket after his return from a trip overseas.
- He spent several years in Paris in the 1960s, after he’d divorced my mother (and Salomé Louw, whom I knew nothing about until I was 12 years old and had to be told about the half-brother I never knew existed). He sent me postcards regularly, together with discs featuring pictures of Asterix characters (from Camembert cheese wrappers): these cards were very precious to me.
- The story “Die eerste dag op skool” (published in Mal, en ander stories), was written for and about me upon my first going to school in 1969. I remember the day well.
- Sandkastele was the first book of his that we collaborated on, with him commissioning me to produce artwork for the dustcover. In the end my artworks appeared on the covers of the Afrikaans, Dutch, French and Danish editions of the book. The photo is of me aged approximately five months at his bookshelves.
- He gave me his old watch, which I wore for many years in my teens.
- At my mother’s insistence, while he still lived in Grahamstown he would take me out once a week for some time together. We usually walked the hills around Grahamstown, which were covered in pine forest at the time. When I got a pellet gun, we started playing a game in which he would take bets on my being able to shoot down pine cones from the treetops. Hence – a pine cone and pellets ...
Photos: Tessa Louw