Don’t miss out on the launch of The Owl House taking place at the Book Lounge on November 28th!!
THE OWL HOUSE is a visionary outsider art environment unlike any other.
Located in the small village of Nieu Bethesda in the isolated South African Karoo, what was once the childhood home of Helen Martins was transformed into a work of uncommon originality. During her lifetime, Helen was misunderstood and was widely regarded as being ‘crazy’. Living in seclusion on a meagre pension, she created the Owl House in the face of much adversity.
Lacking any formal art training and using materials readily at hand – recycled glass bottles, builders cement, mirrors and wire – she created what is now internationally regarded as an outsider art environment of outstanding interest. Assisted by helpers – chiefly Koos Malgas who under her supervision built many of the statues in her sculpture yard – she spent more than twenty-five years creating the Owl House, increasing the complexity and density of the work by a slow process of accretion. All the while living there, she transformed the house and yard into a symbolically rich world of wonder, infused with her quirky humour, personal yearnings and mystical insights. Today, the Owl House remains a powerful testimony to the triumph of perseverance and imagination.
ANNE GRAAFF is an artist and art historian. She has a special interest in women artists and their relative absence in art history discourse. It was this interest that first brought her to study the visionary artwork of Helen Martins in the 1980s, when the Owl House was still virtually unknown and Helen’s work unacknowledged. Through firsthand interviews with the assistants who worked alongside Helen, she was able to uncover the extraordinary story of the creation of the Owl House.