One of South Africa’s most successful sculptors has taken his hand to garden creation to compliment his array of sculptures. The result is a breathtaking garden and expansive outdoor gallery of his monumental works with the Stellenbosch mountains as the backdrop.
Eight years in the making, the Dylan Lewis Sculpture Garden is a place of expansive vistas, scents and the sounds of nature, with tranquil groves, hidden paths and lush indigenous vegetation. The project began serendipitously in 2009 when Lewis hired an excavator on a whim and began shaping the contours of what would become the seven-hectare sculpture garden. Today, the artist continues to explore themes integral to his work in this serene landscape on the slopes of the Stellenbosch Mountain looking out over vineyards towards the ocean. Here, the notion of the untamed wilderness within the human psyche is expressed both in the sculptures and their positioning in the landscape.
Over 60 sculptures constituting a comprehensive record of Lewis’s full artistic development thus far have been carefully placed in harmony with the landscape: the human form, shamanic figures, monumental abstracted fragments and his iconic great cats. Along four kilometres of paths, one is led on a journey through different ‘rooms’, from the heather hills dominated by earthy male images to the meditative poplar grove with its sensual female torsos.
The garden focuses on indigenous species, particularly fynbos. Although planted to give year round colour, it peaks in July and August into September, when its many buchus and ericas are in fragrant flower. A large selection of ericas, particularly unusual varieties such as Erica verticillata, extinct in the wild, was sourced from Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden. The influence of the Japanese gardens and the Japanese wabi-sabi aesthetic is evident in the minimalist, sculptural design of this garden, its ellipses and curves, its sense of spirituality and acceptance of transience and imperfection.
There is nothing excessive here. All elements have been consciously placed. Dylan’s process of garden creation, like that of his sculpture, is intuitive. Clipped coleonema, Gymnosporia bachmannii, Diospyros whyteana and Buxus macowanii have been shaped into rounded mounds with a restraint that directs the focus onto the art.