The artist at home

Artist Richard Scott in the studio in his basement. (Photograph: Jan-Lucas de Vos.)

Bright, bold colours, simple line drawing and a mischievous, sometimes downright rude sense of humour characterise Richard Scott’s work. But, as I found out on a visit to his home, there are even more colours on the artist’s palette than originally expected.

STEP through the massive front door into artist Richard Scott’s home in Melkbosstrand on the north-western fringe of Cape Town and the first thing you see is a red Ducati 999.

If, like me, you (almost) endure the hardship of sharing your life with a biker or two, the plonking of a superbike in the hallway of a multi-million rand house probably won’t surprise you. But Scott is not a biker and the Ducati, though fully operational, is neither transport nor toy: it’s an art piece due to be mounted on a wall in his seven-year-old son, Richie’s bedroom.

“It’s a 2002 model,” explains Scott, responding to my elevated eyebrows. “That’s the year of Richie’s birth. It’s one of (South African-born motorcycle designer) Pierre Terblanche’s. What better creation to hang in a boy’s bedroom?”

One might argue that the artist’s own popular Toy Series of brilliantly coloured aeroplanes, trains and cars would serve just as well, as would Scott’s Cat and As The Pig Jumped Over The Moon series. But, although a few of his paintings illuminate the walls of the spacious seaside home, the artist’s work does not dominate the family domain. Even so, the Richard Scott signature – “simple, pure, colourful and unique” – is unambiguously all around.

“We wanted to create a home with large, open spaces that flow easily into one another, letting in as much pure light as possible and providing big canvases for large, simple blocks colour,” he says.

Scott and his wife, Salomien bought the property two years ago, having elected to raise their family – Richie has a three-year-old sister, Angelina – in Melkbosstrand because it is relatively crime-free, has boundless access to the rolling white waves of the Atlantic Ocean, and boasts panoramic views of Table Mountain.

They all but demolished the existing house and enlisted architect, Peter Muller to design a new five-bedroom, three-storey home that makes the most of the beachside setting and enables Scott to create the “X-factor” dwelling of his dreams with a miscellany of textures, forms, finishes and colours.

“The idea is that, in addition to being the perfect place for us as a family, it should feature some unique and unexpected extras, which make it distinctive and also valuable in terms of investment,” explains Scott, pointing to a standard light switch that will be transformed into a stylish, light touch, state-of-the-art toggle when a range of equipment is delivered from Europe.

Among the “unique and unexpected” items in the home are a fireman’s pole, climbing walls and an industrial-strength hoist with a safety harness for the children’s entertainment in the playroom.

A perforated metal window in the wooden floor above provides a porthole into the wine cellar and the small Workman’s Bench in the dining room features a pair of workman’s boots as supports.

The first painting ever sold by Scott, entitled Two Trees In A Field Of Sky, is mounted on face-brick wall above an ancient school desk. (He recently bought the painting back from the original collector for R30 000, having sold it in 2001 for R300.)

An enormous Paul du Toit creation (a recent birthday present from Salomien) practically covers a wall beyond the kitchen.

A row of well-used shovels – remnants of the early stages of the building of the house – adorn a smooth, neutral-toned wall in a small, cool room, adjacent to the wine cellar, that Scott devotes to “private rumination and reflection time”.

The house is a labour of the love of art. For two years, Scott and his “right-hand handyman”, builder and aspiring artist, Rodriguez Pombeiro and a couple of workmen have laid bricks, set pipes, plastered walls and created art on site.

Pombeiro’s Hog sculpture – a pig-like/dog-like structure made from aged bits of motorbike – guards an extensive deck with views across the beach. His are the hands that crafted the Workman’s Bench. Pombeiro is also responsible for the intricately arty, yet wholly purposeful steel winch and frame that will hold the Ducati on little Richie’s wall.

“It has been an exciting and rewarding process of learning and creating,” says Scott, who has been tagged “the Prince of Neo Pop Art”, a “voice of artistic reason”, a “master in marketing” and an “entrepreneurial genius”. “I have learned a great deal about creating a space that combines my family’s practical requirements, the essentials of building an investment and my passion for art.”

But the house in Melkbosstrand is just the beginning for this IT entrepreneur-turned-artist. In his studio on the ground floor, Scott shows me a large sheet of paper. On it, he’s drawn a convoluted mind map. A multitude of circles, lines and words crowd the page. His ideas and ambitions are as plentiful as the vibrant array of paintings that surrounds us.

“One day,” he explains, “the Richard Scott Foundation will establish seven art hubs in seven different countries around the world. The first will be built in a R-shape, the second an I-shape, the third a C-shape and so on. The merchandise we produce as a spin-off of my art will fund the foundation and the brand will proliferate. This house is just another brick in the wall of the legacy I plan to build.”

As I step out of the massive front door of Scott’s home in Melkbosstrand, it occurs to me that the Ducati in the hallway is the least remarkable thing in the house.

For more information on Richard Scott and his work, go to http://www.worldart.co.za or telephone 021 423 3075.

(This article first appeared in the Sunday Life section of the Sunday Independent in February 2010. Photographs by Jan-Lucas de Vos.)

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Freelance writer based in Hout Bay near Cape Town in South Africa.
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