An exciting project in the Riebeek Valley will see a talented ex-convict from a disadvantaged background exhibit his exceptional clay artworks alongside renowned artists, as part of the annual Solo Studio art event.

Andries Dirks grew up in an impoverished environment in Riebeek Kasteel and discovered his love of sculpting as a child, forming figures and shapes from mud while playing along the river banks of the Riebeek Valley.

It was only many years later, when he was incarcerated in the Riebeek West Correctional Facility, that his artistic talent was noted during skills development programmes offered by the prison staff. Intermittent periods of incarceration, combined with attempting to hold down various part time jobs, have unfortunately prevented Dirks from making a full-time living from his exceptional skill.

Dirks’ clay masterpieces.

Now, in an exciting collaboration entitled “Clay”, Andries will be exhibiting and selling his work alongside some of the best-known artists in South Africa, thanks to an initiative conceptualised by Li Nepgen, an award winning artist who owns the Love Art Studio in Riebeek Kasteel, from where she practices her art and conducts classes.

Li first crossed paths with Andries in 2010 when he was sponsored by the Goedgedacht Trust to undergo ceramic classes with Li. He brought with him a sculpture which was produced from clay he had sourced from the local river banks. This has ultimately given rise to Li’s exciting idea which sees local Riebeek artists each being given a bucket of clay (sourced from one of the local farms in the valley) with which to produce an artwork for a group exhibition taking place during the Solo Studios event.

“The resident artists enthusiastically embraced the idea, although some of them have never worked with clay in their distinguished careers, let alone understand how the product will react in the intended traditional method of pit firing!” says Klaus Piprek, who is the organiser and overall driving force behind Solo Studios.

“The result will be that Andries Dirks will share a platform at Solo Studios with acclaimed artists such as Anton Momberg, Riaan van Zyl, Jenny Parsons, Leila Fanner, Gordon Williams, Ade Kipades and Li Nepgen. Solo Studios is an annual event in the Riebeek Valley that has firmly made a name for itself on the events calendar. This year it will be taking place from the 8th to the 11th of August,” explains Piprek.

“This bespoke art experience – now in its fourth year – provides a rare opportunity to visit acclaimed artists in their studios to view and purchase their art straight off the easel. Visitors to Solo Studios include esteemed art collectors, aficionados and interior decorators – providing a phenomenal opportunity to showcase the works of Andries Dirks and hopefully allow him to finally realize his ambition of becoming a ful- time artist,’ Piprek added.

More about Solo Studios – Intimate Art Encounters

The core of Solo Studios is the once-a-year opportunity to visit the artists in their personal workspaces. Here, the buyer can engage with the artists themselves, experience how their work is conceptualised and created, and buy art directly from the artist, “fresh off the easel”, so to speak. For the 2019 event, 18 resident artists have been selected as participants.

Besides the artists’ studios, one can expect a range of other activities and attractions, including six galleries or pop-up group exhibitions, engaging art related talks, guided walkabouts by renowned art aficionados, impromptu musical events and productions.

Because the event takes place largely within the homes and studios of the artists, access needs to be limited and controlled, and visitors are therefore strongly advised to pre-book to avoid disappointment. To book tickets visit For accommodation bookings, visit and for more information email [email protected] or call 074 209 6838.


Pictures: Supplied

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