Swansong – (noun) the last act or manifestation of someone or something.

Death seems to be about quite a bit at the moment: my mom passed on at the end of last year and 2016 had hardly begun when the great David Bowie,

David Bowie RIP


Alan Rickman (he of Slytherin House and Nakatomi Plaza fame)



as well as The Eagles’ founding member, Glenn Frey, popped off. The loss of a beloved celebrity is always unsettling as, much like losing a parent, one is suddenly starkly reminded of our past and how quickly time whizzes by. This very frightening speeding by of our lives was highlighted for me when a friend (what do you call someone who you are in the early stages of sort-of dating with? Crush?) recently took me to see Roxette’s 30th anniversary tour concert at the International Convention Centre here in Durban.

roxette tour


I was honestly astonished when I saw the tour poster outside. Good Lord! Thirty years! They have been around for 30 years! I have bopped to them in clubs and pubs, and even perved over the lead singer in their videos shown on large screens in sports bars over the years. Hell, when that “Pretty Woman” movie came out (you know the one, Cinderella re-imagined as a prostitute, don’t get me started!) with Julia Roberts and Richard Gere, their soundtrack song dominated the airwaves. Since 1986…wtf!! Where the hell did those 30 years go? I often want to grab my little foster daughter, Kayleigh, and look into her eyes and say “savour every moment, slow down and savour every moment. Trust me. Before you know it, it will be gone”!  She turns 21 next month! Man, it was just the other day that she was dressed like a princess fairy, sitting on my shoulders and holding onto my hair with her sticky little fingers. It passes in the blink of an eye!



That night at the concert was a vivid reminder of that fact. And this was not just because of the memories Roxette’s upbeat, often sentimental, bright, vibey pop tunes brought back… and there were a surprisingly large number of them which I had totally forgotten about but brought memories rushing back as I recognized them. It was also starkly evident on stage, those ravages of time. The most notably ravaged was Marie Fredriksson.

A fan site had this to say:

“Don’t wonder about Marie not walking, dancing and jumping around the stage – she simply can’t. She suffers from long term effects which include problems with her right leg (yes, it might be that she struggles with it and touches it all the time), she can’t see properly on her right eye and has problems hearing with her right ear. She has problems walking due to the effects the tumour had on her body.”

Yes, the ravages of time. As an Australian newspaper noted in a concert review:

“OK, let’s address the elephant in the room first thing. Roxette lead singer Marie Fredriksson is not well.”

In 2002, Marie Fredriksson, the voice and face of Roxette was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumour. After surgery and intensive treatment she had to relearn reading and writing. She remains blind in one eye.

I only found this out after the concert because the audience and I were acutely aware that she sat through the entire show, barely moving. Whilst singing she would sometimes falter and even fade away completely to be carried vocally by a support singer. There were, of course, also no close ups of her on the big screens. At the end of the concert she was helped off stage by the other part of the pop duo, Per .

Although not a huge fan of the band I really enjoyed the concert. It is phenomenal how these Nordic countries continue to produce bands that create such perfect pop music: Abba, Aha, Ace of Base and of course, Roxette. They amass huge fortunes writing and performing English pop music and are often the leading export product in their countries. Per is Picasso-wealthy and by that I mean he invests in art and OWNS A PICASSO! That is serious wealth. That is why (being a quite naturally inquisitive person) when I went online to find out the reasons for Marie’s uncharacteristic performance, I was seriously touched by the fact that they chose to see out what are in all likelihood her last years doing what they have always done: performing together. Good for them! If you are going to die do it doing what you love, and fighting until the very end. No feeling sorry for yourself!



There is a lesson in that for all of us.



The Artist and the Academic and Everything In-between


I went to a showing of Vincent van Gogh’s work on Saturday as part of the Exhibition on Screen series. As I have mentioned in a previous post, to see these great artworks displayed on an immense movie screen is quite sensational and something I certainly recommend! The showing was quite biopic in nature, highlighting the fact that Vincent was not some lunatic that painted in insane bursts of divine inspiration but was an educated man who grappled with the demands of being and artist, both on a technical and conceptual level. If anything they stressed the fact that painting is an arduous task hence the word artwork! The timing of the showing was quite serendipitous as only the day before I had completed 5 days of lecturing for the university I attend (my Masters) and by whom I am also employed.


Above: Cynthia, our model for figure studies

Below: a student’s work


This is a copy of the email I forwarded to my students this morning:

Hi students

To those who attended the past workshop. well done, and thank you for your enthusiastic participation! I am sure you will agree that it was well worth your time. To those who did not I am saddened that you could not. I realize that our lives are very demanding but if art is truly your calling then sacrifices are required. However, unlike very few other things your rewards will be a hundred-fold if you do make those sacrifices, and I know of what I speak, having gone through the same process myself as a past student.

The venue itself was very inspirational (a heritage site in its own right – the old beer hall). We had a live model for three days as study for drawing and painting exercises. We attended the opening of an exhibition at the City Hall in the Durban Art Gallery. We had amazing lectures from Lawrence, Yvette and Cate as well as the amazing Doung Anwar Jahangee, on his personal philosophy of an “architecture without walls” (http://www.dala.org.za/dala_people.html) and practising artist, Themba Shibase (http://www.hy-se-sy-se.com/paint-masculinity-power-and-violence-the-present-exhibition-by-themba-shibase). A truly stimulating, inspirational and intense week of art in every form.

OK, moving on: So your first assignments have been completed and assessed and you are now faced with a whole lot of new challenges due in August. To feel exhausted, overwhelmed and a little emotional at the moment is quite natural, I promise. Take a break, a short one. Catch up on all the things you have neglected while frantically making art: watch back-to-back episodes of Game of Thrones, spend time with family and friends, clean up your home/room/studio. Then get back on the horse! Start your processes again.

Finally, one can feel disheartened after a workshop and see only failure in the feedback received from the marking lecturers. Remember, however, that there are only more successful and less successful artworks not failures. The marking lecturers will have provided a lot of positive criticism and advice, learn from them. The critting process is not only a marking tool but also a teaching tool.


Above: the Beer Hall Gallery space

Below: my demonstration table


These workshops are seriously intense experiences and simultaneously seem to last an eternity and yet are over in the blink of an eye! They are almost-overwhelmingly stimulating, stressful and joyful, again all simultaneously!  To add to all of this, xenophobic attacks were taking place not a kilometre from us in the city centre, these arguably sparked by the Zulu king’s comments on foreigners in South Africa. At the height of these attacks in the city of Durban, when 4 people were killed, we were evacuated from the premises and sent home. The attacks were not unexpected and reveal a long-simmering tension between impoverished South Africans and entrepreneurial immigrants trying to make a living at a time when the unemployment rate is 25.5 percent. When I hear this reasoning I want to retch! What pathetic excuses we make for our behaviour; religion, politics, self-defence…any excuse will do. The fact is we are selfish, self-serving, self-involved parasites who consume and are of little value to this planet and this existence.


Above: satirical commentary by the artist, Zapiro

Humanity, what foul things we are! It is only art that reminds me that we as a species may have some sort of saving grace. I straddle these worlds of the artist (swany), the academic in the form of both lecturer and the student (Andrew Swanepoel) and then as inhabitant of Durban, South Africa (Andy) mired in my humanity.

Shakespeare’s Hamlet voices my disgust:

What a piece of work is a man, how noble in reason, how

infinite in faculties, in form and moving how express and

admirable, in action how like an angel, in apprehension how like

a god! the beauty of the world, the paragon of animals—and yet,

to me, what is this quintessence of dust? Man delights not me—

We are capable of so much, all that Hamlet lists, which makes the horror show that we are that more terrible. Perhaps it is this that Vincent saw in his terrible skies above dark fields of corn and sleeping towns and it was this vision which drove him to utter despair and finally to death, an abdication from the species which destroys such a beautiful world.


The Standards

If you picked up my ipod and looked at my playlist you might be convinced that I am a serious headbanger with a predilection for indi-rock and Goth bands, all dark and raging, emo and angsty. And yes I do like those genres of music but I have a wide range of tastes much like I do with my reading and art. My only criteria are that it be good as in heart-felt, well-constructed and well-presented. You will have my attention and respect then, and I will give you my time, and time is far more precious than most people realize.  Why the rock, and I mean rock, not pop with a couple of rock riffs that passes for rock these days? Well, I may have mentioned that I come from a real working class background: lots of blue collars and white trash around. Rusted cars in the yards of dope smoking, binge drinking, foul-mouthed and ill-mannered neighbours often living in houses provided to them by parastatal employers like the South African Railways. My parents had even poorer roots and were bikers, my father being the president of a motorcycle gang called the Roadrunners. Sadly it would be the bikes and the club that would result in his death at a really young age, leaving a 23 year old wife and two young children. I mention this in way of introducing the music we had in the house: rock. Elvis was king and ruled the house, and by Elvis I mean the stepping razor Elvis of the 50’s, not the portly Vegas singer. Elvis singing that dangerous blue grass, white trash, shotgun shack, steel string intoxicating music that we now recognize as the origins of rock. Lennon would famously say, “…before Elvis there was nothing”.


So, yes, we listened to rock: Elvis, Credence Clear Water Revival, The Rolling Stones; biker rock.  In my teens I loved Kiss, Queen, Lynrd Skynrd, Bad Company, Boston and then along came the British punk, New Wave and Goth movements of my late adolescence.  Enthralled by these new bands with new music who represented my generation rather than my parents’, I adopted their culture, styles and fashion. During my military national service and my Varsity years I followed bands like The Cult, The Cure and Bauhaus, and still love them. But I also like Classical music, for music does indeed sooth the savage beast, and I rage and rage, so I am in need of soothing. I am a man of many seasons and so my music has “seasonal flavours” which basically means my choice of music to listen to will depend on my mood.


OK, so how does this relate to standards or the standards? The standards are what one Michael Bublé refers to as his genre: traditional pop (also classic pop or pop standards) music which consists of Western (and particularly American) popular music that generally pre-dates the advent of rock and roll in the mid-1950s. Traditional/classic pop music is generally regarded as having existed between the mid-1940s and mid-1950s. You, dear reader, are going to think to yourself: “no, he doesn’t like THAT type of music”. But I do, I do! Thanks to the same Mr Bublé.  I went to see him perform last night (17/03/2015 – St. Paddy’s Day) at the Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban, South Africa. Michael Bublé has achieved global sales of 45 million albums in the course of his extraordinary decade long career. He is an under-the-radar phenomenon: a hit-making, ticket-selling powerhouse who has never become a household name. Backed by a full orchestral band he is a crowd-pleaser, humble, grateful and very, very funny…all this before he has even sung a note, a consummate performer. His earlier covers of Moondance, Feeling Good and Fever are my personal favourites and he performed them last night to my great joy.


So (as the publicity blurb put it) “imagine the setting. A tropical summer’s night in Durban, the stars are out. The glorious Moses Mabhida Stadium arch is lit up in all its glory, towering over a crowd waiting for an enigmatic crooner to set foot on the stage. Sound good? We thought so.”









Not quite! Tropical summer’s night, yes, stars, no! Just an absolute tropical deluge, and yet in that pouring rain his fans stayed and in that pouring rain the man performed!  He even came out into the crowd and sang a number of songs, getting his ass as soggy as ours. Very cool. As Michael said to us, “these are the nights that stand out, that you will remember for the rest of your lives, getting wet is a small price to pay”.



This is the second time I have seen him perform and I enjoyed it even more than the first time. I strongly urge you to attend one of his shows. They are so very enjoyable! Trust me on this. The man sets the standard.