Review: City Secrets


Theo KeysThere’s something about a secret that sparks instant inquisitiveness. From pre-primary days we become attuned to the exquisite value of something that is known by only a chosen few. Cape Town has seen a recent spurt of ‘secret events’, many of them under the auspices of crowd-funding initiative, City Soiree. Drawingrooms, with illustrator Theodore Key, was perhaps the boldest one yet.

Screaming the words “one-night-only” and “secret venue”, the event had me hooked without a second thought. All that was given was that it was to be held in a private home in Oranjezicht, which frankly just added fuel to an already piqued curiosity. Once the event had been confirmed by the number of pledges being reached, guests were each sent a limited edition postcard featuring Theodore Key’s work… and the location of the exhibition. Walking up Breda Street, and on to Berkeley Street in Oranjezicht we found ourselves in a red bricked cul-de-sac, where a lovely Victorian house was lit up between towering trees.

Smiling faces welcomed us to the evening, and encouraged us to partake in some chocolate tasting, courtesy of CocoaFair, and to help ourselves to some wine in the kitchen. Thus settled, we made our way around the room, while the fireplace licked away the autumn chill.

Theodore Key is one very funny man. Giggles could be heard around the room, as people pointed out captions such as “Cat chasing bees not realising that he is allergic” and “Here’s a bear reassuring a man”. Key’s reinvention of animals, and their unlikely stories, gives them a human aspect that is reminiscent of superstar cartoonist Gary Larson, while his images of people have an almost Quentin Blake character.

A shimmy up the narrow staircase revealed more artworks. Key’s bigger watercolours (around R 5000 each) are quite different to his smaller illustrations (from R 400 unframed to about R 600 in a box frame), relying on the image itself to portray the story or the personality of the work, instead of a quirky caption or short explanation. Nonetheless they are equally eye-catching and entertaining, with the finest of details.

The Drawingrooms evening was a chance to meet the artist himself in an informal setting, and we quickly found that Key doesn’t take himself, or his work, too seriously – a breath of fresh air in creativity-saturated Cape Town. He draws things that make him laugh or things that give him a particular feeling, and through the medium of pen and ink and watercolours, he imbues his ideas with a vivid and quirky life.

Though the welcome had been warm, the home setting might have benefited from a little more ‘hosting’ – perhaps one or two more people on hand ready to chat to those not already a part of Cape Town’s somewhat daunting art scene. Nevertheless, the night was a great introduction to the humorous work of Theodore Key, and the clever Drawingrooms concept neatly underlines the immense creativity by which Capetonians are surrounded.


Naomi du Plessis

City Soiree’s Drawingrooms with Theodore Key took place on 21 May 2014.


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