Poetry in the art of John Kramer









John Kramer’s evocative repertoire of paintings record the shops, corner cafés, bioscopes and general dealer stores of South African dorps and towns.

This formidable artist has captured onto canvas (over a forty-year career) the small, old buildings that are among the hallmarks of South African country life. Many have been replaced by branded chain-stores, or modernised or closed, so a view of Kramer’s works carries a certain pathos and lament.

Shadows, light, doors, gates, drapes, signs, advertising boards, shaded verandahs, peeling paint and bins make poetry.

The heat of the day, the colours burned by sun and the dry air juxtapose the invisible merchandise on the shelves inside.

Poetry is found in the signboards, among such words as Joko Tea, Coke, Boerewinkel, Slagtery, Kafee, Vrugte & Groente, Café Fast Foods, Haarkapper, Cash & Carry.

Sentiment is enticed by drawn blinds, by the paper stuck against windows of a closed-up store, by boarded-up doors and by old petrol pumps.

Meaning is sought, because Kramer’s streets are empty, with no people walking about, no shopping or purchasing being done. Even so we feel the richness, the character, the wealth of communication that these small stores once afforded and which some continue to give.

We know it is Sunday in each of these paintings – we hear the church bells ringing and are aware that people are going about their sabbath business.


Mr Ossher’s Trading Store
Grahamstown 1984

You can buy anything you want
in Mr Ossher’s Trading Store,
cotton on reels, bales of cloth,
beads, buckets, hats.
It’s dark inside
and the tailor sews the whole day long,
skirts and head cloths, aprons, bright shirts.
I like the smell –
dry goods, tobacco, soap, tea, new things, calico.
Mr Ossher is old already,
but he remembers everyone,
even the sons who go to the mines as boys
and come back men.
My mother keeps her money knotted inside her skirt,
counts out the coins on the counter,
there’s never enough.
She always sighs,
pushes something back across the counter,
maybe the soap,
till next time.
Outside it’s hot.
We stand in the shade.
Fried fish for sale,
nice pieces of meat cooked crisp.
My mother calls out to her friend
and they laugh together,
outside Mr Ossher’s Trading Store.
And I wait to be a woman, like her,
strong and with laughter,
to make the few coins do so much.

John Kramer  http://www.johnkramer.net/

Solo exhibition of new work by realist artist, John Kramer
Irma Stern Museum 6-27 September 2014 http://www.irmastern.co.za/exhibitions.htm






Mr Ossher’s Trading Store by Patricia Schonstein Pinnock
from Saturday in Africa
ISBN 978 1874915-05-08
African Sun Press Cape Town

5 Comments on “Poetry in the art of John Kramer”

  1. Nice, having a poetry reading alongside the painting exhibition. Thanks for sending the link to your blog. XXX.

  2. Beautiful. Those trading stores were a wonderful hub where people could connect and look for unexpected treasures.

    SO GOOD to hear from you! Hope you are well? Hope the book you are writing is going well?

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