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Celebrated artist Michael Chandler has been tasked with curating our art collection at The Small

We get to know him a bit better.

Michael Chandler was born in East London in 1985. As a child Michael had a keen interest in drawing, nature, reading and with a vivid imagination to boot. Michael achieved a BA at UCT. It was during his Honours year of Art History studies that he started working at Sothebys & Co, a fine and decorative art auction house. After a year spent cataloguing furniture, paintings, ceramics and silver, Michael worked for Everard Gallery and for the Cape-Dutch dealer Deon Viljoen where he brushed up on contemporary art as well as decorative arts made in Europe, Java and everywhere in between. Michael returned to the auction world for a few years as a furniture specialist before launching ‘Chandler House’, which allowed him to pursue his wide interests in antiques, art and design. Since opening the doors to his store, gallery and more recently studio, Michael has exhibited work in the South African National Gallery, collaborated with Mr Price on whimsical homeware, was the chosen artist for the 2017 Nederburg Wine Auction, did a creative take-over of House & Leisure and more recently has created a stir with his colossal, hand-painted ceramic murals.

How did you come to curate The Small's latest art collection?

My relationship with The Small began when I was commissioned to create their hand-painted blue and white tiled bar. I have always kept in touch and have been a big admirer of the new vision of The Small and how it’s communicated to their audience. So when I was asked to come on board and hang work from our stable of artists at Chandler House, I was delighted. I look forward to hanging the rooms and public spaces thoughtfully and intentionally, with attractive pieces of original art.

Tell us more about your shop and some of the interesting things you're working on?

I began my little store seven years ago in a beautiful, old Cape-Georgian house situated in the heart of one of the oldest parts of Cape Town. We are still located in this magical building and have grown to rent more and more spaces within it. Chandler House now comprises of a gallery space in one of the front rooms, the Voorkamer Gallery, where exhibitions are hosted once a month. The other rooms are filled with more art, but accompanied with antiques, lighting, textiles, furniture, homeware and gifts. I do a lot of my own creative work upstairs in a studio. At the moment I am working on a hand-painted, tiled mural for a beautiful Cape Dutch house in Kommetjie. The panel will feature Hokusai-inspired waves, a bounty of fruit and flowers along with a few local birds that are found in the area.

What did you keep in mind when selecting the pieces to place in The Small?

I really wanted all the art works that are in one space to be cohesive and to tell a story. Hotels are notorious for having bad art on their walls—almost an afterthought, but I want my curation to be sensitive and considered. For example, I am hanging the more traditional genres of oil painting in the older, Victorian rooms; while the new chic and modern rooms that look out onto the pool will be filled with younger, more playful pieces.

Can you tell us about your favourite pieces and why you chose them?

I only have art in my store or gallery that I would hang in my own home, it’s much easier to sell something if you have conviction and passion! But if I had to choose my favourite pieces, they would have to be Patricia Fraser’s gentler monotypes which were inspired by time spent in Kerala, India. Other favourites include Shakil Solanki’s aqua-toned landscapes, the simple and optimistic still life works by Oliver Scarlin, Maree Louw’s sun-bleached photographs of cattle and another favourite would have to be Renee Rossouw’s collage work, which speaks so nicely to her huge wall tapestry that hangs in The Small’s restaurant.

From where do you get your drive and dedication from? Painting tiles looks like hard work!

I have always been ambitious and driven, but I think a near-death experience with meningitis last year really made me understand how precious life is. And as an artist, you have a lot you want to do, but you only get a certain amount of hours to fit it in. So you have to work harder to fit your work into the hours that we are given for this specific lifetime.

How do you harness your own creativity?

Discipline is very underrated, sometimes you just have to force yourself to sit down at your desk after a long day at the shop to create more work. It’s tiring and not always huge fun, but at the end those feelings dissipate and all that’s left is the work which lives on. And when you’re very inspired—it’s a lot easier to work late into the night, on weekends, and so on. I am deeply inspired by history, blue and white ceramic decoration, fynbos, Jungian symbols and the night’s sky.

What's next for Michael Chandler?

Next up is probably the most exciting thing I’ve done to date—my new house! I recently bought a tiny, dollhouse of a building in the Bo-Kaap. I plan to live in it forever, and so there is much planning, designing, crafting, painting, forging, stitching, gardening, imagining and playing that needs to happen. I hope that each square inch of the house will be a showcase of local craftsmanship and creativity as there are so many wonderful skills that we are in danger of losing. And on top of this, there are so many talented people in this town that deserve to have their work celebrated and exhibited. I hope that my home inspires others to employ local talent when they are designing their dream homes.

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