Magnificent, mesmerising mural

Somerset West artist, Mike Chisin, in front of The Coffee Roasting Co at Lourensford Estate.
The large wall was transformed from an empty space, to reflect the serenity of the countryside.

Over the festive season, I took the beautiful drive up to Lourensford Estate along the flower-bedecked vineyards and orchards, to see local artist Mike Chisin, and chat about his latest mural adorning the huge wall inside The Coffee Roasting Co, and to catch up (having first met 20 years ago) over – in my case – a coffee and vanilla ice-cream (my firm favourite).

We first sat outside, surrounded by the spectacular indigenous garden – in full summer bloom – and Mike gave me some background about the project…

“Zita Rabek (of the Coffee Roasting Company) told me: ‘Please transform this space!’ – as the essential problem with the interior walls of the restaurant space was their cold and imposing nature which was not conducive to the creation of a feeling of intimacy and friendliness for customers,” Mike explained.

The venue had undergone a major transformation, and the very high ceilings tended to visually dwarf the interior, as well as adding echo to the acoustics.

Zita added: “Since expanding our shop in 2017, our major gripe was that windowless wall. We tried numerous ways of softening the blow, but due to the enormity of the surface area, everything had that cluttered look.

“In June I’d finally decided to get a massive wallpaper depicting table mountain and the sea. We were quite far down the road in the planning of this, when Mike popped in and casually suggested that this wall needed a mural.

“The risk of doing business with long-standing customers/friends is challenges at the best of times. When dealing with a consignment, this goes to the next level and I did have my reservations,” she said.

“Mike’s enthusiastic confidence was quite infectious, however and after he showed us some of this artwork, we decided to go for it. He read me like a book and painted exactly what I envisaged, with our theme being the marriage of our beautiful Helderberg basin with a hint of Tuscany.”

Mike continued: “The brief was to come up with a solution for these issues, while ensuring that a timeless, rustic quality, reminiscent of Tuscan scenes was imparted, and that the final concept was given a localised character, given the roastery’s situation in the scenic Helderberg basin,” said Mike.

A local multi-disciplinary artist, one will typically find Mike engrossed in a private or commercial commission, including film and stills sets, or working on his own body of artwork and sculpture.

To meet the brief, Mike worked with a combination of landscape and built environment as regards the painted elements… firstly, by locating the horizon line of the envisaged mural almost halfway down the walls, the effect of the height of the ceilings was much reduced.

The next challenge was to create a sense of flow between the interior and the mural in a way that was relaxing on the eyes and not overly detailed.

“This was achieved the through the perspective treatments brought into the landscape, secondly the low stone wall, and also the angles of the flagstones on the ground level,” he elaborated.

The two main corners of the space were softened and partly concealed by painting cypress trees there (with the added effect of downplaying the very obvious flue of the combustion stove).

This all contributed to a tranquil, bucolic setting, which has a visceral effect on those sitting inside, transporting them into the countryside that is both immediately identifiable as the Helderberg mountain range, but with elements of Tuscany.

Completing the picture, the door opening and metal door-frame were surrounded with painted stonework detail, to integrate them into the rest of the mural elements.

The light cast through woven light shades gave a slightly different dimension the walls and ceiling, and Mike said they add a sound-absorbing element that helps with the echoing.

“What added so much richness to the final result was the idea development process and discussions with Zita beforehand, as well as the hand done and highly dynamic nature of the two-week painting process.

“This was truly a case of working actively with the transformation of a space into something that worked for the restaurant, as well as being an attraction for visitors. And yes, we are proud of our mountain,” Mike said.

“All my reservations were gone the moment he started… from his punctuality, to his neatness whilst working, to the interactions he had with customers who were watching the artwork unfold, Mike was such a star and he endeared himself to everyone,” Zita concluded.

Mike can be contacted at 084 850 0347 or mikechisindesign@gmail.com