Public Art

 

Van hier tot daar, University of the Freestate, Bloemfontein, 2012

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Introduction

I have lately become even more acutely aware of the meanings and evocations located in the very materiality and processes embedded in the artwork. As opposed to the monolithic, 'closed' form of works in bronze, for instance, raw media such as earth, stones, mud, dust and plant matter to me suggest realities, associations and experiences that maybe could be aligned more strongly with an innate awareness of being from and belonging to the African soil. This impulse was fuelled by travels to immaculately clean, manicured and green countries such as Canada, Britain and Belgium in 2010. These sojourns evoked memories and thoughts experienced more than a decade ago, when after a trip to New York City (USA), I realised that my distinctive identity as an African male had become the most important thing to me as an artist. This identity suggests a strong relationship with the earth and the physical metaphors of the land surrounding me in my own country.

The personal, psychological and physical interaction with this particular material environment is difficult to express in words. The form of the sculpture becomes the paper and the material the words. It is an intuitive, sensuous yet also intellectual process during which a collaborative relationship of expression is entered into between myself and the medium with the aim to uncover the seductive 'voice' of the material and to find the most appropriate form for the material it can hold and convey. I experience and claim the raw material as acquaintance, family and as belonging to me, and as representing the fabric of my identity. These dimensions of the material I have been exploring by way of the fragmentation of media such as layered slate, stone mixed with soil and grass, and multi-dimensional works composed of diametrically opposed materials, combining bronze and stone, for instance.

Van Hier tot Daar.

I stacked my first sculptures in slate titled Homage to Hermes and Hier in 2008. In humankind's history, the process of stacking stone was the very first method used to create an object or mark a place of significance in three dimensions. I have an affinity to simple processes with long histories. The material in itself has no value other than its intrinsic value; once the composition has been created it becomes a kind of 'collective' with meaning. The importance of the idea of a collective is something that relates to my identity as a South African growing up in a multicultural, and that this very understanding is something worthwhile to be shared. The concept of collective I started working with in 2006 during a solo exhibition I had at the University of Johannesburg entitled Deduct. Over the last few years I have decided that a personal truth derived from my own environment and expressed with materials from my own surroundings should be of greater value in artmaking – 'art' in the sense as understood by Colin Renfrew who describes it in Figuring it out (2003) as 'the massive uncoordinated research project'.

For the Free State campus I am proposing a head that is fourteen times larger than life (Michael Angelo's David Statue is three times larger than life size). It will be three meters in height, stacked in Marico slate. The portrait is generic and unspecific because I use almost every one of the twenty people from my studio as reference. The generic portrait functions as a container of a timeline. One of the points of departure for the specific sculpture is a traditional sculpture made by our northern Mozambique neighbours, the Makonde. They are well known for their helmeted masks or Lipico and are the only tribe on the east of the continent that sculpts in a naturalistic style. In African tradition the mask is often used as a medium to communicate with ancestors through ceremony.

Although the sculpture I am proposing is anything but masklike, it does relate in reference to 'ancestors' by indicating the human race's time lines and evolutionary development through the layering of different materials such as raw glass or metal between stone. Being without a plinth and stacked from ground level, the proposed work is monumental in scale but humble and grounded. Whilst visually representing the magnificence of the histories of human development by way of the imposing scale (the 'big' picture, a 'big' sculpture), minute and detailed facets simultaneously form the complement thereof referencing the ordinary and 'small' occurrences in everyday life.

 

 

 

 

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