An average day in our contemporary social-connected society is filled with thousands of images, ideas, concepts. All secondhand info. All seen through filtered hand-held battery operated lenses.
Making art has always been a journey for me. Although sketches are made, plans scribbled on paper and maps drawn up with inklings of the destination, it is the problem solving and decisions taken on the way that give meaning to my endeavor.
Then the destination is reached…
This is the moment where the sculpture starts to converse on its own, the birth of an idea in a universal language.
I love imagination and finding the familiar in odd places. As a youngster I used to look up at the clouds and see all kinds of different things in them. What really amazed me was when your gaze left the clouds and returned a few seconds later how much of the previous illusion has changed, that the old man’s face now resembles a grinning crocodile…
Taking stock on my current trajectory I’m noticing myself still exploring these imaginative avenues. Is this not a truly human trait? The pure arrogance! To identify yourself in the detritus of the universe? Even on Mars we have found faces resembling our human identity and given nebulas names such as “Crab” and “Horse Head”. Are these not the places where we identify our gods, within the planets, the sun and the moon?
This must be a sign that we are conscious beings, that we have an imagination and are different to the “other animals” on this pale blue dot. Is this not the fertile ground which birthed our spiritual sensibilities?
Could this trait also be responsible for the basic narrative we call art? Seeing a likeliness of ourselves in a large rock or a tree must have given rise to spirituality, to religion. We are not separate but part of the larger picture. We are part of the universe!
Perception! The pinprick hole of our pupil sucks up all this electromagnetic radiation of the “visible” spectrum. These illusive particles and waves radiate from everything around us. How can this tiny hole in our eye reveal so much if only a tiny fragment of this radiated energy stimulates our perceptive nerves?
There is so much visual information and each individual has their own perspective. My sculptures are an attempt to discern this diversity of views. I am searching for a way to articulate through experience and immediacy that moment which gave rise to the origins of the inquisitive and conscious woman, child and man.
The lens metaphor has and still is the main prerogative to explore this notion of immediacy and individual perspectives of whom we are and our affinity to the world around us.
My sculptural exploits are reaching back to the dawn of man and how this narrative still affects us today, our human nature… with a glassy twist.
Look around you. Grids are everywhere. Even in nature grids appear. The structural lines of the veins on your hand, the folds and lines on your palm, they are everywhere like intersecting pathways.
A grid gives structure to space. Consisting of lines it separates planes into blocks. Lines are fundamental to the existence of a grid, but they must cross another. Some lines are longer others broader but it is this crossing of the lines that constitutes a grid.
Some grids are structured, mathematically and perpendicular. Take a map of the city or place you live in, look at these forever connecting lines which make up the roads, streets and borders of your environment.
Others seem random and organic such as the neurones and synapses in our brains or the ebb and flow in a mangrove swamp.
Ultimately these lines, wherever they find themselves, are connected.
An ongoing theme in my work has been the large optical crystal Grid Sculptures. A grid pattern is cut into the base of these large and heavy blocks, adding a rigid, formal, almost quantifiable structure into the narrative. Thereafter the flat sided cube is carved up, often with impulsively determined facets or, quite recently, with an underlying geometric structure. I allow these variants to manifest themselves.
The grid already determines rigidity and mathematical quantifiable value. These straight lines conform to an imposed intervention, something that is not quite from nature.
Then the carving starts. First with lines drawn onto the cube then with a saw to remove larger chunks. A rough diamond cup-disk is used thereafter to shape and hew the sculpture into desired curves and facets. It is with my hands, eyes and tools that the sculpture takes shape.
During the process which takes several days of meticulous and repetitive labour, scouring the surface with ever finer gritts, the interior emerges.
It is this magic of the hard transparent material I am after. The initial matt and rough cuts don’t tell me much of what light will do but it is towards the end of the process when, after an almost meditative sojourn the spirit of my endeavour emerges.
I am attempting to impose an organic distortion on the rigid structural set of rules, this predetermined grid we deal and often conform with. I am trying to find another way of seeing things.
The Silverstone Caricatures are new sculptures currently on show in my solo exhibition, “Air” at Art Lovers 1932.
I have been combining rocks, steel and glass for some time now, consciously giving each element a roll in the theatre of sculptural narrative.
The rock is solid, strong and ancient. It is a part of this silica crust we dwell on with a history exceeding even life, as we know it, by far. In this sense it is telling a story, informing the spectator of the randomness, nae, chaos the cosmos contains.
Lifting the stone and appropriating it for my intended use as an element in a larger story I contextualise the seemingly arbitrary thing that was lying around. I personally feel that the simplicity of this act reveals the power we as humans have, to terraform our environment to suit our desires. This thought echoes throughout human history, from primitive stone tools to modern architecture.
In my latest series of exploits, the “Silverstone Caricatures”, I take this concept even further. Completely covering the stones with silver spray paint I change their ancient history, scars, surface with immediate effect. It almost feels like sacrilege when I spray them… but then again large amounts of earth are torn up and pulverised every minute all over the world. Ironic?
Drilling holes has been part of my larger rock projects which I am continuing with these smaller sculptures. Inserting and bending steel rods I use structural logic to attach my lenses.
Metaphorically the lenses play the roll of sight, of seeing or observing. But, who is observing? Is it the painted rock looking at us or are we scrutinising the rock?
These individual lenses are the pivot point on which my concept hinges. They create the portal between both parties, initiating the narrative and conversation between both observers.
I intentionally use the phenomenon of pareidolia, eliciting a reaction of animating the inanimate, giving it “life” through interaction by the spectator.
It all sounds so serious but as a matter of fact I am having fun. I hope to instil the same emotion of quirkiness and childhood discovery through my sculptures for the spectator that I experience.
The Aether is a “classical” element. It is that unattainable stuff that our planet floats in and in which light used to propagate throughout the cosmos.
Aether is also the air of gods, the clear, fresh sky as in Greek mythology. It is the inexplicable Zeug between you and I which we can feel as a breeze caressing our cheeks, but yet cannot see, taste or physically grasp.
Aether has an air of ancient spirituality to it. The age of modern science and analytical experimental research has changed all that. Its etherial meaning has been quantified into joules, knots and wavelengths.
The Aether has been given quantifiable Substance.
This is a pretext in which I have been delving for the past several years, that cusp between science and art, between history and presence, the real and the surreal.
My work explores these aspects of the here and there, consciously wanting the spectator to partake in a first-hand experience through the optical media of glass, juxtaposing our contemporary trend of consuming second-hand information through the battery operated lenses in our hands. (…and maybe even offering an alternative window to the spiritual…)
There also is a trend in my work which refers directly to my personal environment. Living next to an informal settlement with ca. 3000 people housing in tin shacks I am influenced by the immediacy of making due with what one has. I am using parts in my sculptures found around my studio such as rocks, wire, steel and even off-cut shards of glass.
These seemingly worthless objects and materials are reappropriated, given new life. Intervening in each part of the sculpture; by polishing facets or cutting patterns in the glass; straightening steel wires; drilling holes into rocks; I am adding value to the banality of the object. Combining these individual elements I instil a narrative which conforms to my initial concept – the immediacy of experience within our everyday lives.
Each sculpture is an individual step in this visual journey I am on. They are small interventions to rekindle that Aha! moment we all so desperately hunt for, but rarely experience in this thicket of visual overload.
“Kuruvinda” is the title of my latest optical sculpture. The title of a work of art is always a very personal interpretation. It gives the new born creation a name to enter this world, to communicate it’s character or an abstract message from the maker.
“Kuruvinda” is the Sanskrit name for ruby which is the colour of the laminated sheet of hand made Murano sheet glass at its base. Why Sanskrit? No particular reason other than Kuruvinda being an unusual and exotic sounding name with cryptic references to my trade, its history and tools. Corundum, another name for ruby and a naturally found mineral is extremely hard, 9 on the Mohs scale of hardness whereas diamond is ten. It is used as an abrasive as it can scratch almost any other softer mineral. I use corundum wheels to decoratively cut my glass… and it has been used as such for millennia.
But then the work also needs to speak for itself. The title is merely a facet of the whole. As an artist you need to instil your personality and confidence into the intended work. The artwork becomes an extension of you, one aspect of the journey you are on.
Once the sculpture is “on stage” for an audience to critically engage with the spectacle it embodies, the story takes form. I link my work to many references, like instruments and voices in a musical ensemble, combining glass, light, stone, steel and sometimes wood in harmony; and sometimes also in disharmony. There are hints to my intentions but I very much enjoy an ambiguous narrative. This allows the spectator to experience the work on their own terms and diversifies its existence through their interpretations.
The nuances are always so subtle that it is almost impossible for everyone to see or experience my optical anomalies exactly the same way.
My sculptures could be likened to music for the eyes.
You are invited to attend the opening and exhibition of contemporary South African Glass Art titled:
Thresholds (in)between Glass curated by Thabang Monoa at Art It Is.
Opening: 04 February 2016 18:00 by Dr. Ingram Anderson.
Participating artists: Martli Jansen van Rensburg, Retief van Wyk, Mike Hyam, Liesl Roos, Iwan van Blerk, Ryan Manuel, Greg Miller, Lothar Böttcher, Thabang Monoa, Kgotso Pati, Pfunzo Sidogi, Rina Myburgh, Marileen van Wyk, Bongani Dlamini and Chonat Getz.
Art It Is – 011 447 9176 firstname.lastname@example.org
Lenses, almost a natural lineage of glass making when you approach your material as a cold worker, grinder and polisher. Refractive qualities of the polished surfaces bend and distort light which passes through this optical medium. These qualities are exactly what I am exploring in my current journey.
The lenses I am making are more than mere cold working processes or exercises. They are metaphors. Metaphors on the modern dilemma of information overload. Our modern anxious lifestyles of sharing kitten fotos and selfies to be consumed and liked in an instant (or not) by strangers on all continents.
My lenses differ from the battery operated ones we hold in our hands. They only need light – and a spectator – to “convert” first-hand information into unique first-hand visual experiences, transforming contiguous spaces within and beyond, distorting the finely aligned mathematical radiation of the electromagnetic waves we perceive as visible light. Maintaining an intentional “handmade-ness” I explore the optical possibilities and sculptural diversity glass has to offer and emulate the origins of my craft (from toolmaking in pre-historic times).
These maquettes are studies. Although small, the spaces they capture are limitless. My intention is to make them large, as public sculptures. Their function is to stimulate awareness of the contiguous spaces where we find ourselves. To bring us back to the here and now.
This theme of immediacy has been part of my creative vernacular for many years, due, in part, to the “window”, process and optical qualities glass offers. It is just that now, more than ever, my understanding of how huge the universe is and how inconsequential our actions are in relation to the immenseness of the cosmos.
Our insatiable appetite for knowledge and fearless endeavours to explore uncharted territory informs the flip-side of my creative coin. It is exactly this Aha! moment I am after, that instant which spurs spiritual growth and makes us human.
Chasing the Sun, written by Richard Cohen inspired “Shine”. In his book Cohen explores the meaning and connectedness we have with our closest star. From this vantage point my vision of who we are and where we come from broadened.
Dividing night and day with sunrise and sunset as we rotate around our own axis, the sun splashes our humble existence with visible light as we labour in its heat on the surface of this planet, the only place we can call home in the known universe.
As Carl Sagan also mused, the sun and stars in general are the engines which “manufacture” all the elements within our universe through the process of fusion. Every supernova or exploding star ejects these bits and pieces that our world and everything on it are made of. What Sagan said is that the cosmos is in us, we are made of “star stuff” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xaj407ofjNE)
This thought echoes my mother’s words which her father told her on explaining religion: “God is in you.”
I agree, our gods are in us all…
“Shine” is available at Dimitrov Gallery, Dullstroom
Halifax Art in Parkhurst is hosting an eclectic art group exhibition.
Participating artists include:
Lynette van Tonder
Gerrie van Tonder
Braam van Wyk
The show will run for a limited time only. A walkabout evening with participating artists will be announced.
Several of new and previous work of mine are represented at this show.