Scrolling through the abyss of my digital addiction frustrates me. I need to un-frame my mind.
This unrelenting pressure to ‘create content’ is driving me up the wall.
Maybe I’ve found a way to do it.
Revisiting almost two decades of sculptural lenses I’ve arrived at the ultimate icon of mass media — a TV screen.
My first series, “Mass Media”, dealt with framed views. A series of sculptures, made out of laminated float glass, kicked the idea into play.
Back in 2005, “Mass Media” predated the advent of wifi, smart phones and supercharged laptops…
Cold-working glass — grind, cut and polishing glass — is in essence the same trade as lens maker. I just apply the techniques in a sculptural way, combing optical physics in a playful manner. This lends itself perfectly to “play with light”, finding an alternative to observe the world around us.
All my lens-themed work is hand-cut, ground and polished. Although some of the glass is blown, I mostly delve into my stock of optical glasses as the base material.
Looking back I can distinctly see (pun intended) an overarching theme dealing with observation, vision and sight. Titles such as ‘Look into my Eyes’ (2010), ‘Photo App’ (2014) and ‘Eye Pod’ (2018) are dead giveaways.
Roamers (2007) was my first large-scale attempt. Constructing large steel frames, with coasters underneath each base plate, these sculptures can be ferried around the room or space. Interaction and participation plays a big role, removing art from the pedestal.
‘Portals’ (2016) was my first direct comment on social media, referencing the then square format of Instagram posts. Three portals, each with a different polished surface and titled ‘O’ (circular shaped lens), ‘X’ (x shaped lens) and ‘M’ (for mottled shaped lens) made up this unique series.
Each ‘Portal’ is mounted on a heavy steel block at eye height, suspended on top of a rod, attached to a spring. Here physics came into play as the heavy tops slowly oscillate in the slightest breeze, gently swaying the portals back and forth.
My conceptual reasoning for ‘Portals’ comments on prescribed digital format, as Instagram only had a square image option back then. Don’t we miss so much of the whole picture due to the frame?
‘Pocket Lens’ (2018) evolved from the preceding concepts, simplifying my sculptural exploration in size and personal engagement. Now the sculpture becomes tactile, manifesting as a physical experience by combining much more than just your eye.
These hand-sized sculptures started as small cut lenses I carried around in my pocket… Noticing that I mostly took images and short films of, and trough these lenses with my smart phone (to create content!), the natural next step was to make a lens in the image and format of the endless digital abyss I myself wade into each day.
I am working with several layers, starting with the actual meditative process making the sculpture. First we have reality, the moment, the here and now. Then visual magic, a lens, a physical barrier distorting reality, bending photons. Thereafter your eye, observing the view through the magical distortion.
On top of this I bring in irony, the invisible layer I’m commenting on — the framed image of the camera.
It gets complicated…
Or does it?
New frames, new adventures — This is not a TV
My most recent series of sculptures titled ‘This is not a TV’, revisits themes of mass media, juxtaposing analogue against digital phenomena. I’m questioning personal observations, finding ways how we experiencing the world around us.
I believe we live in an age of surveillance.
The title references René Magritte’s painting “The Treachery of Images”, also known as “This is not a pipe”. I love the surreal nature where words and iconography clash, questioning the relationship between the image and reality. I find this particularly important in our current age, where days are filled with tons of fleeting images…
What is still real?
It’s really difficult to explain, but the entire process, from carving the lens (resembling a TV) to finding an environment, subject or moment to photograph is cathartic. These sculptures force me to disengage with my worries and physically go out to find a story to tell.
The playful nature of these sculptures must be mentioned too. Watching visitors at the current group exhibition “Shifting Focus” (on till end March at the University of Pretoria) is so much fun. Visitors entering the gallery stop and bend down at ‘This is not a TV’, look through, take pictures and smile.
I love this interaction. In a way the sculpture subliminally prompts visitors to not just ‘look at art’ but to look with, or through, art.
Therein lies the strength and power of these ’non’ TV’s. Whether it is a static image posted on social media or physical interaction, a dialogue between viewer, sculpture and contiguous spaces immediately ensues.
I would love to fill an entire room or landscape with these sculptures…
‘This is not a TV’ evolved from years of contemplating my own relationship with mass media. In my research (ironically, yes, via the internet…) I am influenced by 20th century’s criticism of television and mass media.