A big part of our roles as art specialists within the tourism industry is to do research on artists, discover new interesting art or design and in the process we get to meet the most amazing artists and designers. We get to see what is happening behind the scenes and  know who is busy with really wonderful things! We decided to share some of these gems with our readers. This month we want to introduce you to two wonderful sculptors living in Cape Town.

David is currently working with 3D printing and carbon fibre to materialise monumental sculptural forms. The exquisitely organic coiled pieces are an evolution from an earlier body of work that explored abstracted snake motifs originally derived from paper cut-outs. The Ouroboros – an image of a snake devouring its own tail – is a powerful archetypal symbol that has featured in almost every religion and mythology throughout history. The snake motif is also uniquely personal to David as his earlier snake pieces paid tribute to his maternal grandfather John Wood’s life as one of South Afrcia’s foremost snake and reptile experts. David grew up with pet snakes and a deep respect for the dangerous venomous snakes his grandfather used to catch and milk to produce antivenoms. “The snake has many, often contradictory meanings for cultures around the world. The Eastern civilisations associate the snake (or the dragon) with life and prosperity, whereas in the Western/Christian tradition these creatures are associated with evil and sin. What is clear is that the symbol of the snake is one of great potency, something onto which cultures across time project their collective fears and shared desires.” David also talks about how our limbic brain has maintained its ability to instinctively respond to the impression of a snake pattern as part of our primal survival programming.

It is this very human, visceral, and primal response to form that truly intrigues David. He talks of it as the origin of drawing, line and even language. There is also something decidedly masculine and sophisticated about these coiling forms that defy gravity. Earlier work also explored his paternal grandfather’s legacy as a commandeer in the South African Navy and the border wars of Northern Namibia and Southern Angola between the 1960’s and 1980’s in which his father fought. For me his work distils a potent primal energy, perhaps the explosive dynamic of defence, conflict and self-preservation, frozen within an instant, just before attack. Here is our interview with David:

What excites you about being a sculptor, living in Cape Town in 2018?

Cape Town continues to establish itself as a global art city and that excites me greatly. The recent opening of a number high-calibre art institutions has resulted in the city coming to sharp focus in the eye of the contemporary art world. This means that local artists have, perhaps more than any other time, unprecedented access, and exposure to an international network of leaders in culture.

Do you enjoy collaborating with other creative disciplines? What are the positives for you around interdisciplinary exchange?

Creative collaboration has put my practice in dialogue with fields in ways I could never have before envisioned. In the last two years, I have worked on projects spanning theatre, performance, fashion, public commissions, as well as creating platforms for gender/body positivity through art. My approach in this recent period was to say ‘yes’ to opportunities that allowed me to work in creative arenas that I had not engaged in before – something that has gotten me into a lot of what I call “good trouble”. This approach has allowed me to move through many blocks in my creativity and experiment in arenas usually closed off to someone who has a more pedigreed approach to art. Today, I am in a phase of refinement, of making sense of and amalgamating the hard-won lessons of being so purposefully expensive.

What would you have told yourself as an aspirant sculptor  that you now know but possibly didn’t then about the life of a sculptor?

I constantly shudder at the thought of how much hard work and commitment it takes to work in this medium. If you are an artist who makes pictures, you can do that just about anywhere. But making sculptural work requires an extraordinary amount of time, specialised infrastructure and – more than likely – the use of costly materials. On top of that, aspiring to achieve ground-breaking results in this field takes years of prototyping, failed experiments, and countless hours o work.

Who are you favourite SA sculptors? What do you admire most about their work and life?

Nicholas Hlobo – Complex personal identity politics are played out through his of use remarkably innovative materials in objects that range from intimate wall works to towering sculptural installations. The way in which Hlobo collides such complex metaphorical and physical elements in his work is staggering. It is little wonder why he has been acknowledged on a global scale.

Wim Botha – I am inspired by Botha’s obsessive re-imagining and tearing at the canonical symbols of Western art through materials that are equal parts elaborately inventive and perplexing. His works are imbued with dark intelligence and wit that few sculptors in South Africa can match.

Jackson Hlungwani. The artist’s command of material as translated through his spiritual connection with the forms he creates and the wood he uses is a height but a handful of artists in a generation ever aspire to and reach.

Where you mentored as a young artist and are you a mentor to others?

In my final year of university and for a few years thereafter I was mentored by two important figures in the documentary tradition – photographer Paul Weinberg and filmmaker Craig Matthew –  when I worked an archivist for film and video archives that they directed. The mandate of both archives was the digitisation of film and photographic material from the period of South Africa’s transition to democracy. My exposure to these rich repositories of recent South African history and the remarkably committed band of veteran photographers and filmmakers who created them is something which moved and affected me in ways few experiences can. Some years ago, I established an art club for children and worked with Isicathamiya youth choirs, and now train young artists in an apprenticeship program.

If you could create a monumental work for any site in Cape Town  where would that be and what would you create? What meaning /message would the piece convey?

I would build a series of monumental jungle gyms in public parks such as the Company’s Garden in the CBD, Trafalgar Park in Woodstock and the Rondebosch Common. The structure would be designed to be enjoyed by both children and adults, and be a site of relaxation, intrigue, and play. The structure would consist of a maze of slides and tunnels, towers, and platforms, linked by nests of climbing and hammock-like nets and interspersed with pods for contemplation and relaxation.

What are your top three favourite things to do in Cape Town? What are your favourite places to eat and why?

Read a book and swim in the tidal pool at Saunder’s Rock Beach on a hot day. Walk up to one of the secret caves on Lion’s Head for sunset (good luck to you if you find it). Cycle down from Government Avenue in the Company’s Garden all the way to the harbour’s edge on a Sunday afternoon.

Entering Etienne  De Kocks home studio and worshop is like entering a cornucopia  of invention, play and design. There is something so powerfully nostalgic about the smell of  his busy workshop, its the smell of the engine oils, the grinding of metal, the smouldering  furriness and welding, smells I will always associate with spending hours in my fathers engineering workshop as a child. In Etienne  case’s  there is also the lingering smell of freshly brewed Vietnamese coffee and hand rolled tobacco. “ life too short to suffer bad coffee!” Etienne  Laughs. The studio/workshop is just off Muizenberg’s busy main road,  as I catch up with Ethan there is a steady stream of visitors, popping in to get help, advice and to use his equipment for all sorts of things. I smile, as this is the thing I have loved most about Etienne  since he mentored me as a young sculptress at the Natal Tech the mid 1990’s… Etienne  is a natural teacher, fixer, maker and inventor, who knows those intricate, detailed, old school mechanics of how things work and why. He also embodies the eclectic interests of an age of enlightenment, a modern day  “Universal” man. His interactive  kinetic sculptures inspire a sense of wonder, delight and playfulness in their gracefully, choreographed engagement space. “ I just love playing with found elements, they carry their own innate material meaning and history, I love using mechanics and engineering to bring these objects together in a new, unexpected, poetic context. Making art is really a fun process for me”. Etienne also creates amazing contemporary furniture which can be viewed along with his kinetic sculptures at the amazing Sobeit store next to his studio. What excites you about being a sculptor, living in Cape Town in 2018?

 

Cape town is magical at the moment. things are happening constantly The opening of the Zeits MOCAA , the Norval foundation, and the cape town art fair. For the last 10 years or so cape town has been putting up some wonderful public sculptures in the city centre, which shows the city cares. I live in Muizenberg, which I believe must have the most creative people per square kilometre in all of South Africa, the creative energy in cape town is tangible. That’s why I love it.

Do you enjoy collaborating with other creative disciplines? What are the positives for you around interdisciplinary exchange?

I must confess to being not much of a collaborator. I hire people from other disciplines when my work requires it.

Do you enjoy collaborating with other creative disciplines? What are the positives for you around interdisciplinary exchange?

Don’t get side tracked, just make.The more you create the more creative you get.

Who are you favourite SA sculptors ? What do you admire most about their work and life?

David Brown, Guy du Toit, Dylan Lewis and Angus Taylor. All of them have pursued their own particular vision and given us a rare view of our world.

Where you mentored as a young artist and are you a mentor to others?

When at art school I was deciding whether to be an art teacher or a sculptor, Anton Smit told me not to be a sculptor unless I wanted a really hard life. I accepted this challenge. I don’t know if he qualifies as a mentor, but it changed my life. At university my mentor was Guy du Toit, who was two years ahead of me at UP and a good friend who taught me the discipline required to build my own practice. I have trained some youngsters. The importance of mentoring is underestimated. Working with an experienced person gives a grounding that cannot come from training or lessons.

If you could create a monumental work for any site in Cape Town where would that be and what would you create? What meaning/message would the piece convey?

If I could create a monumental work in cape town, I wouldn’t. I cant think of anything I would like to make a monument of. I would far prefer to see subtle, human scale sculptures and artworks springing up everywhere, and that is whats happening in cape town.

What are your top three favourite things to do in Cape Town? What are your favourite places to eat and why?

My favourite places in cape town are Yoffi felafel on Muizenberg beach (for the most delicious and nutritious  meal), sailing on false bay in a northerly wind, and a long walk with the dogs on the beach.


Interview by Tamlyn Martin

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