In celebration of figurative sculpture, this exhibition interrogates representational sculpture and the monumental as produced in bronze and stone. The pieces were created by sculptors, continents and more than a century apart, and essentially driven by the human form and state of being. The selection features a European Master, Old South African Master, as well as two contemporary South African greats and casts a view on their influences and styles from the traditional to the unconventional.
Looking at Western historical traditions in sculpture we appreciate the skill and craftmanship that laid the foundations for these artists. The groupings are intimate, allowing the artworks to converse on the central theme of the human condition. Yet, what appears to be juxtaposed narratives of the sculptors’ explorations, informed by their culture, belief and historical context; instead reveal universal truths.
The works and practice of Anton van Wouw (Dutch-South African, 1862-1945), and Käthe Kollwitz (German, 1867-1945) foreground the traditional and academic approach. As sculptors of public and monumental commissions of heroic and profound figures, they yet found voice for their personal views and interests in the intimate smaller works of loved ones and everyday people. Kollwitz is well known as a socialist, advocating for the downtrodden and powerless. A similarity in both Van Wouw and Kollwitz’s work is the depiction of pain and suffering, as a result of war. These recurring themes exemplify the human condition.
Questioning the very tradition of Western representational sculpture are the two contemporary sculptors featured – Wim Botha (South African, b1974) and Angus Taylor (South African, b1970).
Yet divergent in their approach and drawing from different influences, they bring representational sculpture into the contemporary. Both have studied the Old Masters, interestingly in Taylor’s case he had been commissioned to cast some of the Van Wouw collection at the University of Pretoria. The popular and controversial monumental and commemorative works by Van Wouw are comparative to Taylor’s public works, just as ‘monumental’ in scale yet with a different take on the meaning of monument. As for Botha, sharing the interest and influence of the Masters of the Renaissance and drawing from Afrikaner Nationalism in the South African context; Botha turns the allegory of the bust and its portrayal on its head! He looks to deconstruct the meaning of the monumental in its longstanding tradition.
The exhibition provides an opportunity to journey through the meaning of ‘figurative’ sculpture and its past and future as a plastic art.
Not possible for you to visit CASTED? Not to worry, visit the exhibition online here.