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SASA March Members’ Meeting

 

 

 

 

 

Boniface Chikwenhere kept everyone fascinated as he explained and demonstrated his unique process for creating his wonderful sculptures. His gentle but assured manner of speaking lent great sincerity to his words as he told his audience how he takes a pride in using only very old indigenous woods for his work. This also  helps him when he exports his sculptures, as he seldom has problems with the regulations governing the treating of insects in wood, as the wood is so old and dry. Because collecting the wood is time consuming, he has assembled a team of gatherers in various parts of South Africa and Namibia. They search and dig for old roots and pieces of trees and for driftwood. Many of the pieces are very old, hard and dry. He had some examples with him, including Mopani, Sneezewood and a small root of unidentified wood that looked almost fossilized.


 

 

 

 

 

Sneezewood is called that as the shavings and dust cause you to sneeze. It was used by early settlers for fence posts – one could still see the holes in the piece he had, and as a result, became extremely rare. Boniface explained that the most time consuming and important part of his process was deciding what animal or bird was to be created from a particular piece of wood, as he works in a semi abstract way, leaving large parts of the wood completely unsculpted, allowing the grain, colours, and textures of the wood to suggest the particular creature that he sees in it. This part of the process could take days, months or even years.


 

 

 

 

 

Once he has decided on a particular species – birds make up a large part of his sculptures – he then carves appropriate portions of the wood, using an instrument called an Adze. This is made especially for him, to suit his stroke and the way he carves. It has a very sharp flat metal blade on a heavy wooden handle. He held his audience spellbound as he used this almost clumsy looking implement to fashion the head of a water bird from the piece of Mopani wood, leaving the rough bark to suggest parts of feathered wings. The audience gasped in horror as a large piece of wood was chopped off the beak, but he laughed as he explained that he had intended to do it, as the beak was too long.


 

 

 

 

 

He wears safety goggles and a mask while he works, as the wood is extremely hard and pieces fly off in all directions. At times he also uses electrical grinders and cutters.


 Once he is satisfied with a piece, it goes to his team of polishers, who use grinders and fine sandpaper to bring out the natural grain and beauty of the wood, he never paints or stains the wood, only using oils to enhance the shine and colour of the grain. He does use metalwork to mount the pieces, and sometimes to create legs for various bird sculptures.


Boniface spoke of putting his soul in his work, and balancing that with the need to be businesslike assessing what will sell, and the marketing of his work.


He learned his craft from his grandfather as a very young boy in the rural areas of Zimbabwe, where he worked in soapstone. He now passes his knowledge on to others, including his brother and his children, but said that his wife has been his best pupil, her speciality is making small bird sculptures.

Judging by the many questions and the participation from the audience, it was a very successful and enjoyable evening.

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Harry Johnson Sculpture Demo

On Thursday 27 September, we once again gathered at the Athenaeum for the SASA members’ meeting and we were in for a treat!

 

 

 

 

Master sculptor, Harry Johnson was there with his special wax and his special talents to demonstrate his amazing sculpture technique. During the course of the evening he told us a bit about his history and a lot about the wax and the method he uses to create his pieces.

Starting with a vaguely cat-shaped clump, with a few additions and removals of chunks of the wonderfully soft, grey wax, we saw a cheetah materialise before our eyes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A portrait of a strong young woman was transformed into a dejected figure, using a slight rearrangement of arms and tilt of the head, showing how feelings and perceptions can be altered by mere gesture.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To demonstrate how easy it is to correct mistakes, or change proportions when using wax, to the horrified gasps of his audience, Harry sliced the nose off a sculpted face, pared away a layer and stuck it back on again…..or poked a stick up it’s nostrils to make it “breathe”.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Harry’s work is internationally recognised and admired, in ten years he has created more sculptures than any other South African artist has in a lifetime, yet he still made time to spend with us. Thank you Harry, for a truly fascinating evening.

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Visit to the Donald Greig gallery and Foundry

On Thursday 8 June, we were treated to a personal tour of Donald Greig’s gallery and foundry in the Port of Cape Town. The reins of the whole venture are held in the most capable hands of Donald’s wife, Ali, who transformed an old port building into the marvelous gallery space it is today.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The gallery, which is the showroom for Donald’s wonderful wildlife sculptures, is peaceful, light and welcoming and this is where we met to begin our tour, surrounded by the creatures of Africa.

Donald and Ali took us through the complex and time-consuming process of casting a piece in bronze, using the ancient “lost wax” technique. It takes about six weeks – and a team of skilled craftsmen – to produce a finished sculpture, from the first rubber mold, through the various coatings holding the form firm, to the pouring of the molten bronze and lastly, the patina, added with chemicals and heat, to enhance the character of the particular piece.

Thank you Donald and Ali, for a truly inspiring tour and Helen Van Stolk for arranging it for us.

 

 

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Dylan Lewis Studio Visit

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Our “studio visit” with Dylan Lewis on Friday 23 October was so much more than that. The lucky group who managed to book a place were treated to the most amazing artistic experience.

While waiting for the rest of the party to arrive, we explored his studio cum exhibition space in the most beautifully restored building in the Stellenbosch farmlands.

His circular studio alone, with its huge barn doors, which opened out onto a magnificent view of the property, was enough to turn us all green with envy. Every corner was a still-life, every window, a photo opportunity.

Dylan took us on a guided tour through his extensive sculpture garden, which he has formed himself over the past few years. From virtually flat farmland, he has created an undulating landscape of valleys and hills, ponds fed by lucky natural stprings and shady secret gardens and groves, inviting peaceful contemplation.

We were shown the huge pieces permanently installed in their magical surroundings and given an insight into Dylan’s journey to his work. His interest lies in the contrast between wilderness and “civilisation”, the wildness of the animal world – especially portrayed in the powerful big cats – and the wildness that is in us all.

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This piece of land of his is the transition between wild and civilised, with the organic  shapes of the surrounding mountains, echoed by the placement of each sculpture and geometric man made structures in direct contrast.

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Thank you Dylan, for a wonderful morning and thanks, Helen van Stolk, for arranging it all.

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Sculpture Workshop with Gerda Kenyon

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Gerda Kenyon gave a relaxed and fun workshop at the new “Art Source”, on Saturday 25 July.

 

She shared with us the beginnings of her sculpting process in the bright and airy studio space in Roeland Street, Cape Town.

Starting with a wire armature on a board, we were shown how to build up our sculptures in clay – either potter’s clay, or ball clay, which has wax added to it and never really dries, so can be reworked later. Gerda gave guidance on proportions and valuable advice on details, like sculpting realistic-looking eyes. The final product would be cast from a mould, in bronze, or resin.

Everyone brought their own references and beautiful sculptures emerged from a wonderful selection of subject matter. A truly inspiring morning and I’m sure there will be a lot more sculpture being created by those SASA members who attended the workshop.

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This was the last of the Winter workshops for this season. Thanks to everyone who made them happen and we look forward to a lot more inspiration next year.

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