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Sasol New Signatures 2014 Finalists Article Image

Sasol New Signatures 2014 Finalists

Posted on 8 September 2014

The finalists of the 2014 Sasol News Signatures Competition. The text included from the judges report.

Elizabeth Balcomb
The weighed and measured series Survival (left) and I am You (right)
Bronze, cement & callipers (55,5 x 28 x 25cm)

The artist's keen interest in nature conservation and a deep longing for wild places, led her to become interested in aspects and characteristics of therianthropic figures found in the iconography of San paintings. Animal-human figures sand to symbolize animal characteristics found in the personalities of humans. Furthermore, these figures offer a window on the spiritual world regarding the realms of the living and the dead.

The combination of media and the interplay between found objects, cement and bronze castings has yielded work of superior craftsmanship which further supports the theme and concept. The interplay between the disconnectedness of the figures which are in dialogue with one another further plays on the humanist aspect which is contrasted by animal behaviour. This evident disconnectedness between the two artworks further fuels the dialogue between the recognition of reference and the world of fantasy. The sculptures are carefully balanced on industrial type callipers which strengthen the concept of 'measured' creating an uneasy compositional cantilever which further plays on the notion of 'weight' and balance regarding the formal aspects of the work further contributing to an artwork which is deserving of winning the 2014 Sasol New Signatures.

Adelheid von Maltitz
Resin, earth & ash (190 x 250 x 190cm)

This sculptural piece, which takes the form of an installation, is delicately crafted and floorless in its execution and presentation. The artist deals with the anxiety towards death and shares with the viewer the sense of loss of a loved one due to a fatal road accident. The viewer is drawn in to the open space between two light boxes depicting resin cast tiles forming the positive and negative spaces of an apparition. Here the artist invites the viewer to use the space to contemplate the process of mourning and loss. This contemplation of loss is offered to the viewer on three sophisticated levels. The first, are two boxes covered in heaped earth and ash which suggests a buried body, closed, powerless and dark. The second level offers fragmented apparitions displayed in light boxes offering commentary on the 'grey area' between life and death. The third and final level is the viewer him/herself, which, according to the artist is open, alive and powerful. These various levels of modal meaning making found within one artwork elevate it to the status of winning work.

Lucienne Pallas Bestall
Untitled (Anxious Banana)
Bronze & stainless steel (10 x 15 x 12cm)

The artwork consists of a bronze cast banana pinched by three bronze cast washing pegs. Here, the automatic writing style of the 'Cabaret Voltaire' Dada artists has been eclectically revived to form a 'post structuralist nihilistic' artwork. Like Dada poetry, this artwork was conceptualized by placing two newspaper headlines in a hat and drawing on the text randomly. According to the artist, the text continued along an arbitrary and erratic chain of free associations creating the concept of combining two unrelated objects: a banana and clothing pegs into a single sculptural artwork. Although coincidental and largely meaningless, the artworks produce strange displaced effects sparking an uncomfortable new association the viewer is challenged to interact with.

Bongani Khanyile
Glazed and smoked fired raku & screws (variable dimensions)

Five decorated ceramic 'hard hats' hanging on the wall forces the viewer to elevate the mundane view that society has regarding South African labour and in so doing we are forced to redefine this viewpoint. Speaking directly to various labour related strikes and issues within our country, these works are centrally placed within the current context of South African culture and history. According to the artist, labour is viewed as stereotypical and through these works Bongani aims to express and celebrate 'worker individualism'. Furthermore, the work offers commentary on the generalization of workers and celebrates their own goals, aspirations and world views. The judges are of the opinion that the traditional medium of smoked fired ceramics has been redefined, challenged and elevated to a higher level.

Lorienne Lotz
Walking in his shoes/Ray-banned
Oil and charcoal on linen / oil and pencil on limestone
Diptych (170 x 130cm & 30 x 40 x 4 cm)

This painting depicts a tribute the life and struggle of Nelson Mandela. So often a competition of this stature is bombarded with popular imagery of 'our beloved Madiba' but very few offer commentary beyond the genre of portraiture. The artwork consists of a canvas offset by a piece of limestone echoing the same expressive marks the artist has made on the canvas. The limestone is a direct reference to political prisoner life on Robben Island and pays tribute to the struggles and hardships Mandela and his fellow comrades endured when forced to break lime stone rock in a quarry without protective eye wear. Furthermore, the expressive and direct marks made by the artist on the canvas juxtaposed by formal drawings executed in charcoal, speak of a fresh and new vibrant energy injected into contemporary painting.

Josua Strmpfer
There is death in the pot
Mixed media, Perspex, abalone tiles, LED lights & epoxy resin (34 x 17 x 17cm)

While overtly decorating the human skull is nothing new in the contemporary art world, Strmpfer's piece is compelling, well executed and draws the viewer in. Decorated with tiny cut perlemoen squares the artist collected over an extended period of time, it plays on the concept of time regarding life and death. Parallels are drawn between the 'remains' of the natural world regarding the use of materials such as bone and shell. According to the artist, skulls represent more than just death. They bear with them material evidence of live from a beginning to an end. The Skull becomes a proverbial seat of consciousness, now mute to reveal the thoughts and intentions it once contained. Strmpfer is of the opinion that although we speak of 'matters from the heart' these matters arise from thoughts generated in the brain which are contained within the skull. The skull as a vessel of consciousness thus becomes the key concept to which the artwork speaks.

Colleen Winter
Cube I, II, III, IV
Mixed media: wood, paper, cloth & string (43 x 43 x 43cm each)

"I like boxes. I have a compelling desire to categorize the world around and within me". The artist offers the viewer four cubes containing books, pressed paper, compost, and cloth. Drawing on the modernist paradigm of ordering knowledge into fixed categories and 'storing' information in the form of text, the artist attempts to 'box' the natural world in the same manner. To a point the viewer is challenged to accept that the natural world, in some cases can be contained or 'boxed' within the same construct as knowledge. The four cubes create a paradigm of uncertainty regarding the way we as human beings view the world and in turn forces the viewer to re think our strategies of knowledge classification.

The Sasol New Signatures art exhibition will run until 19 October 2014 at the Pretoria Art Museum.

Images and text courtesy of Sasol.

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