They work in metal, sculpting, casting, forging or 3D printing to create distinctive art and furniture pieces. This trio is among SA’s best
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Launching this month, the Implement collection of hand-forged metal furniture and sculptures by Cape Town blacksmith Conrad Hicks is textured with distinctive hammered markings. He uses only traditional joining techniques in an intuitive process, allowing his materials to determine the final form as he works. Hicks explores the history of human evolution and anthropology in his art, drawing a correlation between his process and those of early toolmakers. “It is the pursuit of beauty, not technology, that has driven our evolution,” he says. “The beauty we pursue is actually an engineering choice, intuitively made.”
Hicks studied sculpture in the 1980s, then worked in art and restoration in London. Drawn to blacksmithing by the discipline of an old craft, he opened a forge workshop in Cape Town in 1991 and discovered the expressive potential of steel and copper. His studio at The Bijou, a former Art Deco cinema in Observatory, houses a vast collection of tools and machines. It includes a 400-year-old anvil salvaged from a scrapyard. Hicks’s collectible pieces include Wife? Bench , which is charged with solidity and energy. Other works such as Chaise Muse and Copper Chaise are more ethereal, the copper beaten so thin that it appears to float.
Bronze sculpture artist Adriaan Diedericks says he often draws on his rural Piketberg upbringing for inspiration. The Stellenbosch University fine arts graduate has a foundry in the Strand. His pieces can be found in various overseas private collections and in upmarket local landscaped settings such as the wine estates Quoin Rock and Bartinney. “Limited editions protect the investment value in my oeuvre,” he says. “Depending on the sculpture size, the larger the sculpture, the smaller the edition, typically.” Diedericks likes to sculpt the human anatomy. Creating life-size torsos, truncated works and outstretched human forms such as Exhale III gives this young artist great pleasure. “When sculpting hands and faces, one is not simply working with the intricacies of capturing form and expression, but especially the identity of a human being,” he says. “The inclusion, similarly to the exclusion, of these parts carries meaning.
Depending on where the process takes me, I decide whether to add or remove from my sculptures. “My love for anatomical studies can be applied and investigated through the bronze medium, therefore a sculpture piece such as Medium Torso is perfect to plan, sculpt and cast,” he says.
Of 11 different bronze types, silicon bronze is his top choice. “Hard yet malleable, durable yet receptive to colour manipulation, silicon bronze as an age-old medium in a contemporary society has maintained its relevance and value since the time of its ancient Mesopotamian forefathers – that fascinates me.” This craft requires physical strength and dexterity. “Currently I am working on a four-metre sculpture, my largest piece to date. This involves the use of scaffolding and a forklift, which normally do not form part of my work process,” says Diedericks. “The level of focus needed while suspended and working with liquid hot plasticine is definitely a game changer. This, combined with the task of ultimately piecing together more than 80 bronze panels, will be a marvellous challenge.”
Furniture as sculpture or sculpture as furniture? Industrial designer-turned-artist Charles Haupt of Cape Town’s Bronze Age Studio sums up what he offers admirers of his limited-edition furniture and designs. “I am fortunate that I work in a realm that shifts between art and design. It allows me the freedom to express the things that inspire and interest me, without the normal constraints of a commercial designer,” he says. “But at the core I’m an industrial designer with a concern for function, striving to make beautiful sculptural objects that are functional but not decorated.” There is underlying geometry in Haupt’s designs. From a young age he’s been interested in how things work and why they exist or look the way they do.
“In nature there is such a wealth of beauty in the structures, patterns and rhythms, in both the biological as well as the inorganic worlds.” Haupt’s industrial designer training means he makes a design, prints it in 3D and then sculpts it. “Coming from an industrial design background, I’ve always looked at how technology can become a tool I can use. One such tool is algorithmic or parametric 3D modelling. The basis is to set certain parameters and functions in digital software, which I control to create a 3D model. “Using the algorithms, I can shape and control the outcome and experiment with different results with small changes to the algorithms. This process was used to mimic the plant structural growth patterns that resulted in my Tropism series of tables.”
The bold forms in this limited-edition bronze range shows Haupt’s fascination with nature’s mathematical patterns and explores the natural logic of growth rings and the branching of trees. The three-legged tables are built layer by layer, and their calibrated contours adjusted and assembled by hand. Resulting models are then printed in 3D, covered in wax and cast in bronze. Haupt says his method is a crossover from modern technology to the age-old lost wax bronze casting process that has been in use for thousands of years. His limited-edition series called Num Num is sculpted by hand. Drawing inspiration from the numnum, an indigenous shrub also commonly known as the Natal plum, Haupt enlarged the distinctive “thorns” to form dramatic sculptural bronze table bases and stands