My ideas, thoughts and reflections were put down on paper by means of quick sketches and thumbnail drawings. Photographs, media imagery and text that had bearing on my proposal were collected. Material reflecting African art, environment and social structure were gathered during a field trip undertaken throughout Southern Africa in the first year of study. Intuitively and subconsciously, thematic concepts evolved from this pool of information. These concepts were then further developed and compositional elements organised by making specific analytic drawings. However, I was cautious not to overdevelop my ideas in the conceptual stage. Here I was guided by Henry Moore's statement: 'But I now find that carrying a drawing so far that it becomes a substitute for sculpture either weakens the desire to do the sculpture, or it is likely to make the sculpture only a dead realisation of the drawing.' (Chipp 1969: 597) [Figure 35]
Figure 35: Henry Moore.
Ideas for Sculpture in Metal and Wire, 1939.
(Berthoud 1987: 130)
Starting with rough chalk sketches on the studio floor, with drawing and relevant photographic material pasted to the wall, I set out to make the final sculptures. Following the initial conception of the drawings, final formal and thematic conclusion were reached through a process which allowed for change and reconstruction. Some of the pieces, Advanced Guidance and Centre Piece for example, followed a course relatively parallel to the initial designs of the drawings, while others changed radically. The bases for Cyborg-16 and Back to the Future had to be re-made while the concept for Artifactual Intelligence changed several times before it was resolved in its present form.
Apart from the underlying symbols of communication and transport that link the works conceptually, the biggest challenge was to unite all the separate works in one clear visual statement. The visual language uniting the body of work has the following distinct features: thick rusted metal bases; long vertical pillars protruding out of these bases; a green and orange colour scheme; organic sheet metal forms; worked sandstone.
Figure 36: A graphic desription of the
MIG - "Metal Inert Gas Welding" process.
(Davies 1986: 112)
I primarily used sheet metal to construct the sculptures because it is the most accessible material in a urban environment and because, it lends itself ideally to my iconography of machines and communication devices. The basic underlying structures of the bus, aeroplane and space capsule, were made from thin rods and angle iron welded together. A paper stencil was made for each area to be covered. The shapes were then cut out of 2 mm sheet metal. They were then hammered into their required form and welded onto the structure. The process of Metal Inert Gas Welding (MIG) 1 was used to do most of the welding. [Figure 36] For the stainless steel and bronze parts the Gas Tungsten Arc Welding Process (TIG) 2 was applied. [Figure 37] Once the basic form was made, areas to house engine parts, fuel gauges and so on, were cut out. The surfaces of the found objects were cut and worked on as to resemble the feel of the lines and marks that distinguish my drawings. Eduardo Paolozzi's transformation of objets trouves was influential in this approach. As he stated: 'I really set out in my sculpture to transform the objets trouves that I use to such an extent that they are no longer immediately recognisable, having become thoroughly assimilated in my own particular dream world rather than to an ambiguous world of common optical illusion.' (Schneede 1970: 12) Once all the construction and welding had been completed the surfaces were either painted with enamel paint or covered with melted wax.
Figure 37: A graphic desription of the
TIG - "Gas Tungsten Arc Welding" process.
(Davies 1986: 159)
In the case of Exodus and Cyborg-16 the incorporation of the TV monitors and mechanical motor were resolved as the construction progressed. Learning from this, the incorporation of the TV monitor and fan in Centre Piece was resolved in the initial designs of the drawings; thereby saving time and frustration. The video imagery was compiled from found media imagery and footage recorded by myself.
The base for Exodus , from which the bases of the smaller sculptures developed, derived from the base made for a previous sculpture entitled Taxi . [Figure 38] Thick sheet metal pieces were forged to make the bases for Exodus , Advanced Guidance and Back to the Future . Similar in design, the base for Artifactual Intelligence was made out of scrap Cor-Ten steel 3 pieces and the base for Ystervuis from stainless steel scrap.
Figure 38: Johann van der Schijff. Taxi, 1991.
The smaller sculptures differ from the large works in that found objects provided the central elements from which they developed. A carved Zimbabwean walking stick, developed into Advanced Guidance , which in turn led to the development of the other small works. The weapons in Artifactual Intelligence were bought in a curio shop and the vehicle in Ystervuis was originally a toy. My approach to the smaller works was influenced by Paolozzi's dictum as discussed in the book Lost Magic Kingdoms (1985). Paolozzi has a strong belief that there is no pre-existing hierarchy of materials which should define what may, or may not, be made into a work of art. Subsequently he encourages his students to investigate the recycling of industrially-produced goods in Africa and other third-world countries, and to create with the discards of their own societies. This approach fitted into the conceptual framework of my body of sculpture, suggesting that the smaller works incorporated parts salvaged from the fictional wrecks of the bigger works, thereby becoming weapons of resistance.