It would be difficult to imagine a more beautiful setting for a sculpture exhibition than the cliffs overlooking the grand sweep of Walker Bay. Not only that, but the Sculpture on the Cliffs exhibition presents the perfect opportunity to take art to the people. It is public art at its best, directly available to casual walkers, to whale watchers and to tourists admiring the view.
Since the start of the FynArts Festival seven years ago, it has been one of its most important features for both visitors and residents – on occasion eliciting a storm of controversy of epic proportions (or maybe, more appropriately, an epic storm in a teacup!). Since one of the purposes of art is to disrupt and challenge our perceptions, some of the artists whose work provoked such an uproar might feel they had achieved their goal.
One of the sculptors whose pieces have graced Gearing’s Point for the past five years is well-known sculptor, Gordon Froud. This year he is not exhibiting himself, but instead was invited to curate the 2019 exhibition of 10 sculptures. As a Senior Lecturer in Sculpture at the University of Johannesburg, he has a wide overview of the field and was in an ideal position to break with tradition and choose a new direction for this year’s collection of work. Entitled Abstrakt, the artists featured this year have not previously participated in FynArts, and, as he says, should give the installation a completely new image.
“I have been as inclusive as it’s possible to be,” he says with a laugh, “so the demographics of the country have been recognised, as have genders and age groups (the oldest participant is in the seventies and the youngest in the late-twenties). Although most of the pieces have been created from steel – either stainless or mild steel – a variety of other media have also been used, including an old washing machine – with teeth. Except for the latter, I cannot imagine that any of the other pieces could be considered in any way controversial.
“The criteria for selection were very open-ended. There were no restrictions regarding the material to be used, other than that it should be weather-resistant, since the piece will have to face into the teeth of the South-Easter for a year; it should be big enough to compete with the landscape and be largely non-figurative and non-descriptive,” he explains. “What I wanted to create was a contemplative space, where passers-by might want to stop and spend some time interacting with the sculptures and examining their emotional and intellectual response to them.” The title of Gordon’s own recent exhibition at the Standard Bank Gallery perhaps sets the tone for this exhibition: ‘Harmonia: Sacred Geometry, the Pattern of Existence’.
All in all, despite the physical distance between him and the participating artists in the FynArts exhibition, he is very pleased with the outcome. “Most of the works have been specially created for this event,” he says, “and I kept in touch with the artists from start to finish through written and photographic communication. There are some truly magnificent pieces, I think, and I’m very much looking forward to seeing the public’s response to them. I’m sad not to be exhibiting myself this time round, but curating the exhibition has been a challenging and exciting experience for me.”
The Sculpture on the Cliffs exhibition was opened on Saturday 8 June by Marilyn Martin, former director of the Iziko National Art Museum. Smaller sculptures by the featured artists are also on view at the Hermanus Dutch Reformed Church throughout the Festival.