"Oscar Wilde said that if you know what you want to be, then you inevitably become it - that is your punishment. But if you never know then you can be anything. There is a truth to that. We are not nouns. We are verbs. I am not a thing - an actor, a writer. I am a person who does things - I act, I write. And I never know what I am going to do next.
I think you can be imprisoned if you think of yourself as a noun" - Stephen Fry
It has taken me decades to realise how right he is, and it is simultaneously a frustration and the impetus behind my relatively late artistic incarnation.
I have "been" a physics student (what a joyless environment for an otherwise fascinating subject), a soldier (involuntarily), an actuarial clerk (calculating the miserable pittances paid to the remaining spouses after deaths), an oilrig pressure engineer, a computer programmer in California, a company CEO, a farmer. I have had to start from zero three times in my life as a consequence of being trapped by what I thought I was expected to be.
The last re-start is what it took to get me to realise that I needed to stop being and start doing...
Each of those previous lives gave me skills which I've used for the twenty-odd years I've been developing my art: anything from welding, wiring, rope-splicing, computer programming and circuitry to plumbing, construction, metal smelting and casting, metal-shaping, furniture-making.
Why I use salvaged discarded material.
If I have any artistic Weltschmerz-agonised-soul anthem, it's that I abhor waste of any kind, and I despise the mindless media-conditioned FOMO of the consumerist imperialism over-running our world. It's killing our environment, our bees, our fish, our trees...all just to have the latest and be able to replace it with another latest as soon as it's available. Fast food, fast fashion...and impossibly huge volumes of waste thrown "away", a place which seems to exist in some other space-time for most people. Flush away, throw away...
In my brief attempt to solve the waste and energy problem in South Africa, I encountered the unseen environmental horrors that are landfills. There are books to be written, but it is enough to say that I will do everything I can to use for my work only that consumer waste which would otherwise be taken to landfill, or burned or buried. My wife, also an artist, uses "waste" paint for her works. I am currently experimenting with plastic. Together we will make our small difference and show others that it can be done and is worth doing.
We live on our small farm outside the hamlet of Baardskeerdersbos in the Western Province. We are finishing building, with our own hands and the help of overseas volunteers, our strawbale house-and-workshop-and-gallery, while producing our work using only offgrid power: solar, wind, gasifier and generator.
My full-time occupation is in creating elegant functional art from largely reclaimed material, working in wood, stone, glass and metal with a recent foray into experimenting with the possibilities of plastic. Most of my work is in crafting lamps, but, as the materials often lend themselves to other functions, my portfolio is broad.
By definition my work is unique and eclectic - it's in the nature of the salvaged materials. The underlying ethos is to do what I can to prevent things ending up in landfill. However, I don't believe that principles of beauty, balance and style should be forfeit at the altar of eco-frenzy - there must be artistic and stylistic integrity to the work. It is just as possible to be technically and aesthetically rigorous in creating with "used" materials as it is with new, and I loathe the implied "gimme" that comes with much of the "recycled" genre and the often lazy execution found here.
As a mild example of the latter, I dislike seeing the wiring in lamps. It must either be completely concealed or, if this isn't possible, must become integral or complementary to the artistry of the work.
I enjoy, particularly, seeing what nature has done to man-made materials, and I always try either to echo that or to alchemically marry nature-worked components to the proper partners, as it were.
Every piece has a back story, relating to its provenance, which I always provide with the purchase of a piece. The elements offer vignettes of their past. It's a real joy to see someone realise, invariably with a smile, what elements comprise the work.
I don't mass produce anything and, in the nature of the materials, no one piece is ever the same as another, even between paired items.
There are two quotes that I have carried with me everywhere and which now hang, somewhat battered, in my workshop. One is about perseverance winning out and the other is about "doing the thing until you have the energy"... (Goethe, I think)
Consequently, I work to a planned schedule and years of this discipline has taught me not to wait to be inspired but to work every day and thereby school my muse to surrender to my work ethic.
Clearly my work traverses art, function and the design sphere with the consequence that I've worked with a few architects and designers to create custom pieces for projects, ranging from large chandeliers (old 2 litre wine bottles, hand-ground) for triple volume spaces to massive steel gates for a large up-market farm. I do take on commissions, but with conditions...
My work has been sold all over the world, mostly in Western Europe. The most recent works can be found at various galleries in the Western Cape: ManZArt+ in Franschoek, Dorpstraat Gallery in Stellenbosch, Kunskantoor in Hermanus, FLAG Collective in Hermanus and the local B'bos Art Gallery in Baardskeersdersbos.
My workshop is usually closed to the public but I sometimes accept visitors (with ample forewarning). And, since I am one of the nine principal artists on the long-running Baardskeerdersbos Art Route, I have an open day with them twice a year, There is also a separate "vernissage" evening, by invitation only, for designers, architects, gallerists and a few special friends and patrons.
I am planning a series of work on location at clients' houses or business (locally and overseas), incorporating materials found on-site, possibly during re-building. I'll keep everyone posted...
Finally, you can always find out about more recent work and happenings by following me on FaceBook or Instagram under redeux.elegant.functional.art.
I hope to have the pleasure of one day meeting you at The Workshop @ Foxglove Farm, or at one of my exhibitions out an-and-about. Or possibly at our "vernissage" evening...
When we were last in Paris, well over 15 years ago, we were wandering through the antiques market on Rue Mouffetard when I found a steel die with design which caught my eye, lying amongst other old dies and moulds. Ever since then I have used it to add my unique mark on each of my pieces, either pressing it into metal labels which I then attach, or stamping into the piece itself, sometimes with ink or paint. It is the very last step in the process and only takes place when I am completely satisfied with my work.