Exhibition @Tokara Curated by Ilse Schemers
By Johan Myburg

The New Breed Series, bronze and Namibian marble

If it is smoothly polished pieces pretending to emanate an inner beauty you are hoping to find in sculptor Ruhan Janse van Vuuren’s studio, you might be disappointed. Instead the visitor is met by a dozen half sized figures printed in 3D in an inferior quality polypropylene, silently waiting on the artist’s hand. Some of these figures wait without arms, some of the arms are wilfully broken off by Janse van Vuuren. You might come across busts sculpted in a black wax, wilting in the afternoon sun pouring into the studio; the wax starting to run. Patiently Janse van Vuuren is waiting for these figures and portraits to lose their accuracy, their actual resemblance. Only then he will continue working, finishing these sculptures.

Sometimes it so happens that a wax model will spend months outside, exposed to the elements, before he will attempt to cast it in bronze. In the wax phase Portrait A spent a year outside in the garden, exposed to the sun, the wax cracking and well on its way to disintegration. Cast in bronze the signs of decay become evident in a texture formed by time, achieved by careful neglect.

Mithridate part II, bronze and Namibian marble

In addition to capturing a specific likeness in his work, however deformed, Janse van Vuuren’s aim is to give expression to time, the course of time and inevitable decay achieved over time. Nothing lasts for ever. A statue of a triumphant statesman can be pulled down from his pedestal in the wink of and eye, ending up as scrap metal. A sculptural work in itself does not warrant perpetuity. Equally so, Janse van Vuuren argues, nothing is unique.

Therefore, he will refrain from chipping and grinding to remove the rough metal remaining on a casting after the gates and risers have been removed, leaving impurities to thwart any sign of false pretence.

He calls on Michelangelo to back his view that visual success overrides perfect human form and anatomy. ‘Not even Michelangelo’s sculptures are anatomically correct. His females are nothing more than men with breasts. If Michelangelo, with knowledge and acumen to his disposal chooses to break the anatomical rules, he must have had good reason to do this.’

Ode to Joseph Buys’ marble with steel.

Hope for an idealised form of beauty has been abandoned and in its place he introduces a coincidental form of beauty, a form of furtive beauty contrasting with deformity (voluntary as well as involuntary), with decay, coincidence and manipulated coincidence. The “scrap” on his workbench becomes part of the base of a sculpture (#020216) and elements from previous work are constantly being incorporated into new work (#032882). Janse van Vuuren’s inclusion of these ‘Fremdkörper’ serves on the one hand as an ingenious device to draw the viewer in, closer, but at the same results in a double take: What is going on here?

As with his predecessors’ (androgynous) nudes in the time of the Renaissance Janse van Vuuren is not intrigued or seduced by realism, and in the process he compels his viewer to abandon expectations of realistic representation. What he encourages is a re-examination of perceived
perceptions of realism and beauty. As he does in Hiraeth, his latest collection of work.

The Welsh word ‘hiraeth’, a word mother tongue speakers of the language claim untranslatable, means something like homesickness or the desire for a home, a place, an era or perhaps a person. The German equivalent ‘Sehnsucht’ is used in psychology to denote thoughts and feelings about all facets of life that are unfinished or imperfect, paired with a yearning for ideal alternative experiences.

The uncompleted, the incomplete and the longing for alternative experiences find an eloquent voice in Janse van Vuuren’s Hiraeth.

Deus Ex Machina Series, bronze and Namibian marble


Ruhan Janse van Vuuren

‘What I try to avoid is the notion of the “ideal” male or “ideal” female
form. You know,’ he chuckles, ‘something that would look good in the
garden. That is something I don’t want to make.