Stephan Welz & Co. is proud to present our penultimate premium auction in Johannesburg in November, featuring several prestigious artists. From masters such as Jacobus Hendrik Pierneef, to contemporary yet canonical artists such as Esther Mahlangu – this auction will set the tone for the festive season. Amongst this wide and impressive range, we have noteworthy pieces by Cecil Skotnes, William Kentridge, Jim Dine and Lionel Smit. However, our selection of bronze sculptures for this auction definitively represents Stephan Welz & Co’s lineage of quality art.
Sculptures transcend time and encapsulate the nature of artistic processes. To take the mundane and mold it into the artist’s interpretation or vision of these items within the world that surrounds them is to solidify perception. The non-perishable nature of sculptures exemplifies their weight and bearing on the art world and often leaves us in awe as they can immortalise an era – something which transcends human capability.
Dannie de Jager is described as a contemporary post-war South African sculptor. The onset of de Jager’s career can only be defined as a struggle for recognition. The now notorious sculptor only reached a point of popularity in the 60’s. Nowadays, de Jager’s sculptures frame the entrance of some prestigious buildings around the world and can be found in the collections of some high-profile celebrities.
De Jager’s most well-known and prestigious sculpture is Shawu, the elephant bull that formed part of the magnificent seven and was epitomised as the height of successful conservation in the Kruger National Park. Shawu had the longest recorded tusks of the magnificent seven and holds a prime spot in the Letaba Elephant Hall. The original life-size bronze was initially cast in Italy and now guards the Palace of the Lost City at Sun City resort. De Jager went through an extensive research process to do the final cast of Shawu and studied not only the anatomy of the bull himself but spent a significant amount of time observing other elephants across South Africa.
The life-size version of Shawu was cast using a clay de Jager made himself and it included petroleum jelly as a base which never hardens or dries completely. Using the life-size version of Shawu, de Jager cast several miniaturized versions using a plaster technique which was eventually cast in bronze. The miniaturized version we are offering on our November Premium Auction has been collected by noteworthy South African political figures such as former president de Klerk and it is accompanied by an album signed by de Jager himself which details de Jager artistic and extensive research process.
Another prominent and revered sculptor we are excited to showcase is Dylan Lewis. After the tragic death of his father, Lewis felt it was his calling to continue his father’s legacy as an artist. Initially, he began as a painter but later turned to sculpture as his primary medium. Lewis’s work explores the interconnectivity and holistic effects of nature on both mankind and animals. A large majority of his work speaks to the duality between humans and animals – his human subject matters always depict animalistic tendencies, and his animal forms tend to evoke a range of emotions. Lewis believes that animals such as the Rhino and the Buffalo embody notions of “birth, power and violence” (About Dylan Lewis Sa:sp). Thematically, Lewis’ work speaks to the idea of returning to a place we once came from and the formidable subconscious desire to succumb to our intrinsic animalistic tendencies which were once viewed as taboo. His art celebrates the dichotomy between birth and death, violence and peace, power, and weakness – it is these themes which govern Lewis’ body of work.
The Centenary Rhino on offer is a miniature version of the life-size sculpture which stands outside the Centenary Game Capture Centre in Hluhluwe Imfolozi game reserve. The sculpture was commissioned by the Natal Parks Board to celebrate 100 years of conservation and catapulted Lewis’ career as a sculptor. The first miniaturized version of the Centenary Rhino was first gifted to Nelson Mandela when he was an honoured guest at the Hluhluwe Imfolozi game reserve.
Accompanying these works is Tienie Pritchard’s Pandora. Throughout his career, Pritchard explored the human form, especially the nude or semi-nude female form. He is considered one of South Africa’s foremost sculptors of the nude human form despite his struggle to recognition. Initially, Pritchard’s nude sculptures were considered detrimental to social morality and were criticised for being inappropriate to display publicly as they deviated from the themes and subject matter of his predecessors, the Volksbeeldhouers, which included the likes of Anton van Wouw. This controversial overtone his works were branded with lasted throughout most of his career.
Pritchard believed that the human body was able to express a vast range of concepts when it is turned into art (Pritchard 2013: 14). While his earlier nudes were rich in symbolism, they lacked cultural identity. As Pritchard furthered his creative explorations, he wished to portray more than just human emotion and anatomy in his pieces and turned towards portraying man beyond the tangible world. This sparked an interest in ancient civilizations and the mythological nature of these cultures. He was able to represent a range of mythic subjects in his sculptures, often representing the female nude as priestess, sorceress, goddess.
Pritchard’s sculptures stylistically exemplify small-scale Renaissance and 19th Century bronze figural sculptural cannons and traditions. This was characterized by skilled and refined surface modelling, fine details and a rich patina. Many of his sculptures were modelled from live subjects as he believed working from them imbued a soul into the sculpture that would not be present otherwise. Oftentimes, Pritchard placed the human body in unexpected compositions and daring poses. An apt example of this characteristic is seen in Pandora’s Box. Pritchard has depicted the Greek mythological figure Pandora in a moment of struggle as she attempts to close the box that is spewing sorrow, disease, vice, violence, greed, madness, old age, and death. Pandora’s desperation and shock is captured on her face as she gasps and places her whole body and weight on top of the lid to keep the box closed. Pritchard has materialised concepts of “human miseries” by sculpting them as dragons, snakes, skulls, and monsters escaping the box.
Following Pritchard, yet another noteworthy artist on offer is that of Edoardo Villa. Villa’s work largely speaks to a conceptual exploration of form, line, mass, and volume. His sculptors often characteristically take on a geometrically abstract aesthetic although this has not always been indicative of his work. Villa’s earlier artworks differ greatly from the abstract forms and structures we see today. However, his early pieces lend a hand in the formation of his later pieces and ties into the ongoing conceptualization of continuation.
Villa’s work perpetuates a paradoxical discourse between form and content. The form of his structures often determines the recognizable characteristics one would find in his sculptures or in other words the content of his sculptures. Villa’s work is an examination of growth and ever-evolving form which evokes a contradictory relationship of constricted movement – giving his work a feel of autonomy.
During the 70’s Villa was inspired by the industrialization that was taking hold of South Africa which led him to the use of steel in his sculptures. He felt that it was not only indicative of the era of South Africa, but it also spoke to the formation of the rising urban black population. The South African art scene has celebrated Villa’s works for many years, and he is a necessary and canonical element of African art history.
These works are a small selection of what is to be expected on our upcoming November Premium Auction. To view the available lots, register or bid, visit www.swelco.co.za. For condition reports or any queries, contact us on 0118803125 or email@example.com