Art@Africa’s owner and impresario Dirk Durnez, has joined forces with the prolific sculptor and painter Johan Steyn to unveil the next collection in a series of exquisite bronze sculptures, in an exhibition named Minki and the Starfish.
The genesis of Minki’s enchanting narrative is rooted in Dirk Durnez’s profound connection with South Africa, his home since 1997. It’s a place that has stirred his spirit and awakened a profound commitment to conservation. This visionary partnership was further elevated by Steyn’s artistic vision, his wellspring of inspiration, and his belief that art serves as a universal language, allowing for the purest form of self-expression.
For Johan Steyn, art has been an integral part of his life, having grown up in Pretoria as the son of the renowned Batik artist, Louis Steyn. Johan’s quest for a more profound mode of artistic expression led him towards the intricate world of engraving. His fascination with the play of light and shadow as a means of capturing form would ultimately become a cornerstone of his three-dimensional sculpting endeavours. His artistic evolution is a testament to his commitment and ingenuity, with recognition in design and coin development culminating in his esteemed role as South Africa’s chief engraver. In 2016, Johan Steyn took the leap to wholeheartedly dedicate himself to the realms of painting and sculpture.
Minki’s story continues in the Minki and the Sunbird series of sculptures, which formed part of Steyn’s solo exhibition in 2022 with Minki and the Starfish as she is transported from the north to the south on the back of a Martial Eagle (Minki and the Martial Eagle), and she is introduced to the abundance of diverse marine life on the Cape coast.
The inspiration for Minki and the Sunbird blossomed from Steyn’s deep connection to nature and his homeland, South Africa. He considers nature to be his teacher, saying: “I think for me, all the answers to art are in nature. All the ratios, the relationships. When we look at nature normally, it is naturally beautiful. Nature is the place where we study. That is my university.”
The rich tapestry of South Africa’s biodiversity provides him with endless beauty to draw from. Steyn focusses on proportion and capturing the flow and movement of elements such as anatomy, wind and water in his sculptures. He often spends extended periods with his subjects, allowing him to fathom and capture their essence. This approach perfectly aligns with Durnez’s design philosophy, emphasising a love for understanding and a dedication to preserving what we cherish.
The heart of this extraordinary collection speaks of a delightful, ever-curious little girl named Minki. Her explorations along the Cape coast and subsequent discoveries offer a playful, yet meaningful perspective on marine life. Each sculpture tells you a chapter of Minki’s unfolding adventures, inviting you to dive deeper into her world, to see the world anew, as if through the eyes of a child.
Minki’s encounters with various forms of oceanic life highlight not just their spectacular diversity, but also subtly nudges the viewer towards a crucial reality – our shared existence and interdependence with these magnificent beings. Through Minki’s eyes, Steyn prompts a moment of introspection about the necessity of nurturing our precious marine ecosystems.
In the larger scheme of things, Steyn’s works serve as a gentle reminder of the grand narrative of life on our beautiful blue planet. His sculptural depictions are not mere ornamental additions to one’s collection, but heartfelt dialogues about mankind’s sustainable coexistence with all forms of life on Earth.
Minki and the Starfish opens on the Saturday 9th of December 2023 at Art@Africa located at the Clocktower Centre, in the Silo District of the V&A Waterfront.
Written by Alwill Westcott
Minki and the Starfish Exhibition
Art@Africa Gallery – Opens 7/12/2023 at 6:30 until 24/02/2024
The Clocktower Centre – Silo District – V&A Waterfront