The role of Art is to provide society with the opportunity to look at the world through different eyes. The greatest artists are those whose work whisper a meaningful message and delve into a person’s subconscious. These are the words of Zach Taljaard, artist, sculptor, curator and the 2001 winner of the PPC Cement Young Concrete Sculptor Awards (YCSA) art competition.
Since winning YCSA with his sculpture titled ‘Learning experience, Lesson 2’, Taljaard has gone on to accomplish some of his dreams as an artist. He has participated in numerous exhibitions; has his own art studio in Observatory, Cape Town and is currently the curator at Johans Borman Fine Art.
“YCSA gave me exposure and made me believe in my career as an artist. The competition plays an important role in the South African Arts calendar, as the medium of sculpture is often overlooked. YCSA has also breathed new life into a skill that many people, including myself, are passionate about,” he said.
For Taljaard, the competition still challenges him and takes him out of his comfort zone. Last year as part of YCSA’s 20th anniversary, he created his first public sculpture for St Mary’s Day Care Centre in Grahamstown. The artwork titled ‘The Dreamer’ was sculpted during the National Arts Festival and serves as a beacon of hope and inspiration to the children and staff of the 30 year old centre.
Born in Christiana, North West, Taljaard holds a BA Fine Arts degree from the University of Pretoria. After winning YCSA, he co-curated the show ‘Console’, with Dina Zoe Belluigi at the Grahamstown National Arts Festival and in 2003 showcased a solo exhibition titled ‘Toys’ at the festival. In 2006, Taljaard held his second one-man show titled ‘Con/front’ and was selected for a residency at the Bag Factory in Johannesburg, where he exhibited ‘Self/destruct’ with Iranian artist, Arash Hanaie. In 2009, he was selected for the main Festival program as one of the exhibitors at the Klein Karoo National Arts Festival, where he held his third solo exhibition titled ‘dutchMAN’. Taljaard’s work is a combination of fantasy with hints of memory and he also uses photographs as a reference. His latest sculpture, ‘Dream Catcher’, was created for the YCSA Auction, celebrating the 21st anniversary of the competition. Twenty-one NGOs across the country were selected from communities which PPC operates in, and 21 previous YCSA winners were each matched to a specific organisation. The artworks will be auctioned and the proceeds will be equally divided between the organisations. Taljaard’s NGO was the Ubuntu Education Fund in Eastern Cape. His inspiration for the sculpture was taken from the organisation’s mission statement.
He explains the artwork, “The title of the artwork has a duel meaning. Firstly, it represents someone who literally achieves their dreams. Secondly, it makes reference to the handmade Native American dream catcher that consists of a willow hoop to which a web is woven. Bad dreams are believed to pass through the hoop and are passed out of the window, while good dreams are trapped in the web to slide down to the person. Likewise, Ubuntu acts as a dream catcher for underprivileged children, protecting them from their harsh environment and supplying them with the necessities to learn. Most importantly, Ubuntu gives them the time to dream, play, imagine and enjoy being children.”
For Taljaard, many artists have great ideas but lack in execution. “There is so much competition in the art industry and not being committed to both, the idea and execution, could be detrimental to your career,” he added. Taljaard’s advice to emerging artists, “Becoming an artist does not lead to instant success. It is a long and windy road that calls for dedication, passion and shear madness to keep carrying on.”
The annual PPC YCSA competition is held in partnership with the Association of Arts Pretoria, and provides up-and-coming artists with the opportunity to showcase their talent through the medium of concrete. It is the only national sculpting competition in South Africa, aimed at artists who are either novices or have not been professionally established. Initiated in 1992, the competition has been a platform for many successful careers in art and a stepping stone for the winners.