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    The portrait piece of this sculptural installation was originally titled ‘Portrait of a patient’, an intimate documentation of a friend’s heroic on-going struggle to maintain mental wellbeing. Reworking and adding to the portrait it now invites a more universal reading. It stands testimony to the unseen bravery of every [wo]man in their quiet daily struggle with their own inner demons, determined to stay afloat and upkeep Equilibrium, in an ever changing environment.

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    dream catcher

    This sculpture is dedicated to the Ubuntu Education Fund, and was inspired by the following paragraph taken from their mission statement: We are a community institution, and we support the most vulnerable children along the pathway out of poverty. We don’t focus on how many children we reach, but how deeply we reach each child. We are in the business of transforming lives from cradle to career. Giving these township children the same opportunities to succeed as someone who is born into privilege allows them the opportunity to realise their full potential, but by giving them hope, the organisation also gives them the wings to fly wherever their imagination can take them. The artwork’s title is intended to have double connotations; firstly, it can represent someone who literally goes out to realise his/her dream: In ‘Dream catcher’ a young girl sits on a doll’s bed, a simple wooden structure used to act out the role of nurturer during role play. Healthy role play is of the utmost importance; it forms an understanding of self, helps us on our career paths and gives us goals to work towards. For this to happen children need a safe home environment where they are nurtured and cared for. The bed becomes a make-believe magical vehicle ready to safely transport the girl to any place she can imagine. She holds tightly onto toy windmills and the viewer is asked to participate in imagination by helping her to float away to where her future will take shape. Secondly, the title of the artwork also makes reference to the handmade Native American object, the dreamcatcher, which consists of a willow hoop on which a web is woven. Hung above the bed it protects one from nightmares. Bad dreams are believed to pass through the hoops and out of the window, whilst good dreams are trapped in the web to slide down onto the sleeper below. By creating a safe and healthy environment for underprivileged children, Ubuntu acts as a dreamcatcher, protecting them from their harsh environment and supplying them with the necessities to learn – most importantly, however, Ubuntu gives them the time to play, imagine, and enjoy being a kid, and above all, the time to dream.

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    lesson learnt

    ‘Lesson learnt’ forms part of a series of work exploring instances of realization or disillusionment which leads to learning due to ‘cause and effect’. This specific work however has an important history which is worth mentioning. The boy’s head is the only remaining part of a public sculpture entitled the ‘The Freedom to dream’, intended to celebrate access for all to public spaces, in this specific instance the beach, after Apartheid. The artwork, a boy with a boat sitting on a bench, was severely vandalized after installation and removed. The artist then as a reaction to the vandalism used the original somewhat fragile Crystacal prototype as part of an installation entitled ‘Heritage’ to investigate this territorial claim and thus question ownership of land . The work however was tumbled and shattered by a freak gush of wind on the first day of being exhibited, leaving only the head intact. Realizing the interesting connotation of both the forced violent act and that of an inescapable force of nature the artist used these two ‘chance’ elements as conceptual reference in this final reworked version. The head, the only remaining part of the original fragile prototype, is now encapsulated in an impenetrable cement suit, much like we protectively build ourselves in behind cement walls in fear of violent intrusion by man and nature. Although these protective layers are an instant solution it becomes a personal burden not only weighing us down mentally but also alienating us from our immediate environment and the people around us. Although safe, the cement suit becomes a personal burden our children have to carry. The suit reminiscent of a space exploration suit however also celebrates those vulnerable individuals who are brave enough to break down the borders and explore ‘alien’ environments in search of personal growth.

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    bedtime story

    The work originated from a work entitled ‘The freedom to dream’. This work was conceived for the Sunday Times Heritage project and was intended to celebrate an event in our Apartheid past where East beach, a popular whites only swimming area in East London in the Eastern Cape was claimed on a specific New year’s day by thousands of none-white holiday goers. To celebrate this brave act a public sculpture was commissioned as part of the Sunday Times Heritage Project as a beacon to celebrate the freedom achieved for all. The artwork was of a black boy sitting on a bench overlooking the ocean, cradling in his arms a sailing boat, a symbol of a new beginning, hope and dreams to come. The irony was that the work only lasted two days after installation during another Festive season as it was severely damadged and brutally vandalized with beer bottles and removed from the site never to be shown again. For me as an artist this was even more ironic as my previous body of work investigated violence to children, and this act indirectly to me spoke of As the work was a one off cast in resin a original copy in plaster remained which was used for the final mould making process. Utterly disappointed and saddened by the event I reworked the original plaster cast for an installation which was scheduled to be shown at the Grahamstown National Arts Festival. The reworked copy simply titled ‘Heritage’ looked at the very thin line between an acceptance of difference and the festering explosive hatred situation that do still exist between different races in our post-Apartheid society. This time the boy was cradling a Boer baby surrounded by tourist kitch from the sixties which amplified otherness made out of A freak accident had the work blow over the day before opening leaving the work to shatter into millions of pieces, and ironically only the head of this original sculpture remained.

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    Through the use of sculptural installation Zach Taljaard dissects his Afrikaner male identity hoping to throw new light on its construction. The artists work follows an autobiographical path, chronologically tracing his day to day dealings with identity, from childhood expectations and disillusionment through to the inevitable process of becoming a man and the social molding it entails. In the installation entitled ‘Dutchman’ the artist investigates labeling through cultural inheritance and also dissects the hereditary qualities of the quilt and responsibilities that comes with it. Being born to an Afrikaner father and Dutch mother the artist looks at the word Dutchman as derogative as well as culturally descriptive. By being stereotypically labeled one automatically finds oneself not only wrongfully defined and classified but also without question accepting blame for past wrongs. This projected association with historic events culminates in a complete rejection of ones own culture resulting in a disassociation from place, body and community.

    With reference to Afrikaans cultural inheritance, specifically the work of Anton van Wouw, the artists creates and installation which revisits patriotic ideals but embody the loss of identity and also the loss of culture. This estrangement from culture and the artist’s estrangement from the self culminate in his reworking of van Wouw’s “Boerenoointjie” Using himself as model the artist challenges societal expectations around gender and the roles we willingly inherit. The artist not only questions his identity in crisis but mirrors the construction and loss thereof in others. His sculptures are evidence of his mastery of sculptural techniques and its materials which he skillfully combines to bring out tactile and conceptual strengths, luring the viewer in with fine craftsmanship to convey a message which challenges our norms and indirectly our comfort zones.

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    in search of glory

    With photographing different self-portrait busts and displaying them as traditional portrait photographs the artist refers to both these traditions as immortalization of individuals. Portrait sculpture, associated with funerary contexts, was meant to honor political officials or military commanders, as photographs later did. This instinctive need to praise power, triumph and bravery is mockingly glorified with the addition of a man-made golden light above each portrait creating a surrounding radiance or halo usually associated with a sacred person .On closer inspection the portraits show signs of damage and is literally worn out by reproduction using the same mould. Their robes become mill stones around their necks. Centuries of lust for power, destruction and wealth clearly burdening their shoulders. Burdening the sons with inherited quilt, do we want to aspire to this flawed tradition “All for glory”?

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    the damage is done...

    As part of my residency at the Bag Factory Arash Hanaie a photographer from Iran and I put together an exhibition based on ideas around the crisis of war and its universal effect. My piece entitled “The damage is done” consisted of four life size portrait busts and a television screen. The portrait busts made from Crysta Cal resembled worn out marble. They were self portraits in different attire, one was shirtless and the other dressed in a suit. The third bust wore a military uniform while the last was based on a Roman emperor. Each bust was differently treated and partly left unfinished to create a very damaged and distressed surface. They were dramatically lit from the top, which cast dark shadows over their faces. This emphasized and accentuated their lost status. The tradition of portrait busts comes a long way and was usually used to symbolize power and immortalize bravery. These portraits looked all but brave and proud and had a kind of sadness and loss about them. They wore their robes like mill stones around their necks, the weight of centuries of lust for power, destruction and wealth clearly burdening their shoulders. The television screen looped a video. On the shirtless bust was projected and again videoed a screen from a video arcades war plane simulator. Children merrily are shooting away at the enemy, guns blazing as the game stops to show their score after the words “Game Over”.

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    ghost images I

    For my exhibition entitled ‘CON/FRONT”, National Arts Festival 2006, this work was installed in the front room of Fort Selwyn, an old fort guarding over Grahamstown. The fort was built as a watch and signal tower during the frontier wars and today is a national monument. This evidently male created space with its function to protect against the ‘enemy’ inspired a body of work which dealt with confrontation. An installation of miniature busts juxtaposed on shelves entitled “Ghost images”. Presentation on shelves where important as they are usually used to store unused goods, put away to collect dust. The original bust, a self portrait, was press moulded to create duplicates, and was the entrance piece to the exhibition. These duplicates where each reworked to create different personas. The process of moulding is important as it reference being moulded by society,other individuals or historic events. The personas included a Boer and a Zoeloe, a Minister, a father and son, a mother, some bore the scars of confrontation on their faces, fist marks, cuts and bruises. With specific placement they create tension and also an ongoing conversation with each other and the viewer. These conversation in real life could lead to indifference, a misunderstanding which sometimes leads to confrontation and can lead to war. These untold tensions is however frozen in time and will forever stay unresolved.

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    the match

    In my exhibition entitled ‘CON/FRONT”, National Arts Festival 2006, this work was installed in Fort Selwyn an old fort guarding over Grahamstown. The fort was built as a watch and signal tower during the frontier wars and today is a national monument. This evidently male created space with its function to protect against the ‘enemy’ inspired a body of work which dealt with confrontation. This instinctive human reaction to protect and look after served as the inspiration for the main installation entitled “The Match”. In this piece a big table hovered above the ground. It resembled a field and was inspired by games like soccer or rugby. At two ends of the table two figures mirrored each other. They were duplicates of each other but also opposites and based on the Kouros figure. The Kouros figure was used as it was the first embodiment of captured movement in Western sculpture and also showed emotion known as the Archaic smile. These nude studies were used as guards at entrances to temples and were usually seen as young male soldiers. In the piece they stood guard or became controllers of the game, the goalies for the match. The match was internal, confrontation of emotions. They thus looked after my interior space. On the field were four players on both sides three hand puppets or controls. The players on the field referenced some of my previous work. These pieces dealt with childhood memories, the inner emotions which we struggle with or fight against daily. They captured those innocent joys, playing with balls, holding balloons, being dressed up for a fancy dress. One wearing a teddy bear suit the other that of a bunny. These toys are comforters those objects we felt safe with as kids. Oneself as the soldier becoming the protector of that lost innocence. The puppets functioned as metaphors for the personal influence or input we have. But also asked the question of who really is in control? And to what extend do we have an influence on what happens around us through our ability or incapability to control inner emotions. And to what extend do we look after that childhood innocence, do we just replace them with grown up prejudices and differences?

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    the kiss

    The work is a reference to Rodin and Brancusi’s sculptures with the same title. In this piece two figures, one a nude and reference to the Greek marble Apollo and the other a plastic soldier action figure, are captured facing each other in a moment before an embrace/attack. The word “kiss” can either refer to love or death. The one is the embodiment of a more feminine male Adam and the other that of a superficial plastic society pumped full of steroids. Nature verses the ‘new’ culture, the serpent still slowly creeping up the tree trunk against which Adams leg is supported. The soldier’s leg rests against a phallic missile. The action figure brings in an important element which I have used in previous works, that of toys. The action figure is a toy for kids and serves as role model for many a kid. It also reminds one of how soldiers are paid to serve as heroes in ongoing wars, to protect themselves and their loved ones against the other/enemy.

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    crystal palace

    A feeling of dislocation is the core inspiration for this piece which places me as white gay individual in context of the history of South Africa and that of the world. The work investigates the creation of a Utopian space and specifically a domestic space through imperialism and colonialism and questions the construction of norms through visual stimulus. By creating a “dreamscape” out of found objects taken from my cultural heritage I try to reconstruct memory in a process of reconciliation with the self and metamorphoses into a better understanding.

    The colonization of South Africa by white settlers is reflected in a sculptural diary built with found objects on the floating board. Using the toy as symbol I play with the construction of white identity and notions of imperialism. An ethereal world is created by the floating of the base and mobiles. This feeling mimes the dislocation from their own culture felt by the settlers on arrival adamant to keep their traditions in a continent opposite from what they where used to and the estrangement of culture created by enforcement of Western culture on the “Other”. Here the doilies become important as they are not only used as decoration but their function around the house is to keep furniture from staining and scratching cushioning the treasured family heirlooms from inevitable damage from outside. Reconstructing them to resemble snow flakes and also genetic structures they become alien and prehistoric in context of Africa.

    The core structure of the work is a metal frame which supports the floating “dreamscape”. This structure is based on a RDP house, with a roof typical of a Western house (Cape Dutch specifically). This steeply pitched roof supported by rafters is built at an angle to stop snow from accumulating. This same style was used by the original settlers based on plans brought from Europe. Building a roof in Africa to resist snow ironically shows how little was known about the country invaded. Here the title ironically mocks the famous glass and iron structure at the top of Sydenham Hill which housed “The Great Exhibition” of 1851 embodying products from countries around the world specifically examples of the latest technology developed in the Industrial Revolution through British Supremacy. In my artwork the products are visual stimulus taken from domestic interiors and which hints at the history of South Africa. By visual connotations the viewer is left to recall the aftermath left on the path of this created history.

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