Metalmorphoses, the title of the exhibition which opened last Tuesday at the Omba Gallery here, explains what this show, by four different artists, is all about. It is derived from the fact that each of the four uses metal in the creative process.
What is immediately obvious is that Attila Giersch has gone off on a tangent. He has deviated from his usual professional pursuits as a goldsmith and produced large abstract works in brushed aluminium.
In the context of this exhibition they work extremely well, given that Sylvia von Kuehne also use aspects of the larger format. Giersch explores the use of aluminium in a decor context, which is completely credible. Making the change from one genre to another, which includes size, is often easier said than done. While not wanting to be prescriptive, one obviously sees the potential of using aluminium in its various anodised finishes. Giersch, however, has opted to complement the brushed, natural finish through the use of solid colour. The shapes would work well in a large space.
Sylvia von Kuehne, on the other hand, has managed her transformation with a number of subtle touches. Her metalwork is in the fashioning of jewellery to be worn around the neck, or elsewhere, depending on what the wearer fancies. She cleverly adorns her static torsos with her jewellery, made from thinly drawn copper and brass, to filigree thinness, but she has gone two steps further.
The typical shop-front torso could so easily have been left painted in bland white, but von Kuehne has decorated the torso with a lacy material to create the impression of a bodice in an haute couture way, which almost draws the eye away from the primary object on display.
Then there is a little creative flourish, which is not immediately noticeable, but each torso is titled in a way that personalises an otherwise mundane object. At the bottom of each work the torsos bear names of queens through the ages e.g. Elizabeth, Anne, Victoria, etc. One has to look carefully to spot it. So, von Kuehne's works cannot, or should not only be seen in its 'metal'/jewellery context, but, artistically, she has extended herself, which is always a good sign. Each torso, therefore, can confidently be hung on a wall as an artwork.
The real grunt in this showing is the presentation by Hanno Becker, an artist-blacksmith, and there are precious few of those around! His contribution to the exhibition comes in three distinct components. There are small animal sculptures (elephants and birds), jewellery, and two items of furniture, with accessories (bowls).
The animal sculptures in steel, are no more than about twenty centimetres in length, but they have solidity about them that clearly reference the physical strength of Africa's largest pachyderm, and then there are the birds as well. It is easy to place and see these pieces on display in offices and homes. The aesthetics perform a dual function in terms of referring the source of the design, and then there is the real physical weight, which has many applications.
His chair and table are firmly rooted to the floor, and they leave no doubt about their genesis. What has been a problem with similar chair designs, however, has been the very top of the chair back and front edge of the seat, where the vertical/horizontal steel elements are not brought together with an edging piece. The human body plays along only up to a certain point!
His metal bangles are substantial! Because of the dark finish, one has to look with real intent to see the clever bits of creativity. A flash of natural colour on the edges of some design elements might have made for a more elegant aesthetic. The bowls are sure to fly out through the door ahead of everything else! Little gems!
Chikirra Claasen is not showing any of her clothing designs. Instead she has a number of silk fabric pieces on show, but silk fabric with a difference.
The material has been treated with iron oxide to create the patterns. One gets the feeling that she is one step away from a new signature range of clothing design, employing these new techniques, and that the public are merely guinea pigs! It would be a clever ploy, if that were, indeed, the case.
It is almost ironic that this exhibition should be based almost exclusively on the use of 'metal', from the subtle iron oxide, to the more solid 'heavy metal'. It is a show worth seeing. Definitely a 'less is more' display, where the space has not been loaded with 'product!' This exhibition runs until October 11.