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Gert Potgieter: Honorary Exhibition at Ivory Manor Boutique Hotel from 25 October to 15 December 2018.

Posted on 25th Oct 2018 09:05:00

Ivory Manor Boutique Hotel has, for the past number of years, committed themselves to the promotion of the arts. This year they have extended their devotion beyond their annual fine art exhibition to include an intended series of exhibitions honouring selected artists for their unselfish contributions to the development of South African Art. The first of these exhibitions will honour the life and work of sculptor Gert Potgieter.

Gert Potgieter ‘s work in welded steel reflects on a sculptural career over a period of more than thirty years. The work currently on exhibition represents the outcome of a life-long search to perfect modeling figurative sculpture in steel - a technique that could never be mastered since the 1st Iron Age. As your eyes glance over the works on exhibition, the realization that you are looking at probably the first of its kind ever in history, is indeed exhilarating.

His decision to major in welded sculpture was born more out of necessity than choice. As a part time BA(FA) student at UNISA in the early 1980’s, having to support a family, money to devote towards art material and equipment was at the bare minimum. As he had an oil-cooled welder, he bought from a Handy House clearance sale for R175-00 and the relative cheap availability of scrapmetal; it was not a difficult decision to make.

Potgieter’s first welded steel sculptures followed the footsteps of the past masters such as Julio Gonzalez and David Smith. These works consisted of the welding together of found steel objects and pre-manufactured steel profiles. A technique referred to as the “Construction Technique”. He soon became disillusioned with this technique because of having to adhere to pre-determined shape and form. He wanted to model with steel in a manner that has previously only been possible in clay, plaster and wax. Driven by the belief, that it could be done, he spent many years of experimentation and research in achieving just that. It was only in around 2007/2008, with the assistance of welding technology development that the eureka moment finally came. He considers his work “Depression” (2008) as the first work that he successfully managed to create steel sculpture modeled around an armature.

Due to the lack of interest art historians and art critics have in the technical aspects of art making, very little information was documented regarding it. It is indeed sad as we are deprived of such valuable information needed to fully understand and appreciate a work of art, in particular sculpture where technical knowhow plays such an important part. This not only deprives us from knowledge but also the artists from their place in the history of art. David Smith once remarked that as far as he knows he was the first artist to create a welded sculpture in the USA. He could never be sure as those who document history only has appetite for the finished work of art. If you ask Gert Potgieter if he was the first to ever succeeded in modeling steel sculpture he answers: “I really cannot say. If however there was, I have never met any of them in person or through their work”.

Potgieter’s work extends far beyond technological experimentation. Parallel to this runs his inquiry into societal issues that feeds the content of his work. His work is a contemporary report of the realities we are faced with on a daily basis. He fearlessly pursues subject matter that others would restrain from. Subject matter that everyone can relate to but so few have the heart to discuss openly. He hereby brings art into public domain once again making it accessible to all of us irrespective of social standing, academic qualification or economic position. Through his work art becomes the property of everybody. It is free from the isolated confines of intellectual elitism. It is for all of us.

Louise Boshoff.