Young sculptors impress community

The 2009 PPC Young Concrete Sculptor Awards (YCSA), held in partnership with the Association of Arts in Pretoria, once again showcased a high quality of submissions at the official opening and prize giving ceremony.

The event has been on the art calendar for the past 17 years and has become one of South Africa’s most prestigious art competitions. The competition invites young artists to submit sculptures using concrete as the primary medium and is open to persons with or without formal training in sculpting.

“The response this year in terms of the number of entries, quality of the work and a high standard of artistic merit has made it one of the most successful years in the history of the competition,” comments Kay Potts, chairperson of the YCSA judging committee. Total prize money for this year’s competition amounted to R85 000. This year’s overall winner was Amber-Jade Geldenhuys, a 3rd year Fine Art student at the University of Johannesburg. Her winning submission, entitled ‘Secret Weapon’ saw her walk away with the R50 000 first place prize.

Visually, ‘Secret Weapon” is a giant, gate remote-control with a cityscape relief on the opposite side. Geldenhuys says it is based on her observations of the security communities that sacrifice their privacy for supposed safety within their gated enclosures. The judges were very impressed with the technical aspects of the sculpture, which was directly modeled over a polystyrene core and the curing process was well-controlled, as evidenced by the lack of cracking and spalling, leading to a beautiful finish.

Runner-up in the 2009 competition was Lwandiso Njara who’s sculpture of nine Metro bus drivers on a journey in aid of a wage increase, symbolising the struggles of the working man, earned him R25 000. The judges deemed this piece to be a well-executed and interesting sculpture that incorporated an interesting combination of media. Two merit awards valued at R5 000 each were awarded to Hannelie Coetzee and Marieke Prinsloo respectively. Coetzee’s “Webcam Two Face (self portrait) is characterised by a pixilated webcam image, rendered in a mix of concrete and stone which the judges found to be exceptionally interesting. Prinsloo’s “Prima Vera Twins”, based on Botticelli’s ‘Prima Vera’ painting was judged to having demonstrated an excellent grasp of the casting and finishing processes, evoking a sense of beauty and grace.

The competition was judged by a panel of seasoned art experts, including Phanuel Mabaso, winner of the 2007 competition and runner-up in both 2005 and 2006. His achievements in the PPC Young Sculptor Awards have opened many doors for him, enabling him to establish the African Image Sculpture School in Limpopo, where he currently lectures to over 20 aspiring artists.

Other judges of the competition include technical experts from PPC and associates of the Association of the Arts Pretoria, all of whom ensured that both high-level artistic skill and technical excellence in the use of concrete were strongly represented in the winning works.

“We are proud of the fact that this competition has done so much for the development of young artists in South Africa,” says Basson, adding, “It has not only proved to be a highly sustainable initiative, but has been an enabler for many artists, broadening their artistic experience, skills and knowledge – empowering them to embark on careers in the arts.”

According to PPC, the use of concrete in the creation of artworks is very popular globally because it is a very durable and cost effective medium. “The layman, and even many within the arts community, may perceive concrete to be very limited in terms of its final presentation, but it is in fact an incredibly versatile medium that can be used to create beautiful works of art,” comments Pieter van Heerden, director of the Association of the Arts Pretoria, who manages the competition in conjunction with PPC, adding, “Many of the entrants to this competition have never used concrete as a medium before but once  they empower themselves through the workshops offered by PPC in the run-up to the competition, they tend to re-enter each year and use concrete more often in their own work.”

This year, the prize categories of Best Overall and Technical Excellence were combined.  This combination occurred after long deliberation in which it was decided that the best overall work should also be the best technical.

“The jury process this year was not easy and the deliberations were thought provoking and insightful. The diversity of themes and various technical aspects of cement usage pleased the jury and made for a very rewarding competition,” added van Heerden.

One of PPC’s goals in hosting the competition, other than the promotion of art, is to demonstrate the resourcefulness of concrete, to which end it conducts workshops for aspirant concrete sculptors across the country in the months leading up the competition.  “Educating artists as to how to mix and apply concrete properly to achieve a broad variety of effects and applications is a key factor in enabling the high standard of creativity in the entrants we see each year,” adds Bheki Luphahla, PPC’s technical consultant. For more information, call 011-386-9309.