The PPC Young Concrete Sculptor Awards 2013 continued to show the innovative strides in the use of concrete as a fine art medium. This year emphasized the functional abilities of concrete as well as its aesthetic qualities. The Fine Art winning piece Kunsarbeid by Josua Strümpfer demonstrates the possibilities of the industrial medium in creating clean, defined and intricate artworks. St. John Fuller was the winner of the Functional Art Award for his piece, PUG. The piece features a fully functional pinhole camera, based on the original camera obscuras.
When one thinks of concrete, one visualizes grey monotone walls and smooth durable surfaces and structures. But it is not particularly considered aesthetically pleasing. The Boston City Hall constructed largely of concrete of Brutalist architecture was voted “The World’s Ugliest Building” in 2008. PPC launched the Young Concrete Sculptor Awards 22 years ago as part of its centenary celebrations and aims to revise concrete as an artistic medium. YCSA is the longest running competition of its kind in the country granting a platform for emerging sculptors to bring their vision to life through the medium of concrete. This year’s winning piece displays the possibilities of fine art concrete sculptures. Strümpfer's Kunsarbeid consists of a transparent base covered by bold and pristine labyrinth carved out of concrete. At the top, a reassembled horse figure held together using bronze clamps and internal slurry stands posed to run. The judging panel praised Stumpfer’s work for its complexity in both design and execution.
Born in Cape Town in 1985, Strümpfer attended the School of Art and Design, Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University, where he attained a Diploma in 2008 and a B-TECH Degree in Fine Art Sculpture two years later. He is currently continuing his studies in the field of objects conservation, which is a vastly diverse field involving conservation and restoration of art, artifacts, public sculptures and monuments. Kunsarbeid, loosely translated as 'the labour of art' embodies the inherent qualities of concrete.
St.John Fuller - PUG
Concrete is used more than any other man-made material in the world. The Functional Sculpture Award was introduced in 2012, challenging artists to create pieces that were not only aesthetically pleasing but was also practical. St.John Fuller’s piece, PUG, consists of carefully crafted fully functional pinhole camera. Various bolts mark the positions of the aperture and view finder which helps to orientate the photographer or viewer.
Born in Claremont in the Western Cape, he started developing an appreciation for cameras and photography at a very young age. He studied a foundation course in Art and Design as well as a BA in Fine Arts in the UK. It was at the Southampton Institute where he was introduced to the world of pinhole cameras.
Using photographic paper, the camera creates precision images without any leakages. Though the piece is bulky, Fuller's work comments on the instant gratification of digital cameras and camera phones where we take copious amounts of pictures without any thought to the action of photography.
Bongani Dlamini and Ncedani Fobo - The unfair servant
Runners-up Bongani Dlamini and Ncedani Fobo comment on the criminal landscape of South Africa through their work, The unfair servant. It explores the divide between those who work honestly and productively and those who are driven to crime and corruption which negatively impacts their environment. The work displays the head of pick-axes made from concrete with images of guns, grenades and corrupt politicians engraved on each pick. A glass top displays crime statistics ranging from armed robbery, ATM bombings to hijacking statistics for South Africa’s nine provinces over various years.
Nicolas Prinsloo - The lights of Arcadia
Merit Award winners Nicholas Prinsloo and Adriaan Petrus Diederich combines the simplicity of everyday objects with social issues. Prinsloo's The Light of Arcadia contrasts the fragility of the light bulb with it thin glass and filament with dark and underground lifestyle of prostitutes. Prinsloo moulded intricate filament sculptures displaying symbols such as street lights and high-heeled shoes iconic to the environment that these prostitutes experience. The everyday lightbulb is contrasted to the underground lifestyle and occupation of prostitution. Diederich’s piece, Hand tot mond, sees concrete moulded tables with intricate lace and R100 note patterns embedded in the tops and sides. The table often a symbol of family, Diederichs aims to make a comment on consumerism and how the striving for wealth sees family ideals fall behind. A Certificate of Recognition was also awarded to Gavin John Risi for his work, Metaphorical African, which shows an appreciation of three-dimensional form and natural curves and lines.
Adriaan Diedricks - Hand tot mond
The 2013 PPC YCSA entries have significantly increased by 25% which sees concrete as a medium in sculpture gain interest among young upcoming artists. Though many of the artists acknowledged that the medium was not easy to learn, once mastered, concrete could become one of the inexpensive and innovative sculpture techniques. The 2013 winners showed that concrete could both be beautiful as well as useful. The works displayed the essential character of cement: functional, strong and timeless.
The exhibition runs from 7 - 19 November 2013 at the Association of Arts Pretoria. Kay Potts, National Chairperson of PPC Cement YCSA will conduct a walkabout on Saturday, 16 November 2013 at 11:00.
Photographs courtesy of PPC.