Cecile's carving out a name for herself
There's something about Pretoria that spawns talented artists, and Cecile Heystek is no exception. This Technikon Pretoria fine arts graduate, who already has an Atelier merit award to her name, has now joined the ranks of the many Pretorians who have excelled in the Ekurhuleni Fine Arts Awards over the years, including last years winner Cobus Haupt.
Cecile placed third at the weekend for her striking sculptural installation Burning Desire, a study on religious intolerance in a violent society. She carved three fire extinguishers from jacaranda and red ivory, etched religious symbols onto them and placed laser beams in their spouts. She then got emergency key boxes, put a box of matches in each and aimed the lasers to reflect back off them. The idea was that viewers walking past would get caught in "the crossfire".
Cecile explains her inspiration: "I've always wanted to make a wooden fire extinguisher because the medium contradicts the function. I was watching TV the one day on the conflict in the Middle East and I decided to do something on the whole issue of religious intolerance. It's all about the senseless self-destruction that takes place in the name of religion, about the suicide bombers, about self-sacrifice."
"I also like the ambiguity of the fire extinguisher being both a safety device and a killing machine."
Cecile's favourite medium is wood, which she normally gets for free from tree-fellers - fortunately, as she discovered how expensive wood was when recently trying to buy wood for her latest work. Wood hasn't always been her working medium - up until third year she experimented with different media until finally discovering wood in her fourth year. "It's a more feminine medium than, for example, steel - its more giving and is easier to work with. The moment you oil it, it comes to life. And if it cracks, it doesn't bother me - I leave the wood to shape itself."
Cecile, who attributes her inspiration to specialize in sculpture to former lecturer Egon Tania, says her works have a strong humorous side to them - " a critic once said I have a dark sense of humour," she says. "It's kind of new-dadaism, pop art related. I don't deal with the human figure, I usually use objects."
Her next solo exhibition is in three weeks in Potchefstroom. After that she's hoping to take a break from solo exhibitions and concentrate on bigger installations - and maybe even go back to Tech to do her Masters. "At least I'll have access to a proper studio," she says, explaining that she's currently working out of her garage. "And the studying stimulation is great."
Watch out for the name Cecile Heystek - she's a genuine talent who's sure to make it big on the South African art scene.
Cecile Heystek se jongste beelde te sien
Towenaar van die metafoor, wil jy haar doop nadat jy jou eers laat flous het deur die kunstenaar wat van dinge idees maak. Of is dit eerder 'n kwessie van idees in dinge giet?
Hoe ook al, Cecile Heystek, wie se werk nog tot 18 Oktober by die Tina Skukan-galery in Pretoria te sien is, se byna pynlike fyngekerfde en afgewerkde houtbeelde van die banaalste alledaagse huislike voorwerpe laat jou dink jy sien sagte donskussings, leer en geroeste metal. Maar moet dit nie glo nie.
Die tegniese vaardigheid waarmee sy die oog kul, plaas haar in 'n sin so drie eeue terug in die geskiedenis. Tot jy die verskuilde konsep agter die oënskynlike materiebeheptheid raaksien en besef sy staan midde-in die hedendaagse konseptuele skool, waar idees baie sterk saak maak. Dan lag die werk met die guitige knipoog van die kulkunstenaar vir jou. Met 'n skerp sin vir die absurde, verander sy eenvoudige tasbare goed in komplekse idees. Daarmee lewer sy satiries kommentaar oor omgewingskwessies, gedrag en menslike oorlewingstrategieë.
Vra jy die uitsonderlike kunstenaar na haar inspirasies, tas sy na die vroeë stillewekuns. Sy praat ook van die heerlike eg-Afrikaansheid om haar: rugbygeesdriftiges wat voor 'n wedstryd op Loftus al vroegdag op 'n gasstofie vleis braai. "Waar kry jy nog sulke lekker mense?" hoor ek in haar goedige laggie terwyl haar kop draai na die houtgekerfde Cadac-gasstofie - die een op wieletjies.
"Vir beweegbaarheid, aanpasbaarheid," bevestig sy kripties.
In a week largely devoted to widely differing forms of sculpture, Heystek has little to fear from comparisons. She has a great feel for wood and an ingenious eye for incorporating found objects. She can make you believe that a solid pillow or sack is in fact light and flimsy, and carved folds of fabrics flow realistically. The press release describes her exhibition as a "collection of suburban delights": that shortchanges a quirkish intellect that gives familiar everyday objects an offbeat aura.
The Sunday Independent
Sculptures portray the alchemy of personality
An exhibition of sculptures depicts humans as marionettes who dance placidly to tunes that are orchestrated by the chemistry of their bodies
UPS AND DOUBTS
Exhibition by Cecile Heystek
I recently discovered the bizarre fact that it is not uncommon to treat some forms of epilepsy and encephalitis by removing half of the patient's brain. Surprisingly, the empty half of the scull merely fills up with cerebrospinal fluid, the only side effects being that the patient is left with a large scar and the limited use of one hand.
Here's another strange fact: extreme damage to the part of your brain just above your eyebrows can result in a complete personality change. Imagine this: on Monday, you were a workaholic who loved peanut butter. On Tuesday, after you hit your head hard against the windshield in a car accident, you ended up as a lazy lout who preferred Marmite. It really happens. Yet another oddity: about 10 in a million people have synesthesia, which means they might physically feel a certain shape when they taste a certain food, such as triangles for chocolate cake or long spiky rods for peppermint crisp.
How can all this be true: aren't our brains supposed to be these incredibly complex, precious, delicate organs capable of untold wonders? A personality is supposed to be what makes a person unique - surely it can't be changed just like that?
Heystek tries to answer this question, and I don't think many of us are going to be comfortable with the answer.
The artist plays with the idea that human beings are like silly little marionettes marching to the tunes of the chemicals of which they are made. Heystek's works are small machines skillfully carved from wood, with various ready-made additions.
She seems to pose many intriguing questions about the seriousness and mystery of human psychology, while pulling the carpet out from underneath it at the same time.
For example, in Neurotransmitters Heystek has created a set of carved flippers, or "fins", with the names of the neurotransmitting molecules responsible for emotion, mood and pleasure fastened to them. The flippers wave back and forth in a somewhat futile and idiotic fashion as the viewer winds a handle at the one side.
She cleverly makes it clear that while we treasure our emotions and moods as part of what makes us human and unpredictable, ultimately we are just placidly following the order of our chemicals. This is made all the more apparent in Moodswing Tyre, where a wooden rendition of an old car-tyre swing hangs in the gallery as a reminder that it is up to the chemicalsin your body to determine what mood you'll be in today, and not yourself. Heystek's use of heavy solid woods has the effect of giving her machines a certain clumsiness, which accentuates the meaning of works such as Moodswing Tyre.
Brains are normally thought of as such delicate objects. In a number of glass pickle jars, however, Heystek has inserted two heavy, clod-like brains which look more like limpet mines than your average human's universe. Installed in the brains are the keys of a raped typewriter, just waiting to bang out the next word.
It doesn't take much to work out that Heystek isn't big on waxing lyrical about the marvels of being human and the limitlessness of our powers. This is no more apparent than "Between I and Me". Here Heystek has carved a giant hot-water bottle which doubles as a chest. Inside, and acting as the lungs, I guess, is a great mound of what appears to be faeces, with a dung-beatle attached. This work sticks out because the rest of Heystek's works are quirky and upbeat.
She is a skilled carver and the works are accessible and interesting. What makes the exhibition really worthwhile, however, is her tack on a subject that few other artists are interested in.
Ups and Doubts at the Civic gallery in Johannesburg.
Website of South African Artists