DUM SPIRO – ‘WHILST I BREATHE’
Angus Taylor’s work can be described as powerful and monumental in scale, often sculpted from materials from his immediate environment. Referencing traditional South African crafting techniques, his work is bold, confrontational, and visionary. Informed by his time at Tswalu, ‘Dum Spiro – Whilst I Breathe’, forms part of the TSWALU RESIDENCY EXHIBITION at the Everard Read Gallery in Johannesburg, South Africa.
The rhino calf studies were born from a earlier study I did for a possible commission in Mozambique of a mother and calf. Observing and modelling the calf made me aware of the oddity, the beautifully full and rounded articulation of unknown shapes, the overall complexity of form. Usually, I prefer domestically disregarded animals as subject matter, for example donkeys, but to me the rhino calves embody the same humility and peculiarity. I wanted empathy and pathos, for them to express… ‘as we breathe, we hope’.
Over the years, I have used text – embossed and engraved – on the surfaces of sculpture. It articulates the surface and creates another compositional and visual element to balance and with which to play. Moreover, it offers viewers another experience when they’re close enough to read it. Some of the texts I have used have been written by me and others in collaboration with fellow artists, writers, thinkers, and philosophers. As a society, we’re fixated on determinate, explicit information. Therefore, I attempt not to preach or express circumscribed concepts with my chosen text. Rather, I want the text to inform the artwork poetically in another dimension.
In our complex social world, it is hard to find ancient wisdom that has culminated or precipitated through woe, free from ideology, still in use. The Latin language was rich in idioms, many of which we still use. I enjoy using these as ancient, universal, and timeless chunks of wisdom. For example, on the rhino calves I repeated Dum Spiro, Spero to convey the main sentiment of my work for this show concerning our natural environments and their inhabitants. It translates to ‘whilst I breathe, I hope’.
On Tswalu reserve, surrounded by barking geckos at dusk in the shadow of the Korannaberg, you can only hope that others, especially those chiefly responsible for taking care of our natural habitats, have the capacity and resources to help conserve these immensely valuable, pristine patches of timeless wonderland. You hope the awe of it all captivates the average person, that it may be understood in its understated being as wondrous. You hope, as humanity, we group together and help banish the idea that specific animal parts have mystic powers and that everything is there for our utilisation. You hope we have learned that we are no more important than any other species. You hope, and maybe in your own way try, to shift perception, and possibly help to shift the tide.
The studies of mountains in stone, as an ode to the big stone, the mountain, arose from a need to observe, in turn to make the viewer see the character, personality, and the possibly visceral similarity of a mountain to a living thing. Standing next to a mountain, it is hard to visualise millions of years of wind blowing over it, its geologically diverse flood plains, in soil deposits, the slow, hidden movement. The eagle’s view shows the flow of nature, that there is always movement, no matter how slow. I found this piece by Shelling inspirational in making these cross-disciplinary artworks.
‘A stream flows in a straight line forward as long as it encounters no resistance. Where there is resistance, a whirlpool forms. Every original product of nature is such a whirlpool, every organism. The whirlpool is not something immobilised, it is rather something constantly transforming – but reproduced anew at every moment. Thus, no product of nature is fixed, but is reproduced at each instant through the force of nature … nature, by and large, cooperates in every product.’
My part of this exhibition is aimed at zooming out to the allocentric view of how everything relates to everything else, rather than the egocentric – my relationship towards everything. Therefore, it is the eagle’s view of the landscape and not mine. We are part of nature, in Shelling’s words … ‘whirlpools and ever transforming’. I hope we collectively transform to better conserve and appreciate our planet’s splendour.
Images of Angus Taylor by Christo Niemandt. Image of Tswalu Kalahari taken by the artist.
The TSWALU RESIDENCY EXHIBITION showcases Angus Taylor’s body of work, ‘Dum Spiro – Whilst I breathe’, inspired by a shared residency with Rina Stutzer at Tswalu Kalahari. Currently on show at Everard Read Johannesburg, South Africa, until 21 December 2022. For further information, please contact Everard Read Johannesburg [email protected]
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