- Jonathan van der Walt
99 Loop is delighted to be exhibiting the latest body of work by Port Elizabeth-based sculptor Jonathan van der Walt.
Craftsmanship in contemporary sculpture production is the main area of focus in this collection. An exploration into the artistic production processes of selected contemporary artists’ work revealed a tendency of physical non-involvement on the part of the artist, who, in some cases, took up the role of an art director in charge of hundreds of assistants. Van der Walt focuses on Jeff Koons, Damien Hirst, Maurizio Cattelan and Takashi Murakami.
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(Photography courtesy Monalisa Colditz.)
The Old Masters also used assistants, but were normally already established, proven artists and skilled craftspeople who opened workshops to teach their apprentices their skills whilst having them assist in their artistic production. In contemporary art, however, some artists openly state that they cannot do what their assistants or labourers can do. One aspect of art production that has lessened the contemporary artist’s practical involvement is the collaboration with technique specialists and/or specialists in alternate mediums as well as great developments in technology.
Contemporary art, for the most part, and especially regarding the abovementioned artists, is a collaborative process. All parties involved in a collaboration benefit in their own specific ways, and the artist’s primary role within the collaborative process is to provide the artistic idea. It is ultimately the artist’s technical abilities, workload and artist-identity or brand that will determine the extent to which he or she will contribute to the collaboration, whether that be a simple idea, a sketch, a maquette or a large-scale sculpture ready for installation.
Ultimately, craftspeople do receive credit for the work they do in the form of money, business and marketing. They provide a service that a great number of artists generously support. Foundries and fabricators also place a mark on the work they do, much like the artist’s signature, as a symbol of pride and recognition.
The idea is what distinguishes the artist from the craftsman, and an artist’s idea to leave the making to the craftsman has great financial benefits to both parties. However, in a rapidly advancing technological society, it is crucial for artists to resist letting go of the tactile qualities of being a ‘maker’.