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About...how I tick and what I do.

Background:

More than twenty years’ experience (starting from a 6 year stay in the San Francisco Bay Area where the bug first bit) and the aptitude to work with a wide range of materials has given me an appreciation of the hidden beauty and inherent sculptural honesty of life-worn materials, and an ability to re-make them in novel ways. This results in unique pieces that are both visually appealing yet useful in their own right – functional art.

I’ve done and experienced much since leaving school decades ago: soldier, oilrig worker, computer programmer (ongoing), company CEO, delivery driver, sustainable homestead farmer (ongoing) and a few other things. Along the way I fell in love with Dr Seuss’s childrens’ books (thanks to my young son), especially with the wonderful shapes and machines in the illustrations. Roald Dahl‘s childrens’ stories’ honesty about the reality of humanity and his sardonic humour have always given me great joy. Most of the titles to my pieces owe a lot to his writing as well as motivation for their topics. Add a love for the post-apocalyptic Victorian industrial fantasy genre, a design style now called steampunk (Philip Pullman‘s His Dark Materials trilogy or Truth Coffee Roasting in Cape Town, for example) and you see some of the principle influences on my work.

One of my goals in the future is to marry my computer programming and hardware interface skills with biometrics (the recognition of human features for identification) and sculpture to create neo-cybernetic pieces. Watch this space…

Working

I abhor waste and over-consumption of any kind. That and my awareness of what is really happening to the environment (ironically by my exposure to the stupidity of humankind while trying to help solve the South African waste management crisis) have forced me to really think about what I use: its provenance, its future, everything that might make the difference between my pieces either lasting for generations or being tossed aside in favour of something new and store bought.

I try hard not to limit myself to what might be an “obvious” use for something (for example, using a crate as a table when it could be far more interesting as a de-constructed ceiling lamp), and would far rather try to find either a surprisingly different application, or work out some way in which its balance or construction evokes curiosity and comment. If nothing springs to mind, a component is shelved until an idea or some other catalyst comes along.

I really enjoy incorporating structural engineering components and methods into my pieces: making particularly strong cantilevered connections so that something obviously heavy is seen to balance delicately, or incorporating the beautifully proportioned arches of bridges in Italy into benches. I have always believed that there is no real difference between art and science: to be a good artist requires some considerable (if intuitive) scientific knowledge, while those scientists who have changed the world and influenced our thought have had to cross the line from quantifiable to imaginary…which is nothing more than art: the world seen and expressed differently.

I sometimes work off a concept sketch, but these can only ever be drawn ideas not detailed plans as the materials available inevitably determine the final object more than the original idea ever could.

I won’t pretend that each is a work of Art as critiqued by purist art snobs (frankly, I think the world would do better with a lot less snobbery in all realms and considerably more dirt under the fingernails) as, in the end, all that matters is that I enjoy the making and others enjoy owning and appreciating. If I can evoke a smile and an exclamation of wonder when someone realises the humble origins of one of my pieces and the result of my love and art, then I have achieved enough.

Unique:

Every ReDeux piece carries a unique stamp or copper plaque (the image at the top of this page) identifying its origin in my workshop as well as a signature and date. Each also has a story: what it was made from, how it was finished (usually with natural finishes from (ProNature) and any other bits of information that completes its tale. The three galleries (Steampunk, Dahl and Seuss, No Funk, More Junk and In the Works) will give you a good idea of the diversity of my work.

Materials:

Where timber is concerned I love discovering the beauty under the grime and paint of the years, and the way the wood grain springs to vibrant, visual life when first touched by wax, the deep warm lustre that results as the layers are hand rubbed, and the sensual, silky feel of the wood when I’m done. I particularly enjoy the colour and texture change on a fire-damaged tree trunk – I think it imparts a depth and a life to something that would otherwise have seemed “flat”.

Metal reveals itself quite differently. It takes hours to find and shape pieces to fit correctly to achieve functionality while maintaining balance and proportion. The construct comes together almost in a rush towards the end as the components gradually begin to make the picture in my head.

Stone is a lot like wood in the sense that so much is revealed as layers are removed. And, just like wood, sometimes it is better to leave than to take away. Stone, I find needs less work and more observation and lateral thinking. In its nature it grounds the other work or provides a heavy counter-balance.

Glass is stone, refined. It has the plasticity that stone does not and where stone grounds and balances, glass melds and enhances. Glass adds light and dimension, bonding disparate components and making more out of the joining than the mere sum of the parts. Included here is my fondness for bits of old bone china and ceramic. On a previous farm I lost myself for hours digging up decades (centuries?) old Delftware shards. One day I’ll have an idea for a piece that will honour their beauty and history.

Commissions:

I’m happy to take on commissions as long as the variability and uniqueness in the materials used are clearly understood – the beauty of each piece results from the combination of these, and it is simply what it is. So I can’t do “built-in” anything and nor is it possible to replicate exactly what I might have done before or which you might have seen somewhere else. When I’m working on something, I feel very viscerally and strongly if it is “right” or “wrong”. If the latter happens I either break it up and start again, or discard it and work on something else until the answer drifts to the surface…

Finishes:

I try to use only natural paints and wood finishes (from ProNature) or I try to “intercept” conventional finishes that are ultimately destined for the local landfill. I also construct each pieces as robustly as the materials and the item’s function allow.

Repairs:

And finally, if anything I make breaks through normal use, as long as the purchaser will get it to my workshop, I will repair it at no cost bar the shipping costs back and forth; if it breaks through unusual use (dancing on tables, swinging from chandeliers,etc)…well, there would be a cost of repair attached too.

In short, anyone who buys one of my pieces can know that it is unique, collectable and an heirloom investment, made in a sustainable and environmentally aware way, and will be repaired if it breaks, at least until I’m due for recycling…

Seeing the work:

If you are in the south-western Cape in the Overberg area and would like to see any of the unsold pieces, the text for each image tells you where (and if) the item is currently available. Leon Muller’s Art Thirst Gallery in Hermanus has a good selection of my work, and is well worth the visit to see in its own right. Other pieces may be seen at the Baardskeerdersbos Gallery (although usually only during the Baardskeerdersbos Art Route twice yearly). During the 2015 my own gallery will be open on our farm outside the town of Baardskeerdersbos.

If there is a piece that you like, but which has been sold, I might be able to create something that comes close (depending on the material at hand), so by all means email me at info@redeux.co.za.

Created in your home:

Finally, I also offer a unique artistic twist for those who might like something made from their own household/farm/factory/office discards and that is that I will come to your place and, using the materials that you have at hand, make you something unique.

Thanks for visiting!

Jan

 

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