Sunday, April 10, 2011

DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER .... at least in human years


Bill Hart's mural is monitored 24/7 by security cameras
From what I can gather, this mural in Kimberely is Bill's last surviving public artwork. It was commissioned by Hanns Bergs (see previous blog) for the De Beers diamond sorting building located in Kimberley and erected in 1974. Here it stands in it's full glory: 5 x 10 meters, resulting in 60 panels of sheer brilliance! Modelled in clay and cast in plaster, it is a fairly durable material (although disasterous if it ever were to fall from the wall!).

Bill's artwork always had a sense of timelessness about it: he would mold the shapes of his sculptures not with precision, instead, he welcomed imperfections. He would allow scrapes and jagged edges which would represent the weathered appeal of objects over space and time. It is for this reason that Bill's artwork, and I refer to this one in particular, stands proud and undarnished from the past 37 years.

setting up the panels for construction of the mural
 Bill is aided by friend & fellow artist, Keith Alexander

Bill models the clay to create his signature shapes

detail of the finished product

Hanns once told me a funny antidote about this mural:

   When Bill and Keith were finally assembling the enormous mural on site in Kimberley, I often went to supervise the building construction and watched Bill and Keith labour to lift up the heavy panels which were then fixed to the concrete wall. When I arrived on this day, I had the gut feeling that the mural was somehow smaller then Bill had promised and so after much discussion, Bill finished the argument by saying that as an artist he was entitled to change his mind and make the mural smaller!  "OK", I said, "but then we will will have to reduce the payment due to you!" He didn't like that at all and we finally agreed that the mural looked great and suited the design of the building.
   After some years, we all had a drink at my house when I showed Bill the maquette of the mural, which was decidedly longer than the mural in Kimberley. Bill then admitted that he and Keith had "f...d" up and had made the mural some 6 panels shorter and they were desparately hoping I wouldn't notice! Needless to say, we opened another bottle of wine and had a good laugh about the whole thing.

A short video pan of the building, designed with slanted & tinted windows to aid the sorting of precious diamonds. But the gem I admire most appears at the end of this clip...

a BIG THANKS to Hanns and the people of HOH who allowed me
to touch some REAL diamonds and spend time with Bill's mural.

Friday, April 8, 2011

On Tuesday last, Thabo & I decided to venture into the neighbourhood where my grandparents once owned some property, where my mum grew up on 3 Ayr Road in Atholl, Sandton, Johannesburg. 
I wanted to go there to see how the property had developped, who lives there now and if there were any remenants from the house my grandfather had designed. We travelled there by the standard cheap taxis (once known as KAFFIR taxis), ending up in a park where we had to squeeze through a gate and walk along the highway to the off-ramp...then another 30min trek up and down the hilly area called Atholl, finally to arrive at 3 Ayr Road, the last place I had seen my grandfather before his death in 2006.

enterance to 3 Ayr Road, the way it looked as I last saw it in 2001

as it stands today, 3 Ayr Road, surrounded by high security walls

To my surprise, the property had been split into 2 houses: 3A and 3B Ayr Road. I rang the doorbell at both and the domestic workers told me that the owners would be back shortly. Thabo & I waited outside the properties (that is to say outside the gates), only to discover that someone had pressed the "panic button" on us and so arrived the big black security truck with 2 big black men--armed with RIFLES--who stepped out of the truck to inform us: "we will use maximum force to remove you from this property", followed by: "I AM THE COMMANDER OF THIS AREA". I tried to explain the situation, but clearly we were without a car--no quick getaways--and these gorillas were not prepared to listen to any reasonable account of why we were there. So we up and left, walking down the path, me cursing under my breath, Thabo laughing from the absurdity of it all.
Just a few meters into our journey out of Athol, I realized that big black security truck was actually FOLLOWING us! We turned in disgust and demanded to know why they insisted on following us, and if they wanted us to leave so much, why not give us a lift to the nearest main road? They didn't give us any clear answer but instead told us to wait where we stood and they would come back to escort us out. Once they drove away, Thabo and I tried desparately to hail down any car which drove past. Finally one car stopped, 2 darkies in a beat-up toyota. We jumped in, and not a second to soon!--the security gorillas were driving in the opposite direction looking for us! We ducked our heads and breathed in a sigh of relief, knowing we had made our quick get-away afterall.