WHILE parts of the world have seen the worst floods in years, South Africa is in the throes of its severest drought since 1982. We rely on water-harvesting, and dams and lakes are a central part of this endeavour. Sculptor Gavin Younge has responded to these issues in a doubly-framed series of ‘folded’ metal sculptures, and redrawn, topographic landscapes.
The sculptures, three of which are two metres high, look abstract, but are, in fact, accurate representations of the outlines of six dams and lakes. These outlines, delineated by topographic contour lines, have been removed from the plate steel and exist as absences – metonyms for desire, as in most cases these dams are never full.
Kalkbank, a three-sided yellow pillar, depicts a straggling watercourse in Limpopo Province. Satellite imagery, however, shows the effect of the current drought on this 100-kilometre-long expanse of water – it is a dry, naked, farm-free scar in the landscape.
Another large work describes the Vaal Dam. Visually, this resembles a large iguana-like creature, rather than a conventional D-shaped dam with a concave wall. Vaal’s claw-like tributaries make, and unmake, an unusual coagulation of waterways. The artist has chosen Ferrari-red to mark off this water-world playground for weekenders from nearby Johannesburg.
The technique employed for Water Matters is an extension of the artist’s 2008 work for the CTICC.
Younge also presents a series of works on large-format German etching paper. Called Redrawn Territories, these drawings explore aspects of the local landscape from a cartographic point of view. He carefully draws contours and the outlines of waterways using a pen and tablet. The artist is concerned with metamorphosis, with landscapes built from words – heavy words – such as land acts, removals, restitution.
Younge’s redrawn territories support his robust works in steel – on occasion they reference the same geophysical landmark – Lake Sibaya in the iSmangaliso Wetlands for instance. Or Gariep. In all instances they begin a conversation about the environment, our place in it, and the part we need to play to preserve it.
See the exhibition at the IS Art Gallery at 11 Huguenot Street, Franschhoek until February 29.
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