Five minutes with the Association of Arts Pretoria Director | Sasol New Signatures

Five minutes with the Association of Arts Pretoria Director

The Pretoria Arts Association has been involved with Sasol New Signatures since the inception of this prestigious competition and we grabbed an opportunity to catch up with their Director, Pieter van Heerden.

How important is Sasol New Signatures in terms of developing and identifying local talent?

Launching a career in the visual art world requires support. The Sasol New Signatures Art Competition provides a platform for young artists to exhibit their work as part of an established and recognised annual exhibition and many winners of past competitions have become well known in the South African art market. The countrywide information sessions that are associated with the competition provide artists with valuable information as to what is expected of them regarding their entries and their artworks, giving them greater confidence and focus when submitting their works for the competition.

You have been closely involved with Sasol New Signatures for a number of years - which new South African artists have come to your attention via this competition/platform and which ones have you continued to follow? 

Over the years I have been privileged to witness the success of: Wim Botha, Hanneke Benade, Marco Cianfinelli, Frederik Eksteen, Klas Thibeletsha, Amita Makan, Richardt Strydom, Daandrey Steyn and Mohau Modisakeng.

Henri Matisse said “Creativity takes courage”. What are your thoughts on that statement?

That is a very interesting statement and I believe that creativity is more important than aesthetic populism and that courage motivates creativity.

As Director of the Pretoria Arts Association you are privileged to view many exhibitions. Tell us what’s on show at the Association at the moment - and what are the highlights coming up in the next six months? 

The presentation of art exhibitions is our main function. These exhibitions are regularly held, not only to show works of established artists but also to make the public more aware of avant garde art and new art forms such as those inspired by technology.  

In addition, the Association is very aware of its role in promoting the visual arts amongst all communities and to that end, talented young artists, often working under very disadvantageous conditions, are encouraged to exhibit and to become known.

At the moment we have two exhibitions on the go, namely:
In the Beginning, which is sculpture and woodcut carving by Michael Teffo and Revive by Katlego Modiri featuring works on paper.

And we are looking forward to a full programme of forthcoming events. 
Impressions (15 June to 4 July) is an exhibition of hand-printed lithographs printed by the Artists’ Press, accompanied by an additional work by some of the artists such as Hanneke Benade, Walter Oltmann, Sibonelo Chiliza, Tommy Motswai, Colbert Mashile,  Andre Naude, Winston Thekiso and  Diane Victor.

We are very excited to host Correlative Conjunction at the end of July (27 July to 15 August). This is exhibition of Ingrid Bolton and Zyma Amien, who are both overall winners of the Sasol New Signatures.

Then we have Drawing Conclusions (17 August to 5 September), which is curated by Diane Victor. The definition of drawing for the exhibition is quite open and includes all forms of mark-making on a surface which may or may not necessarily be paper based or even two dimensional.  To mention but a few of the artists:  Wayne Mathews, Heidi Fourie, Bambo Sibiya, Nhlanhla Nhlapo, Natalie Fossey, Carl Jeppe, etc.

In your opinion what makes a successful exhibition space?  
In my opinion an exhibition space must have the necessary facilities to accommodate all media (new and traditional), with sufficient lighting and enough plinths to exhibit sculpture. It is very important for a gallery to rotate its exhibitions on a regular basis, promoting the work of established as well as upcoming artists.  I am very proud of the Association of Arts Pretoria’s facility since we make provisions for all the above resulting in a dynamic exhibition programme. 

What is your favourite modality and why?
I can’t select one. I support the modality chosen by the artist which best expresses the theme.

Which work of art is your all-time favourite? Local and international? And why? 
My local choice is a self-portrait by the late Rudolph Vosser in my personal art collection. The work is executed in the style of Rembrandt and captivates the superb talent of the artist. 
Internationally I admire the Statue of Liberty because I see a frivolous link with the contemporary American artist, Jeff Koons.

Sasol has one of the most prestigious corporate art collections in South Africa - share your favourite pieces from that omnibus?

The Sasol Collection is most impressive and inclusive. Some of my favourite pieces are:
Alexis Preller:  Woman with a Lyre
Wim Botha:  Madonna del Parto
Deborah Bell:  A sparrow falls
Sibusiso Maphumulo:  Archangel Gabriel
Bonnie Ntshalintshali:  Flight into Egypt

Entries for Sasol New Signatures 2018 are open - what are you anticipating in terms of genre and narrative?

I think the Sasol New Signatures entrants are more concerned with the present and what the future may hold and their place in it.