Artists Creating Meaning

The Midlands MagazineAugust 17, 2022

The Midlands is home to many great artists and if you don’t take some time to really look, you might miss them. Here are three local artists using various media to make their art, from painting to printmaking, and some bronze sculptures in between – for each of them it’s about soul, beauty, and peace.


Casting the Beautiful in Bronze

Originally born in Durban, Sarah Richards is now based in Balgowan and has been an artist all her life, drawing, painting, and making sculptures. She has been immersed in working with the bronze medium for over 20 years now, creating sculptures in various shapes and sizes, from wild animals, dogs, birds, and busts. She studied Fine Art at the Durban Technikon from 1985 to 1990, majoring in sculpture, and received her Master’s in Fine Art in 2008 through the Durban University of Technology.

Sarah’s process starts with creating the specific subject to be sculpted in homemade plasticine or wax, after which she sends the modelled piece to the foundry to be cast in bronze. She has two foundries in the Midlands: the KZN Bronze Casting Foundry, which is based in Lidgetton, and the Falconer Foundry in Mooi River. Having these foundries close to her allows her to be involved in the casting process, making her sculptures ever more personal from start to finish.

Sarah’s muse is nature, and she continuously strives to deepen her connection to it. She believes that we, human beings, have forgotten our place within it, separating ourselves by fear and/or superiority. Ultimately, we are a part of nature and, as Sarah explains, we can “feed from it, grow, and mature in it”.

Her deepening connection to nature is expressed through her art, and in turn, this inspires others.

She is currently creating work that touches on her relationship with nature, she describes it as a “force”, and her goal is to understand herself, find growth, and calm through this force.

Sarah’s sculptures have sold locally and internationally, and she received numerous commissions for public and private spaces. Some have been monumental, measuring three metres in height, and others have been small collector pieces. Her bronze sculptures can be found at the Platform Gallery in Lion’s River. She also displays at galleries in Durban, Hoedspruit, and Gauteng and on her online website.


Finding Soul in Printmaking

Siyabonga Ngubane lives in KwaPata near Edendale in KwaZulu-Natal and has been an artist his whole life, drawing from an early age with only a ballpoint pen; his schools did not have art classes or materials. He attended the Centre for Visual Arts at the University of KwaZulu-Natal in Pietermaritzburg and graduated in 2018 with an Honours degree.

He explored a variety of media during his university years, however, his medium of choice became linocuts. This printmaking technique consists of cutting a design onto a sheet of lino with either a V-shaped chisel, gouge, or knife. Ink is then rolled onto the sheet, which is impressed onto fabric or paper.

Siyabonga’s process consists of drawing onto the lino, he also carves designs onto it in various textures. Some of these range from human figures to animals. In his prints, he is particularly inspired by people, depicting women and their place within society. Because he was mainly raised by women, his mother and grandmother, he honours them in his life and art. Furthermore, he conveys deeper meanings in his artwork, inspired by peoples’ reactions.

Art is a way of life for Siyabonga, to him, it is about the soul, and if there is no soul in it, then it’s not art. Printmaking gives him peace, but he fully appreciates the tough nature of the art business and being an artist who lives in the township, but this is not deterring him. He is set on creating art no matter what circumstances life may bring him, as he says, “I’m an artist who has a story to tell. I ain’t gonna quit art no matter how life is”.

Siyabonga has had numerous exhibitions thus far, namely his solo exhibition at the Tatham Art Gallery in Pietermaritzburg in 2019 titled The Suffering of the People. His work ‘Streets’ was sold to the Friends of the Tatham Art Gallery and is now part of the permanent collection. His artworks were also sold to international clients in Scotland and China.

Other exhibitions and contributions included the Rerouting Art Festival, KZNSA BuzzArt Exhibition, the Fabulous Picture Show held by the Tatham Art Gallery in 2018 and 2019, and various art workshops. You can find his artwork adorning the Edendale Hospital bridge or on his Instagram or Facebook pages named SiyaNgubaneArt. Alternatively, he can be contacted about his prints, which are limited editions.


Alterism and Acrylics

John Rogers is based in the Kamberg Valley and has been painting for 20 years. He started using watercolours and experimented with paints from an early age, but now he mainly works with acrylic paint.

His artistic process takes his viewers on a visual journey along with many saturated swathes of colour, from creation to destruction, to creation again. His style has been described as “unique”, and, according to John, his process can be “nerve-wracking” and “pleasurable” simultaneously. He named his particular style “Alterism”, otherwise described as the “Destructive Enhancement in art”. For the art history enthusiasts out there, it combines the Expressionism art style with deconstruction, becoming an Abstract Realism piece.

The process involves applying thick, oversaturated layers of paint onto the canvas, which is then cut through, or slashed, creating a completely different effect. He uses a palette knife to apply the paint and cut through it. The result becomes what is termed “micro abstractions”.

Undoubtedly John is inspired by the Expressionist artist Vincent van Gogh, maybe you’ve heard of him? When he visited the Van Gogh museum in Amsterdam a while back, it inspired him further, especially the saturation level of colour in Van Gogh’s paintings.

Beyond the inspiration from the great European masters of art, John paints from what is around him, including his life, from mountainscape scenes of the Drakensberg to idyllic landscapes of a home in the hills. Furthermore, his work as a locations manager in the film industry and his love for paragliding have contributed to his love of nature, which translates into his artwork.

As for the end result of his art, he does not know the outcome, which makes it part of the excitement. The composition becomes a whirling world of abstraction when you stand up close but take a few steps back, and a whole other scene takes shape. This is where the magic lies in Alterism.

At present, John is building his own studio unassisted, and he likens it to a “very big sculpture”, one of his greatest achievements at that. His artwork can be found at the Lion’s River Platform Gallery and otherwise through his website.