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Artist Details

Stephen Rautenbach

How do we introduce you as a sculpture to the readers? Stephen Rautenbach has been introduced before as one of South Africa’s new generation artists capturing the fluid life force of his subjects in bronze. Where do you draw your inspiration from? I’ve been doing life studies for years shown in the realistic and finest natural detail reflected in my sculptures. My sculptures are stories with animals and birds. I study my subjects and use them in tall tales, much like fairy tales and the subjects become moralistic stories, with reflection on old lore that has passed from generation to generation in literature by our ancestors. There is a lot of detail in my work, degrees of realism, with focus on composition and I attempt to capture the essence of each study. My sculpture Works are getting bolder, and larger, I am introducing colour to further my expression and it enhances the surreal aspect of my new work. I have just completed a new sculpture of an Elephant dancing on a spiderweb with a baby blue patina. It is based on one of the nursery rhymes I often sing to my daughter. The sculpture becomes very surreal and dreamlike with reflection on my own childhood memories of nursery rhyme, It is much like re-living my baby years, such profound memories deeply etched, I believe we all have those. Much of my portfolio of sculpture work in bronze is to do with traditional stories, poetry and I have a great passion for ‘nonsense’ poetry. I have a few that I adapted and made my own too, like my ‘ Tall Tale of Owl and Shrews’ In which the shrews approach the Barn owl for wisdom, very whimsical, with a bit of dark humor in it. Through the ages, animals and birds have had deep symbolism for people across cultures, stories have filtered through by word of mouth to ear, normally by mother figures the world over, event from before the majority of folk could read and write. Does your work have a message to the viewer? Each individual piece has its character, depending on its nature. The warthog who trots arrogantly, is ‘such a pig’ his character appears frequently to be sitting having a good scratch, to my latest terrified piggy. He becomes a bit like each of us and a great story, without being a caricature. I often start off my studies with detailled sketches from life, normally in pen and inks, as my favorite drawing medium. Why Bronze? Bronze is a permanent medium and it retains its integrity, it grows in character and improves with age and value like a good wine. Very collectable. How do South-Africans view of sculptures differ from your travelling experience with the art appreciators abroad? Well, South Africans are learning fast about the value of local art, there is a great art appreciation locally. Art investors abroad obviously have more stable markets established, in many cases they buy older, safer investments. Many have been born into an old tradition of making art investments started by their parents and grandparents. We have a fantastic, growing art market, there is a lot of experimentation and concept development going on in both large and small artists studios that I have seen. Local buyers are doing a lot of admirable investing in young artists sculptures and in turn there is a great dynamic industry booming. There is still a lot of growth potential in our art market too. We have art content from South Africa that tends to have an edge that I don't see in Italy very often. There are very exciting times ahead in our art world. Who is Stephen in his workplace and at home? I have a working sculpture studio in Stellenbosch where I exhibit most of my current sculptures in bronze called the Studio Gallery I spend most of my time there day in and day out. Outside the studio you can find me on the basketball court training or in the gym. I work at the back of my gallery in a small studio where I develop my sculptures and stories. My work often overflows into my gallery front, at the moment we tiptoe around a giant octopus in the room called ‘Kraken’ exhibited in wax. Its inspiration Jules Vernes ‘ Twenty thousand leagues under the sea’, exciting stuff. I have spent the past year travelling between South Africa and Italy, I have family there and in England. I have been absorbing much work inspiration there.
Stephen Rautenbach