Angus Taylor: Quarried Consciousness

Angus Taylor: Quarried Consciousness-Omenka Online
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Everard Read Cape Town is pleased to present Quarried Consciousness, a solo exhibition by Angus Taylor running from 9 September to 30 September 2021.

When Angus Taylor went to New York in 2001, he had a revelation about what it was to be a South African. He was from a world very far from this huge eclectic metropolis where you could buy anything and everything has been named and recorded. He was from a place of bright sun and dark shadow, where the wilderness still lies just under the surface of everything and much of our history, landscape and people remains unspoken, unexplored. The disorder he lives in is a source of inspiration, and one reason why many of his works are ‘incomplete’, cracked, caught between regeneration and decay.

Partly for financial reasons, he started making work out of local stone and earth. He sources Belfast granite and red Jasper and uses the orange earth of the Witwatersand, which he binds with an alumina-based fondue cement. He has also been known to use perishable materials like thatch. Often if he makes a work in a particular location, he will use the material from that environment. His use of these materials soon became fundamental to the meaning of the work. The history of the earth – geologically and historically – speaks through the images he creates. When he uses the iron ore that comes from meteorites, or rock that comes from volcanic ash, he connects this with the meaning and content of the work. He has even been known to use ancient techniques for binding earth, using animal blood, egg and lime.

The centrality of the artist has become increasingly displaced in Taylor’s work. He likes to say he is not the source but the conduit. The artist is a craftsman who speaks through the material but who also allows the material to speak through him. The granite he uses is estimated to be three billion years old – half the age of the earth. He also often plays with scale as another way of displacing not only the artist but the viewer. His large figures reduce the adult viewer to the scale they last experienced when they themselves were toddlers. Although the scale is distorted, it remains within our human experience – even if we have almost forgotten it.

Taylor also works in his own studio and foundry, where he employs around thirty-five people. His staff work on his own sculptures but also cast works by other prominent sculptors including Rina Stutzer, Deborah Bell and Norman Catherine. His staff have been working closely alongside him and have a great deal of ‘tacit’ knowledge, which is knowledge acquired from experience, from ‘doing’. Together with his workforce, he also builds his own equipment – improvising and developing new techniques that enable him to work with his materials in new ways. He works communally with his staff, the material, the context in which he finds himself – and finds images that are bigger and more resonant than the sum of their parts.

Angus Taylor is known in South Africa and abroad for his powerful, often large-scale interventions. These are often works of sculpture, characterized by outstanding craftsmanship. Taylor is a graduate of the University of Pretoria, which bestowed an Alumni Laureate on him in 2005.

Taylor currently teaches part-time at this university and also acted as advisor to the Tshwane University of Technology. In 1997, he founded his own undertaking, Dionysus Sculpture Works, where he casts his own and other sculptors’ work, and nurtures the talent of young and developing artists.  In addition to numerous solo and group shows, Taylor is predominantly involved in national and local government as well as private sector large-scale commissions. From this have resulted, among others, the Solomon Mahlangu statue in Mamelodi, the statue of Chief Tshwane in front of the Pretoria City Hall as well as the work commemorating Brenda Fassie in Newtown JHB.

Characteristically, Taylor currently incorporates large pieces of granite in his work, which he sources from locations such as Belfast and Rustenburg.

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