After becoming a well-loved fixture on the global design circuit, artist and designer Porky Hefer is returning to his homeland for a solo exhibition at Southern Guild‘s gallery in the Trumpet building in Johannesburg. Along with new works, Porky’s playful and immersive nest environments will be showcased for all to see from 6 September 2017. With recurring themes such as the loss of instinct and the lessons implicit in the natural world, Hefer encourages audiences to return to their child-like state. On the artist’s return, we chatted to him about his upcoming show, Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.
How does it feel to return home after showcasing internationally?
It feels supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.
How would you compare an international audience’s response to new work to that of a local audience?
I think its easier for an international audience to embrace new work from other shores because they’re more open to new influences. I find the local audience far more critical about who and what is being represented. I guess it helps that the work received such good reviews in New York – the feedback and reviews were incredible and gave me a lot of confidence. It really was a growth period for me. I feel different. But good different.
What were your favourite moments while exhibiting overseas?
For me, the best moments are those as you leave the hotel room to go to the opening of the show and the subway ride down to the gallery. You really have to face yourself. It’s very different in a foreign city, not the usual environment or comfort zone – you are out there and it’s your talent and opinion that has got you there. I get so nervous. But it is an incredible feeling
And any challenges in particular?
Choosing the title for the show is always crucial as it is the first introduction to the experience and it’s from here that people start forming preconceptions.
How does your African-influenced style translate to an international audience?
It translates well because people are up for a bit of a change of speed. However, the deeper meaning of my work is about vernacular architecture and traditional techniques. I am trying to give modern relevance to the traditional craft techniques and materials found around Cape Town, and I think it’s that message that’s really resonating at the moment.
Can you tell us more about the new works featured in your solo show?
I read some time ago that more and more animals are losing their basic instincts – humans lost the ability to act on their instincts a long time ago. Now, in the modern world, before acting, we consider how we will be perceived in society and how this will affect our standing in it. This destroys immediate reactions and more interesting choices.
There are examples of how other lower orders of animals such as the big cats have been affected by this, too. This is illustrated by a story of a young lioness who adopted an orphaned baby antelope: her mothering instinct was so strong that after fending off numerous other lions’ attacks on the baby antelope, they eventually died of hunger together. The mothering instinct was stronger than the survival instinct.
So, we are tuned to do the right thing and objects and items are designed to guide you to do the right thing. Therefore, can we create objects that do the opposite or that inspire more instinctual behaviour? Can a shape, texture or sensation soothe you or comfort you? These are some of the concepts I explore in my new works.
Any plans for the future that we need to keep an eye out for?
I have recently completed a house based on a weaver’s nest for a friend of mine in Namibia. It’s huge. I am really interested in making structures that are more liveable.
Where would you most like to exhibit next and why?
Milan, in the Palazzo Reale. South Africa has a very poor presence there and it’s a pity. I would love to do a collaboration with a well-known European producer or manufacturer who really pushes the boundaries of what is possible.
Hefer’s solo exhibition with Southern Guild is showing at 21 Keyes Ave, Rosebank, Johannesburg, from 6 September to 4 November 2017. Visit animal-farm.co.za for more details.