News and Trends

Rodan Kane Hart

With this month’s April Art issue hitting the shelves, the HL team has been on the lookout for exciting, local creative talent. We asked Joburg curator Kim Stern for her selection of top up-and-coming South African artists. Here we chat with Rodan Kane HartWhat art do you produce?  For a number of years I have produced experiential structures and sculptures, inspired by architectural forms located in the urban environments of Johannesburg and Cape Town, both cities in which I have lived. My most recent series of minimal steel sculptures explore the notion of generative shape, pattern and form in relation to the audiences’ experience of the work. Most works are based on the experience of movement, when the formation of shape is in flux as the mechanics of a motor propel one past an electrical pylon, at every moment prior to the moment before, the viewer is confronted with a different angle of the structure, and therefore a different experience of the structure's shape and form unfolds as time and motion proceeds. These works attempt to stimulate a heightened emotional response through their optical illusionistic and fragmented fabrication. What and who are your influences? One of my largest influences has undoubtedly been my experience of the city, as I have already seen many transformations and evolutions of the South African urban environment in my life. I can also say that my artistic sensibility is attributed to various members of my creative and entrepreneurial family, who from an early age exposed me to a multitude of artistic mediums including drawing, painting, architecture, urban design, illustration and computers. I have been influenced by a number of historical modern movements in art, including Vorticism, De Stijl, Constructivism, Op Art and mainly Minimalism, and artists from different movements and generations such as Sol LeWitt, Donald Judd, Carl Andre, Richard Serra, Robert Smithson, Robert Irwin, Joseph Kosuth, and more recently Ólafur Elíasson, Anish Kapoor, Atelier Bow-Wow, and Tomás Saraceno. The urban design and architectural writings of Christopher Alexander, Kevin A. Lynch, Albert Pope and Rem Koolhaas have also played a large role in the theory behind my work. What is the main thrust/ message behind your art? I would say that one of the main thrusts behind my work is to elicit an emotional response through the gesture of art. I feel that an audience’s response is a vital component in making relevant art, even if it’s one of being uncomfortable. I see the fabricated and structured aesthetic of my work as an attempt to highlight and expose the constructed and foreign nature of the South African city. My practice is a representation of my environment and context that visually articulates the visceral experiences of urban life and the transformation and history of place. What is your biggest challenge as an artist, both in terms of logistics and the message you are trying to convey? Probably one of the biggest hurdles you encounter as an artist is when you initially start pursuing a full time career in the arts. I feel that it is incredibly important that the practice of arts is a sustainable one, however this sustainability takes hard work, strategy and time. Logistically, a challenge that I face with my work is that most often my pieces are large and industrial, and therefore I require suitable space, assistants and machinery in order to produce them. With regards to the message in my work, it will always be challenging to communicate one's thoughts and experiences in a work of art, and often the meaning is misinterpreted as my works are subtle and nuanced, however I don’t mind that being the case, as long as it engages feeling or contemplation. Interpretation will always be allusive and subjective but it is important that my works have a message, meaning, process and logic to them; this makes them relevant to me. Tell us more about your past and upcoming exhibitions? Throughout my university career and up to now I have exhibited on numerous group shows in Johannesburg and Cape Town, affiliated to institutions such as Wits Art Gallery, Cape 09 Biennale, University of Johannesburg, Johannesburg Art Gallery, Standard Bank Art Gallery, Pretoria Art Museum, Michaelis Gallery, Blank Projects, Whatiftheworld, and more recently, NIROX Sculpture Park and NIROXprojects in Johannesburg, where my first solo exhibition titled Structure opened in January 2013. The exhibition comprised new sculptures, prints, drawings and artist books, which were initiated while on residency at NIROX in the Cradle of Humankind in October 2012. For a long time my works and projects have had a continued and similar trajectory of spatial exploration, site activation, and architectural influence. I am currently working on a curatorial project in public space titled Situation on the Square, a public sculpture commission in the Netherlands, a forthcoming solo exhibition at Whatiftheworld in Cape Town, opening on 22 May until 22 June, and a residency at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park in England, all of which will allow me to further explore the themes of structure, material, experience and the city. What do you think of the role of the artist in South Africa today? The role the South African artist has played in the past has been immeasurable in evoking the historical turmoil of the country, and in many instances indirectly resulting in political and ideological transformation. It seems the role of the contemporary South African artist has not shifted much, however today I feel our role is to reflect society in a more refined and intellectual manner, moving away from overt and often satirical political commentaries, in order to grapple with the complexities of interpretation and debate. Finally, if you weren’t an artist what would you be? That’s a good question, however from an early age I knew that there was no alternate career path. I have been drawing for as long as I can remember, and at the age of 13 I started my first year of high school at the National School of the Arts in Johannesburg. It was a hugely beneficial experience, and I was always more committed to my art than any of my academics. I suppose, if I wasn’t an artist I would still be in the creative industry. Keep an eye out for the rest of our artist Q+As coming up in April… For more information about Rodan Kane Hart’s work visit rodankanehart.tumblr.com. Interviewed by Kim Grové