THE world’s leading site-specific artists will descend on Plettenberg Bay next month for the second International Land Art Biennale, an initiative which affords artists the opportunity to express their creativity on nature’s “canvas”.
Site-specific art is work created to exist in a certain place, and was first used in the mid-1970s by overseas sculptors like Patricia Johanson, Dennis Oppenheim and Athena Tacha, who produced public commissions for large urban sites.
Using natural backdrops and surroundings, artists manipulate objects in creative ways to provide an entirely different perspective on a particular environment.
Since 2011, when the first international biennale was staged in Plettenberg Bay, site-specific art has grown in stature with an increasing number of South Africans taking up the genre.
Today, through the efforts of organisations like Site_Specific Land Art Events, artists like Strijdom van der Merwe are highly sought after.
Van der Merwe, whose work has featured in South Korea, Turkey, Belgium, France, Sweden, Lithuania, Japan and the US, is also the recipient of the Jackson Pollock-Krasner Foundation Grant and Medal of Honour from the South African Academy of Arts and Science.
Event spokeswoman Anni Strydom, also an artist, said Site_Specific Land Art Events was particularly excited about this year’s event as it had attracted “some big names”.
“We have some of the best in the world coming in Cornelia Konrads from Germany and Won-gil Jeon from South Korea. We [also] have many new artists … What is especially pleasing is that we will host a number of workshops around the region, from Kurland to Harkerville and KwaNokuthula, getting everyone involved in site-specific art,” Strydom said.
Konrads’s focus is on site-specific sculptures – indoors and outdoors, temporary and permanent, for public spaces, sculpture parks and private gardens. She is in constant demand in Asia, Australia and the US.
Jeon is renowned for expressing various connections with nature in different media and is currently acting as a director of the YATOO International Project.
“It has always been our plan to grow site-specific in South Africa because we have fantastic, reasonably protected landscapes which are perfect for artists,” Strydom said.
“What was refreshing to see in 2011 was that all the different communities around Plett took an interest.
“In some cases we had cultural groups from KwaNokuthula in which some members had never even been to the beach. When they saw these amazing designs being created on the beach you can only imagine the impression that was left.”