Artist and lecturer Gordon Froud spent a month at the Ebenezer Estate in Plettenberg Bay as an artist-in-residence. He chatted to Cecile Loedolff about his stay and his work
By Cecile Loedolff
You recently enjoyed an artist’s residency in Plettenberg Bay. Please tell us more about it.
I was fortunate to be invited as the first Site-Specific artist-in-residence in Plettenberg Bay for the month of December. I opted to make a few pieces that were ‘site specific’ but to then move them around the area to different public spaces like Monkeyland, the beach and the old jail. I made a life-sized Toyota Corolla out of coat hangers and moved this around the town in the evenings. The second piece, made from wattle branches, was a large sphere about 3,5m in diameter. It was made from the trees that invade the area around Plettenberg Bay. By using this wood it draws attention to the invasion of the natural environment by alien plants. So, the sculpture became a ‘welcome alien’ at various places in Plett. It now lives outside the Bramon Restaurant on the wine estate. This was a very satisfying experience and the works were well received by the local communities.
You are known as a lecturer, art curator and artist. Which of these is the closest to your heart?
I am a multifaceted person who leads a very rich and blessed life, so all of these aspects are important and close to me. As a senior lecturer at the University of Johannesburg, I am able to influence young and creative minds, which I love. As a curator, I enjoy working with other artists and have most recently curated a huge show around the lyrics and image of Tom Waits. But obviously, making art is what feeds my soul and makes me the happiest.
As an artist you have become well known for making art from found objects. Why does this fascinate you?
I grew up in a poor white household where there was no money for toys, so I made my own out of what I could find around me. Everything became potential material for use. I am fascinated with how objects can be seen as having ‘new meaning’ when they are used to make artworks. A coat hanger is a coat hanger, and yet in my work it becomes a construction device with decorative possibilities, particularly when used to describe forms such as taxis or rhinos.
Tell us a bit more about the taxi you made from coat hangers.
This artwork has featured in many exhibitions and went to Holland in 2012 for an exhibition celebrating 60 years of contemporary South African sculpture called The Rainbow Nation. The exhibition was held in three venues around The Hague and was opened by the then Queen Beatrix. I showed two life-sized taxis and a Nissan 1400 bakkie – in the Beelden aan Zee sculpture museum and in the tree-lined avenues of the Lange Voorhout. It was an incredible experience to show alongside the greatest sculptors in recent South African history in an exhibition that put us firmly on the map. One of my taxis is now in the collection at the SA Embassy in The Hague, where it is on permanent display.
What are your plans and dreams for the future?
I want to keep making art and continue to teach so that I can leave a legacy for the art world of South Africa. My dream would be to have my work in the collections at Wits (my alma mater), Johannesburg Art Gallery and of course the Iziko National Gallery in Cape Town.