Becoming a finalist in one of the only art competitions I have ever entered was a strange feeling and still gives me a weird mix of frustration, joy and outright anger. The cement sculpture I entered had taken two years to cast, though the original clay master took only a few months.
This was how I learned to make moulds, because the original mouldmaker I tried to send it to had no idea how to mould art, how to capture all the detail and make a stable container for casting a sculpture in such a technical material as cement. I missed the deadline for the first year and spent the next year learning, spending money on new materials, experimenting, failing, crying in frustration and finally completing a perfect casting in time for the next year’s competition.
Another strange impediment that came up was that the delivery address that was sent to the artists was completely wrong. I wonder how many pieces never even made it to the first round of judging. Then, to make matters even more befuddling, the category finalists and public were sent the wrong addresses and dates for the exhibition opening, no doubt leaving many art lovers and patrons with a bitter taste in their mouths.
The PPC Imaginarium sculpture competition was also how I learned the vital importance of insuring any artwork that is travelling to multiple large exhibitions. The organisers dropped it during the Johannesburg Art Fair. I had to ship a replacement for the next exhibition and thankfully I was already in the process of casting an edition of 24 sculptures. I sent the (fully insured) replacement and asked the competition organisers to send me back the original which they had apparently knocked off a plinth! They managed to box it and send it to my uncle’s address in Pretoria but refused to pay to ship it back to me. It’s still in the box, untouched while I work out exactly what to do with it.
A few fellow artists and some collectors have suggested that I repair it using the Japanese method of Kintsugi and I may elect to do this with several cement sculptures that have suffered falls and other accidents. For now though, it sits in a box with all the tape and labels unbroken, in what I find an amusing contrast to the contents. I think I keep it that way just in case someone from the PPC Imaginarium competition challenges the story. Not that I have any rational reason to worry, I think it’s just my nature
There are brash artists and there are neurotic ones. I am both on different days. Mainly neurotic though
PPC has since stopped its support of the arts and hosting this inspiring competition. Most large corporations in South Africa have since pulled out of competitions and programs which directly contribute to individual artists careers, instead they seem to prefer established institutions that uphold the entrenched “big names”
It’s sad for the artists and the quality of art in general for the entire country as the barriers to entry for fresh expression and new art grow ever higher, while the art lovers get bored of seeing the same big names cycled again and again through what is left of the art media.
Needless to say after all that, I remain very hesitant to enter art competitions, regardless of my successes