The Craftsman – Jonathan van der Walt
Craftsmanship has been essential to various developments in society over thousands of years, and the role and recognition of the craftsman has changed alongside these developments. From man’s early need to craft tools, it was the importance that lay in the act of making that led to great advances in civilisation. Craftspeople establish themselves in the guilds of the Middle Ages, and during the Renaissance, where they could prove themselves as master artists in the studios and workshops of the Old Masters.
In contemporary art, there has been a return to a highly-crafted aesthetic, however in many cases, the importance is placed on the idea as opposed to those responsible in fabricating it, and therefore the craftsman has retreated more and more into the shadows. Foundries and fabrication teams are responsible for a large amount of contemporary art seen in galleries, art fairs and public spaces with the ‘artists’ often providing no more than a verbal idea and direction.
The subject of my sculpture is more specifically a contemporary foundryman. His powerful stance is emphasised by his anonymity and pride in his craft. He becomes a symbol, not only in the art sphere, but in a greater socio-political discourse into workforce, labour, and an ongoing struggle for recognition. He represents the many faceless men and women that pride themselves in the crucial role they play in industry and society, while forever battling to receive the acknowledgement for the work they do.