"Reaching New Frontiers", 2008
200 x 400 x 400 cm
2008: University of Johannesburg Art Gallery
2009: KZNSA Gallery, Durban
With this installation Hentie van der Merwe won the Sasol Wax Art Award. The installation was commissioned and produced specifically for the competition exhibition, sponsored by Sasol, with wax as its theme.
In the installation wax as a substance, both in its natural and synthetic form, is referenced through alluding to the beehive in the structure of the cell, as well as through the dizzying repetition of the Sasol logo on the inside walls of the cell (through commerce the Sasol logo has become almost synonymous with the substance of wax). The block of stacked wax slabs that forms part of the installation references the status of wax as commodity, and thus as an agent for the circulation of labour and capital. In a video sequence that forms part of the installation a man, dressed in a business suit, is seen reciting from Virgil’s Georgics IV (concerning the lives of the bees) and behind him the Sasol slogan “Reaching New Frontiers”.
“The cell-like shape of the installation invokes other metaphorical connotations, such as the work station, or partitioned cubicle that comprises much of the work space of employees in corporations. In addition, almost in spite of connotations of confinement, the cell invokes the solitude of monastic contemplation. Van der Merwe’s work empowers us to contemplate the relationship between art and industry and between artist and industrialist by providing us with the critical tools to do so physically, while circling the cell, or the cube, and metaphysically.”
- Wilhelm van Rensburg