Walter Oltmann (b. 1960) is Senior Lecturer in Fine Arts at the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg. He has received numerous awards including the Standard Bank Young Artist Award for Visual Arts (2001), and the Sasol Wax Art Award (2007). In 2014 his solo show ‘In the Weave’ was presented at the Standard Bank Gallery, Johannesburg. His works are held in all major national public collections.
Lace, a delicate hardground etching, follows the themes of Oltmann’s work in his 2013 Penumbra exhibition at the Goodman Gallery. The opposing ideas of the intimacy and fragility of the human form, and the invasive ‘x-ray line’ of modern medical analysis merge to create a work of poignant and unsettling beauty.
Meticulously line etched in copper, but printed in relief so as to get very thin and light lines against a black background, Lace features an image of a child skeleton lightly held in fragile doiley-like form, like moth-eaten lace. The work was printed by Niall Bingham of Wits School of Arts, on yellowish Hahnemühle paper. Signed in pencil on the lower right hand edge.
Born in 1960 in Rustenburg, Gauteng, South Africa, Walter Oltmann’s main area of focus is sculpture, and more particularly in fabricating woven wire forms, which sometimes reference local craft traditions. He has researched and written on the use of wire in African material culture in this region and is deeply interested in the influence of these traditions in contemporary South African art. He has had numerous solo exhibitions with the Goodman Gallery, and has created several large-scale commissions for venues such as the Zeitz Sculpture Garden in Segera, Kenya.
My main area of creative focus is in sculpture, and more particularly in fabricating woven wire forms which sometimes reference local craft traditions. My drawings are also based on and explore similar references. I have researched and written on the use of wire in African material culture in this region and am deeply interested in the influence of these traditions in contemporary South African art. While I exhibit my artworks quite regularly on group and solo exhibitions, I have in recent years also been involved in large-scale commissions.
In my sculptures I use images of natural phenomena (human, plant and animal) and play with the idea of mutation, hybrids and reconfiguring the familiar. Through dramatically enlarging and/or transposing features of one to the other, I play with the paradox between vulnerability and the monstrous. Using the language of craft, my artworks are always a product of labour and time.
– Walter Oltmann