04 Aug Featured: Rodan Kane Hart | Urban Experiences and Secret Histories
Distorted Triangulation (2015)
The sculptures of Rodan Kane Hart are refined, structural, almost futuristic – especially when viewed in the context of a natural environment. And although they’re always well thought-out, they feel as though they’ve been playfully constructed – bent into (or out of) shape by an artist making line drawings out of steel, copper and brass. Predominantly known for his sculptural pieces, Rodan’s body of work is a multidisciplinary one spanning photography, video, drawing and performance – an approach based on his belief that the intention of an artwork should be supported by the chosen artistic medium.
Recently Rodan has delved into the world of design with his venture HARTDESIGN. Over the past few months he has been experimenting with a modular furniture system that doesn’t rely on screws or welding, but instead creates a frame of that can be filled and fitted with a diverse range of material surfaces. A few of these pieces will be on show from 6 – 10 August as part of the 100% Talent showcase we’ve curated in collaboration with 100% Design South Africa. Ahead of the event we chatted to Rodan about his artistic roots, the role of architecture and the city in shaping his aesthetic and his upcoming short film.
Were you always aware that you wanted to pursue a career in the creative/arts sphere, or was there quite a journey to discovering this?
From on early age I was exposed to art, architecture and music. I had positive creative influence from my family and their networks of Johannesburg friends of the 90s. I always looked at the world through a creative lens and began drawing and taking photographs from as far back as I can remember. For high school I attended the National School of the Arts in Braamfontien, Johannesburg. This experience and rigger definitely set the tone for my interest in pursuing further Fine Art studies at the Wits School of Arts and subsequently Michalis Art School in Cape Town. By 2011 and nearly 10 years of focused art training, a professional career in the arts was not only logical, but something that I was and still am very passionate about.
Emerging Illusionistic Bend (2013)
How do you approach the art-making process?
There are a number of factors that influence my process, especially time and context. Many of my works are based around urban experiences and histories, both actual and perceived, and when making new works I consider the conceptual foundation and meaning of art vitally important. I will often begin with subject research, then intensive drawing and maquette making, and from that stage I will commence on planning and costing for fabrication. As sculpture is rather costly and often takes up a large amount of space, I mainly produce works for exhibitions or commissions.
Your sculptures interact beautifully with both the natural and urban environments. Is this something you deliberately consider when creating them?
As mentioned in the pervious question, context and concept are inextricably linked and when I consider new works their inevitable display is often a factor that directly dictates their meaning, aesthetic and physicality.
Absolute Reflection, collaboration with Jonathan Freemantle (2014)
Reflective Form in Nature, Nirox Sculpture Park (2012)
Looking at your pieces, they feel a bit like line drawings in 3D – minimal, but somehow never sparse. What informs your aesthetic? How has this developed over the years?
Over the years my aesthetic trajectory has slowing evolved but retains a level of coherence, this can be seen in some of my earliest works as a child. Architecture and the city have played a very important role in defining my aesthetic. I often incorporate and distort forms, symbols and patterns based on the fabric of physical space that I find myself in or am interested by. A minimal and abstract aesthetic has developed from a constant refinement of subject and form, attempting to convey meaning in a nuanced and sensitive way, leaving viewer interpretation open-ended.
For your most recent solo show, ‘Forms (S/W)’ at NIROXprojects, you used a combination of drawings, photographs, sculptures and prints to examine the influence of European architectural forms on the urban fabric of South Africa. How did you become interested in this topic to begin with, and what were your findings?
The origin of my interest in this subject developed when I was at university, and largely revealed itself when I moved from Johannesburg to Cape Town. During this time I was trying to reconcile the idiosyncrasies of the two South African cities, the colonial history ingrained in Cape Town architecture and urban planning really struck me. This subject became the topic of a number of bodies of works as I found the influence of European systems on South Africa both intriguing and troubling.
Is this investigation an ongoing one? If not, what are you exploring through your current work?
This investigation is constantly influx and dynamic, however I feel it will be forever ongoing. For me the city, its architecture and its buildings make us consider previous tools for constructed expression, they embody past uses, functions and histories, they contain memories, they are sites of contestation or sites of remembrance, and within their style, their detailing, brick and tile pagination, flooring, roof trusses, cracks and peeling paint, they can be read, becoming symbolic of the history that has informed them. The city is that of an agglomeration of individual and collective memories, forming a library of constructed materiality containing the secrets and truths of society. The societal forces located within physically constructed urban space are materials that I use to inform aesthetics. Cultural expression produces a vehicle for art and architecture to communicate and engage with a wider public. This communication is achieved through the language of art.
Tell us about your upcoming short film, SPLICE. It’s been in the making for 5 years?
SPLICE collection of footage captured over a period of 5 years between Africa, Europe and America, creating a visual and sound voyage of the practice of everyday life. I have chosen to adopt a non-linear narrative to tell the story of the city, friendship, family and creativity from 2010 – 2015. Since 2010 I have been capturing snippets of my travels and experiences, both professional and personal, a very organic and subconscious documentation of my experiences at the time. I am now in the process of composing and performing the soundtrack.
While your focus is sculpture, your practice really does span disciplines. What do you enjoy about a multi-disciplinary approach?
I feel that the artistic medium should directly relate to the intention of an artwork, and therefore I don’t like to insolate or reject the possibilities of conveying a message through a multitude of disciplines, whether it is sculpture, drawing, photography, video and/or performance.
HARTDESIGN, the cube
HARTDESIGN, detail of furniture
Your venture, HARTDESIGN forms part of the 100% Talent showcase at 100% Design South Africa this year. Could you tell us about the range you’ll be showing and the modular system it is based on?
HARTDESIGN is a furniture brand and manufacturer based in Cape Town, South Africa. I am the principle designer and together with a team have developed a range of design permutations based on variations of a modular furniture system developed by ELOFFHART in 2015. The “system” in essence is a connector component with multiple variations, each component is hand machined and finished out of solid aluminum. Over the last few months HARTDESIGN has strived towards making a furniture solution that does not use any screws or welding to hold it together. The System is modular in its approach however this modularity serves as a device for HARTDESIGN’s design process, the system creates a frame of which can be filled and fitted with a diverse range of material surfaces, such as wood, marble, and glass. Not only can the surfaces be made out of different materials but so can the frame itself, such as a powder coated colour range, and an iteration made out of solid brass.
And finally, are you working on or working towards any new projects or exhibitions at the moment?
I am currently working on series of public commissions and proposals, an entirely new body of work comprising sculpture, print, photography and performance, a new series of artist books, and I will continue to adapt and pursue my furniture venture.
HARTDESIGN, bookshelf detail
HARTDESIGN, light fitting
HARTDESIGN, coffee table marble
STRUCTURE COLLAGE, collaboration with Ben Johnson (2013)
Strcutural Palimpsest, Nirox Sculpture Park (2014)
Mirror in Nature, Nirox Residency (2013)
Interlocking Sculpture Series (2015)
FORMS (S-W), Drawing Series 3 Eng-RSA (2014)
FORMS (S-W), Drawing Series 4 Eng-RSA (2014)
STRUCTURE at Nirox Projects, installation view (2013)
PATTERN LANGUGE at Whatiftheworld, installation view (2013)
Collection of Forms, Round (2014)
Illusionistic Bend 1 (2012)
ENG, Shadow on Stairs (2014)
RSA, Shadow on Pavers (2014)
Shape to Form, Spiral (2014)