30, Jul 2021 -

Wits exhibition pays tribute to late sculptor Schütz


Peter Schütz. Landscape with Sheep, 1981, wood, metal, PVA paint, plastic toy sheep. Wits Art Museum.



For years the curators at the Wits Art Museum (WAM) wanted to showcase Peter Schütz’s sculpture. The time has come. Schütz’s work explores violence, myth, spirituality and religion and the sculptures on display at the museum in Braamfontein, Johannesburg comes from the height of his career, which coincided with his years at the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits). Schütz died in 2008. Most known for his carvings in soft jelutong wood, Schütz’s work is held in galleries and corporate collections in South Africa and across the world. He participated in group exhibitions with luminaries such as Penny Siopis, Walter Oltmann and Neels Coetzee, and had many solo exhibitions. Perhaps his most iconic work is 2004’s St Sebastian, now part of the Standard Bank corporate collection.

"The exhibition has been planned for many years," says WAM special projects curator Fiona Rankin-Smith. "It was not until recently that a time slot (was) made available and the funds needed (were made available). We are all looking forward to it." A catalogue is to be published alongside the exhibition.

During Schütz’s 20-year tenure at Wits he earned important accolades, starting with his winning the Standard Bank Young Artist of the Year Award for Fine Art in 1984. He also won the Cape Town Triennial Merit Award (1985), the Hans Merensky Foundation Prize (1987) and the Cape Town Triennial Gold Medal (1988).

While jelutong — a soft, low density timber that has often been over harvested — was Schütz’s favoured medium, he also created works in bronze and print media. He also became interested in paper because it was made from wood, and saw it as a "democratic medium", said Ms Rankin-Smith. He offered paper and wood sculpting workshops in addition to his teaching at Wits.

Schütz was long represented by the Goodman Gallery and one of his last exhibitions, titled Sentient Beings, took place there in mid-2007. In it Schütz explored the individual’s power of sensory perception, and extra-sensory perception. This had reference to the Buddhist teaching that all things that breathe are sentient, and that humanity is supposed to exist in "oneness" with nature.

Ms Rankin-Smith said Schütz was "fascinated with religious associations of the miraculous, but also the notion of suffering and redemption. Many of his figures engage with these themes." Schütz had a close friendship with the owner of a Buddhist retreat in Ixopo, KwaZulu-Natal and was often a visitor there.

The WAM is the first large museum in South Africa solely dedicated to African art. It has a large collection of African art, which, before the museum opened in 2012, was kept in archives. Ms Rankin-Smith said Schütz had a "deep and sustained interest" in the artworks to be found in the archive. References from traditional African art, and especially beadwork and Zulu cultural practices, pepper his creations.

"Schütz’s work questions images of representation and identity across cultures, making them very relevant to contemporary South African life," she said.

In an obituary written in 2008, Schütz’s life partner Jill Waterman said that the artist’s "long association with the Goodman Gallery positioned him as one of the major contemporary artists of South Africa, capable of speaking to the universal while maintaining a strong sense of the particular in the iconography of his work. For example, Durban Icon, in the permanent collection of the Durban Art Gallery, honours the rickshaw man — the work of a common labourer, with a halo and flames of light. Understanding the sacred within the commonplace, and presenting these images was a hallmark of his work."

Other stand-out works include the Tiger Dream Blanket and a number of madonnas and saints.

The exhibition was made possible through support from: Standard Bank, the Hans Merensky Foundation, Charles and Lilian Lloys Ellis, Business and Arts SA, Peter and Heidi Kurth, Sasha Fabris, Neil Dundas and the Goodman Gallery.

Peter Schütz: An Eye on the World runs at the Wits Art Museum, 1 Jan Smuts Ave, Braamfontein from June 9 to August 16. Details from http://www.wits.ac.za/witsartmuseum/15902/exhibitions.html.

Source: BDLive (Edited)

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