Big Druid in His Cubicle
SMAC Cape Town
07 November – 07 December 2013
DRUID: The name ‘druid’ derives from an old Greek source, drus meaning tree. A dryad, as found in folklore and Greek mythology, is a nymph inhabiting a forest, or tree, especially an oak tree and also derives from drus. The Druid is also a “traditional seer, an elder with special discernment in the wellbeing of individuals and society… griot, priest, shaman, sangoma, inyanga… one who shares charms and talismans”.
Willem Boshoff, one of South Africa’s foremost artists known for his conceptual artworks and installations, will be enacting the continuous live performance of Big Druid in His Cubicle at SMAC Art Gallery in Cape Town from November until early December 2013.
In his late thirties Boshoff suffered a near-death experience and subsequently endured a two-decade period of intense physical pain and discomfort – the process of dealing with and adapting to this reality, allowed the concept of the artist as a contemporary Druid to develop and manifest itself. Boshoff discovered that facing near-death and returning to life is a commonality, which he shared with the Druid. His lifestyle has always been similar to that of a Druid – spartan, meditative – immersed in study, nature, the arts and the universe. The notion of the Druid as Boshoff’s second-self and the abstract concept of the artist/Druid as one being, gradually became more prevalent in the artist’s work and synonymous with his persona.
An immersion in nature and languages, combined with a new fervent lease on life, sparked fresh energy in the artist, as he became entranced by the act of seeing things anew through his Druid performances and Druid Walks.
Boshoff the Druid, like the artist, trains himself to look and exposes himself to nature and the urban world. Druid Walks are not of a normal rhythm, they stop and start sporadically as the artist tries to capture the ‘visual spectacle’ of the landscape. The landscape for the Druid is what he looks down upon, specifically the pavement, the gutters and the dust as the artist attempts to see more, to scrutinize and to ‘sense a certain essence’ or to discover the ‘nymph’ that inhabits these areas. The Druid Walks are where the Druid captures images of things he really looks at, and that he senses most people would not such as; dirt, broken tape, holes, lines, paint and scuffs on surfaces. The Druid strives to look, see and discover that which others miss or avoid. The resulting imagery is both poetically abstract and forensically documentative. As the artist states, “it is by truly seeing that you can think intuitively…the words for this knowing [are], gnosis or gnostic”. Entranced by the seeing that develops and encourages gnosis, Boshoff enters an altered state, as the Druid, and this superior knowledge, akin to the synergy of the ‘marrying of the sciences,’ is what Boshoff strives to encapsulate in his production and exploration within his art.
The SMAC Cape Town gallery space plays host to the Druid for five weeks. Boshoff is also exhibiting a new body of work, showing his versatility in employing a variety of materials and media, ranging from wood to rocks, hand-made paper, dice, alphabet beads, braille, cloth and sand as well as numerous interest-piquing granite works, emphasising his engagement with nature and languages. The gallery serves as the artist’s permanent residence during this period and is equipped with the artist’s bedding, wooden work stations, clothing, antique storage cabinets, walking sticks, woodworking paraphernalia and hundreds of artefacts from the Druid’s own studio.
Scheduled Druid Walks will be taking place on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, departing from the gallery at 9am and returning at 11am. The walks will include explorations to areas such as the harbour, Woodstock, coastal expanses, and decaying urban environments. The Druid’s aim is to uncover places and to see things in Cape Town that others would hesitate to explore. The Druid prefers ‘solivagant walks’, to walk alone, however, members of the public are welcome to follow and attend.
Back at the ‘Cubicle’ the artist will be creating and displaying maps of the walks, collected data, imagery and art works. The Druid and his assistant will also be working in the gallery with his collection of druidic objects and instruments of divination, scales, tools, stones and other materials that reflect his insights and multivagent itinerary. The Druid will also be holding discussions surrounding his work and his views on the world and life in general whilst documenting his experiences. Visitors are welcome to make use of this opportunity to visit and engage with the Druid during gallery hours.