set in stone

An artist cou­ple looked to their sur­rounds to cre­ate a sculp­tural home and stu­dio

Condé Nast House & Garden - - DESIGN NOTES - TEXT GRA­HAM WOOD PRO­DUC­TION SVEN ALBERDING PHO­TO­GRAPHS WAR­REN HEATH

an­gus Tay­lor and Rina Stutzer are an ab­so­lute force in the South African art world. Not only are they both well-re­spected artists in their own right, but they also run one of the coun­try’s most ad­vanced sculp­ture stu­dios and foundries, Diony­sus Sculp­ture Works (DSW), which casts a good num­ber of the coun­try’s most re­spected fine artists. An­gus has cre­ated some of the coun­try’s most recog­nis­able large sculp­tures, of­ten com­bin­ing ma­te­ri­als such as bronze, steel and stone, although he works with more ephemeral ma­te­ri­als such as rammed earth or packed thatch­ing grass, too.

He is prob­a­bly still as­so­ci­ated fore­most with his fig­u­ral work – usu­ally male fig­ures – that en­gage pro­foundly with the ten­sion be­tween per­ma­nence and the tran­si­tory na­ture of hu­man life. At first glance they might even ap­pear to be made af­ter quite a tra­di­tional idiom, but he has al­ways sub­verted any no­tion of the mon­u­men­tal bronze statue by putting them in the con­text of an­cient and, be­yond that, ge­o­log­i­cal timescales em­bod­ied in par­tic­u­lar va­ri­eties of care­fully se­lected stone.

Although Rina also spends time at DSW in a role that in­volves broad creative in­put and im­ple­ment­ing core changes on var­i­ous projects, as well as work on her own largescale pub­lic sculp­tural works, she is per­haps best known as a painter.

As a coun­ter­point to the fire and the noise and the pri­mal en­ergy at DSW, An­gus and Rina’s stu­dio at home rep­re­sents a more pri­vate, re­flec­tive space where a sense of tran­quil­lity and con­nec­tion to na­ture al­lows ideas to ger­mi­nate.

Their home stu­dio is an ex­ten­sion of their house just out­side Pre­to­ria, de­signed for them by lo­cal ar­chi­tect Pi­eter Mathews of Mathews & As­so­ci­ates Ar­chi­tects and built by An­gus. It is al­most a sculp­ture it­self, clad in gran­ite offcuts from one of the stone­ma­sons An­gus works with. In fact, Pi­eter has said that he drew in­spi­ra­tion from An­gus’s sculp­tural works, in­cor­po­rat­ing ma­te­ri­als that are bold, raw, and hon­est, so his plan and An­gus’s in­ter­ven­tions work to­gether har­mo­niously.

The stu­dio’s high doors – sus­pended from above and trun­dled aside on wheels cast from an orig­i­nal an­gus found in an an­tique shop – make it seem al­most like a modern in­ter­pre­ta­tion of a tower or even an an­cient stone struc­ture. In its tac­til­ity and earth­i­ness, as rina puts it, the gran­ite ‘phys­i­cally grounds or an­chors the stu­dio as the cor­ner­stone of our life’, but at the same time its vol­ume and open­ness gives it an airy, open qual­ity. With the doors wide open to the semi-in­dige­nous gar­den and ‘veld’ next door, nat­u­ral light pours in through the sky­lights in the con­crete roof slab.

‘Its ambience changes con­stantly,’ says rina. ‘some­times birds and bats fly through.’ she names cape robin-chats, cape wag­tails, house spar­rows and cape sero­tine bats among those that ‘brave it into the stu­dio’s in­te­rior’.

‘dur­ing and af­ter dusk the duets of the spot­ted ea­gle-owl and of­ten the mur­mur of bush ba­bies is au­di­ble from the trees sur­round­ing the stu­dio,’ she says. ‘Per­haps the large en­trances al­low na­ture as vis­i­tor into my mind, my ideas, and into my be­ing. It’s as if the muse is vis­it­ing. I trea­sure it.’

cur­rently, this is where an­gus and rina make ma­que­ttes and ar­ma­tures, and where some of the smaller-scale prepa­ra­tion and fin­ish­ing takes place. dot­ted around the stu­dio are one-fifth scale mod­els of a 5.5-me­tre high faceted stain­less-steel rep­re­sen­ta­tion of africa that rina is work­ing on for a large com­mis­sion. It’s here that she’s honed its shape and pol­ished its sur­faces. ‘There are many lay­ers of clean­ing up to get those crisp edges, and the flat facets, so that the struc­ture and sur­faces show the de­sired re­fine­ment,’ she ex­plains.

she adds that her work usu­ally in­volves ‘grime, pati­nas, ruin’ and the trans­for­ma­tive po­ten­tial of de­cay, and that the shiny, geo­met­ric per­fec­tion of this work is some­thing of a de­par­ture for her. ‘I looked at the idea of us look­ing at our­selves, and africa be­ing self-aware,’ she ex­plains. ‘That’s why I went specif­i­cally with mir­ror-fin­ish

stain­less steel. That’s why it will frag­ment and scat­ter and mul­ti­ply.’ an­gus, too, works and re­works sculp­tures here.

given the set­ting of their house and stu­dio, it’s not sur­pris­ing an­gus and rina’s thoughts turn to the power and pres­ence of earth: both the tran­si­tory and the seem­ingly per­ma­nent. It’s at the foot of the Bron­berg, which is es­sen­tially the east­ern part of the Ma­galies­berg moun­tain range. a‘ round the stu­dio, you have some of the old­est stone on earth,’ says an­gus.

There’s some­thing he en­joys about the ef­fect of con­tex­tu­al­is­ing hu­man achieve­ments in a ge­o­log­i­cal timescale.

‘It’s hum­bling,’ he says. ‘It just takes a bit

[of the grandeur] out of it.’ he is fond of point­ing out that if earth’s ex­is­tence were rep­re­sented as a day, hu­mans have only been around for the last 80 sec­onds or so be­fore mid­night. ‘Most of the time we weren’t here,’ he says. ‘some of these stones go back to six o’clock in the morn­ing.’ and, he adds, you can pick them up in your hand and con­tem­plate the time they rep­re­sent. ‘It’s tan­gi­ble.’ That’s why he likes to in­clude them in their raw state – col­lab­o­rate with them rather than mak­ing them bow to his will as an artist.

on a shelf in the spare bed­room, there’s a small ren­der­ing of an­gus’s sculp­ture, Por­trait

of a Plot House. It’s a por­trait of the house he grew up in. ‘I of­ten draw it or sculpt it from mem­ory,’ he says. The sculp­ture ex­plores the ways in which the shapes and sur­face of a ‘build­ing to which you have an emo­tional con­nec­tion’ can ex­press some­thing of the feel­ings as­so­ci­ated with it, a bit like a por­trait. This ver­sion is mounted on a stack of rocks – a rep­re­sen­ta­tion of the com­plex­i­ties of hu­man mem­ory and ex­pe­ri­ence with its foun­da­tions in the depths of ge­o­log­i­cal time.

an­gus and rina’s house and stu­dio seem to ac­knowl­edge that sense of things. It too seems like a re­spect­ful col­lab­o­ra­tion with na­ture – not just the an­cient stones of the moun­tains nearby, or the fleet­ing ap­pear­ances of birds, but of the pur­suit of artistry and in­spi­ra­tion that takes place within the stu­dio walls. Diony­sus Sculp­ture Works dswart­stu­dio.com

OP­PO­SITE PAGE AT THE EN­TRANCE TO AN­GUS TAY­LOR AND RINA STUTZER’S HOUSE EAST OF PRE­TO­RIA, THE TOWER, WHICH HOUSES THE STU­DIO, IS CLAD IN GRAN­ITE OFFCUTS THE MAIN EN­TRANCE TO THE STU­DIO IS A SHORT WALK ACROSS A WOODEN DECK IN FRONT OF THE HOUSE, SO THAT LIV­ING SPACE AND WORK SPACE ARE CLOSELY CON­NECTED

from far left An­gus And Rina in the door­way At the back of the stu­dio with their beloved bou­vier, bella; out­side the stu­dio, two fig­ures from An­gus’s Re­sis­tance as nur­ture series. they form part of A series of eight; in the liv­ing Room, Above An An­tique ba­li­nese day bed, Body cor­po­rate by lo­cal Artist frikkie ek­steen dom­i­nates the wall; the stu­dio has high slid­ing doors And Rina says that birds And bats some­times fly through As if it were An out­door space. ‘i feel As if it brings na­ture into my space, into my mind.’

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