• Elizabeth Balcomb

    Elizabeth Balcomb
    • Artist Statement
      • My pieces explore the relationship between human and animal worlds, suggesting that identity is fluid, mysterious and beautiful, and that consciousness is a common condition, not the sole attribute of human beings.
    • Biography

      • (b. 1974) Elizabeth Balcomb is an award-winning self taught artist who grew up on the banks of the Umgeni River in the Natal Midlands. Intensely drawn to animals and the natural world, she studied nature Conservation and spent much of her youth communing with wild creatures rather than with human beings.
        Balcomb credits the KZN Ceramic Association for its support and technical guidance during her first years as a sculptor. Much of Balcomb’s work is a re-interpretation of classical sculpture, using the language of the Renaissance to explore and expose elements of human nature. Her narrative incorporates aspects of dying and rebirth and matters of identity and personal value. Her work additionally explores questions about humankind's relationship to nature, individuation, technology, isolation, the politics of womanhood, and apartheid.
        She lives and sculpts at her studio-home in the mist belt forest of Byrne Valley, KZN, with her partner, son and 4 dogs.

        Selected Exhibitions:2019
        Everard Read – Knysna – Group shows
        Everard Read – Franschoek – Group shows

        2018
        Everard Read – Cape Town – Group show
        Everard Read – Knysna – Group show
        Everard Read- Franschoek – Group show

        2017
        Bosch In Africa, Curated by Sandra Hanekom. Stellenbosh.
        Everard Read Franschoek – Group show
        Falmouth Fine Art Gallery – Group show
        Art at Almenkirk, Curated by Dirk Dirnez
        Everard Read Knysna – Group show
        Bronze, Steel, Stone, – Everard Read Johannesburg

        2016

        Wayward Dreams, curated by Marke Meyer . Imbizo gallery
        DF Contemporary, Elton Faber, Cape Town
        Turbine Art Fair – DF Contemporary
        Johannesburg Art Fair - Everard Read and Circa Galleries
        Between Worlds, Solo show, Studio 3 Durban
        Loading bay gallery, curated by Grace Kotze, Durban

        2015
        That Art Fair, Diedericks Faber Fine Art Collective, Salt River
        Bring Your Own Identity, Trent Read, Knysna Fine Art Gallery
        Unisa Space Art Gallery, CANSA Association. Pretoria
        KKNK, With the Knysna Fine Art Gallery, Outdshoorn
        Imibala Art Gallery, Elske Badenhorst, Somerset West
        Auguries of Innocence, Sasol New Signatures. Solo Exhibition. Pretoria art museum
        Bronze, Steel, Stone, Everard Read Johannesburg

        2014

        Exhale, curated by Grace Kotze, Artspace Durban Gallery
        Studio Gesso, Mellville Johannesburg
        Sasol New Signatures, Pretoria Art Museum
        Turbine Art Fair
        Flippin Vlambaar, curated by Alex Hamilton, Prince Albert
        Anthropology 2, curated by Grace Kotze
        Anthology, curated by Carol Lee
        Grande Provence Gallery, Franschoek.

        2013
        Velvet, curated by Christiaan Diedericks, Klein Karoo National Arts Festival (KKNK) Outdshoorn
        Intersection, Strydom Gallery, George
        Homosapien, curated by Grace Kotze, KZNSA
        Invited to represent South African sculptors in the 11 International Art and Culture Symposium at the Mosan Art Museum in South Korea with Christiaan Diedericks.
        Angels, Grande Provence, Franschoek.

        2012
        Interrelations, Artisan Gallery, Durban
        Faces, Artspace , Durban
        Knysna Fine Art Gallery
        Ceramic Association Regional Exhibition, Artspace, Durban

        2011

        Memories, Artisan Gallery, Durban
        Ceramic Association Regional Exhibition, Artspace, Durban
        Rainbow Nation, Durban Art Gallery, Durban

        2010

        Jabulisa curated by The Natal Arts Trust Tatham Art Gallery, Pietermaritzburg
        Ceramic Association Regional Exhibition , Artspace, Durban
        Ceramic Association National Exhibition, Franschoek Gallery, Franschoek

        Awards
        2010 - Trailblaizer Award, Ceramic Association
        2011 – Premium Award, Ceramic Association
        2012 – Merit Award, Ceramic Association
        2014 – Winner of the Sasol New Signatures Award

        Collections
        The Cryogenic Industries Group (Cryogenic Industries Inc). California
        Sasol Collection, South Africa, First Rand Limited, Pretoria Art Museum, Various other collections


    • Interview
      • Which new trends or South African artists do you find inspiring at the moment?
        Simphiwe Ndzube, Kate Gottgens, Diane Victor, Lady Skollie, Jacobus Hendrik Pierneef, Johan Louw, Wim Botha, Marlene Dumas, Jane Alexander, Conrad Botes and Judy Woodbourne are some South African artists I admire.

        Which South African deceased artist do you most admire and why

        Anton Van Wouw is the deceased South African artist I most admire because of his extraordinary ability to create an accurate figurative sculpture with a highly emotive edge.

        If you could only have one piece of art in your life, what would it be?
        I would love to have Christina Cordova’s ceramic piece ‘Preludios y Partidas’ and no other possession.

        How did you get started? Did you always want to be an artist?
        I was told from a very young age that I had talent, and despite my attempts to avoid being a professional artist, I believe that it is my destiny. Carved into Igdrasil, the great tree at the centre of the universe. I chose to study Nature Conservation as I didn’t want to have to generate money making art. During my time working in this field, I always painted and made things. About 15 years ago I found myself in a very isolated place, and started sculpting clay and at some point I committed to being an artist and stopped work in the conservation field. I spent thousands of hours beneath an indigenous forest obsessively sculpting away. If someone had told my 12 year old self that this is what I would be doing at this age, I would have been ecstatic!

        What are some of the key themes you explore in your work?
        I suppose the key theme I explore is the human attitude toward Wild Places, which have always pulled at my heart. I personally find a sanity there, and a deep belonging. This is where true society resides. I have focussed on therianthropic figures to bring attention to ancient Bushmen worldviews where there is no hierarchical separatist philosophy. My wish is to hear and make heard the voices of the Wild Things. To find compassion, to be one of the modern day heroes finding another way of being in the world, of being with the world.

        What should people know about your art that they can’t tell from looking at it?
        Every piece I make challenges my faith in my work, myself, my ability, the world’s willingness to support or to reject. The shortest time I have spent on a piece is two months, the longest a year. Each piece has its own demand and this character is slowly unveiled as it develops, and it takes me on a journey where I experience ecstasy and despair, every time. The originals are made in white clay, and they have a quality which isn’t carried into the bronze, they are entities in their own right, and are destroyed utterly in the mould making process. They then become a wax, and these too are destroyed, melted away to make way for bronze. The enormous amount of time spent focusing on
        each piece, millions of touches by hand and tool, and then to the foundry where it undergoes a very specialized and intensive evolution to be birthed through fire to become an entity that for me has agency. Born to be present in a home, to instill that which it is.

        Tell us more about your creative process.
        The images I get for my work come from my studio and home in Byrne Valley, where I sit perched on a mountain covered in indigenous forest. I am a bit like a net, catching ideas and I believe, skills from the Wild Things. When I start on a piece it is very important that I am undisturbed, and I work with music. This is an extremely exciting time, seeing something birthing, always hoping to be a well aligned channel for something supreme to come forth. As time goes on and I have the basic being it is less important that I am undisturbed. This is the slog time, just getting the piece right. It is all consuming when the flow is good.

        What drives you as an artist?
        The thing that drives me is the making. To make something is a great thing. To make a sculpture of bronze means that it will last, and many eyes will see it, it therefore should be well considered. Right now I am of the opinion that I would like to be a conduit of beauty and compassion, to make things that are thought provoking, that takes the viewer into a place she has never been. I hope to hear the voices of the trees, the earth itself, and my pieces could therefore act as bridges for my species to have access to that which has become silent.

        Do you have a favourite or most meaningful work?

        ‘The Pieta’ is an important piece for me because she is a milestone in my life as an artist. I had decided that I was going to do something else, perhaps become a checkout counter lady in Spar. Sometimes being an artist is like spinning in space, and I needed something to hook onto. I decided to make my last piece, and I started with the head. It was a bang out of the blue, and the body sprang from it, a video recorder on her head, tied to her leaning forward, mouth open. I carried her to the foundry with great pride, and every time I cast one it sold before I got it to a gallery. This was when my faith began, when I got an inkling of my destiny and the guiding force in my life.

        What is your greatest achievement as an artist to date?
        ‘Son of Man’ is my greatest achievement as an artist, the bronze slightly larger than life. I learned to weld on his stilts. (I think it shows!) I had a severe deadline, he needed to be finished for the solo show which was part of winning the Sasol New Signatures. The money I won was used to cast him. He stands about 3 meters high, and once the very late nights were over, the stilts connected, he erected and I could raise my head on my aching neck to see him standing for the first time, it was as if someone else had made him, he looked like the person making him knew what they were doing. I just couldn’t shake the feeling that I had merely been a doorway for this piece to come through. A truly magical and blessed experience.

        What are your aspirations for the future?

        My next step is to make a solo exhibition. This is a momentous thing for a sculptor, as it means years of work, with intense focus. I have a feeling for the concept, to find our group spirit, the consciousness of all life. No small task! This isn’t something one can do in a city, so I am planning trips to wild places, and I am hoping those journeys will reveal to me the songs that have been forgotten by the western mind. “In Aboriginal belief, an unsung land is a dead land: since, if the songs are forgotten, the land itself will die. To allow that to happen was the worst possible of all crimes.” This, I believe, is a worthy cause. It is very important for me that what I am doing with my time in the day has relevance to what the world is demanding. My spirit will not survive if I ignore the current huge threat to life on earth. I don’t know where this journey will take me.
  • Submit - Sculpture by Elizabeth Balcomb ELIZABETH BALCOMB
    Submit
    Sculpture / 47 x 130 cm
    $10 460
  • Studio Madonna - Sculpture by Elizabeth Balcomb ELIZABETH BALCOMB
    Studio Madonna
    Sculpture / 18 x 53 cm
    $3 820
  • I Am You - Sculpture by Elizabeth Balcomb ELIZABETH BALCOMB
    I Am You
    Sculpture / 14 x 35 cm
    $4 100
  • Young Girl - Sculpture by Elizabeth Balcomb ELIZABETH BALCOMB
    Young Girl
    Sculpture / 10 x 39 cm
    $4 600
  • Domestication II - Sculpture by Elizabeth Balcomb ELIZABETH BALCOMB
    Domestication II
    Sculpture / 14 x 43 cm
    $3 910
  • I Am - Sculpture by Elizabeth Balcomb ELIZABETH BALCOMB
    I Am
    Sculpture / 40 x 52 cm
    $4 140