W a l t e r O l t m a n n
15 September - 23 October 2004
Walter Oltmann has been making wire sculptures since his student days. Initially he used ordinary galvanised steel wire as it was relatively cheap and available. He then began exploring the sculptural possibilities of 'gabion' structures, the wire cages filled with rocks which are often seen on roadside embankments or along mine dumps and used to prevent soil erosion. The idea of these structures was used to create forms which were later displayed in gallery settings, but the sheer weight and clumsiness of them soon lead to his working in wire on its own and to start weaving the wire forms by hand. He also began to look more closely at uses of wire in the material culture of southern Africa - particularly decorative applications found in ornamental plaiting around sticks and handles and in telephone-wire baskets. He started to explore other metals such as copper, brass and aluminium which presented a broader colour range with which to work. In some works, rope was introduced.
While having exhibited extensively in gallery and museums, Oltmann has also been commissioned to construct large wire sculptures and wall hangings for corporate buildings. In his recent work, Oltmann explores images that tease the borderlines between categories of human/animal/plant and often plays with paradoxes between vulnerability and the monstrous. Drawings and lino-cuts often accompany these sculptures and are usually closely related in subject matter.
Oltmann was born in 1960 and grew up in Nongoma in northern KwaZulu-Natal. After graduating from the University of the Witwatersrand with an MA in Fine Art in 1985, he completed his national service and then returned to focus on teaching sculpture. He is currently a senior lecturer at the University of Witwatersrand. He has received numerous awards and commissions, including the Standard Bank Young Artist Award in 2001. His work is represented in many national, private and corporate collections.
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© 2003 Michael Stevenson. All rights