An essential introduction to the names making South African design, in fields ranging form furniture to ceramics, one of the most exciting sectors for new collectors
In the landscape of international design, Africa is one of the richest and most rewarding regions — and yet also one of the least explored. Influenced by a rich mix of culture and tradition, fragmented and reforged over time, the works of its designers are as diverse as the continent’s many countries and cultures.
On 5 April our First Open auction celebrates the best in contemporary African design, British craftsmanship and contemporary art, featuring an African design section that showcases a selection of works by designers represented by the celebrated Cape Town gallery Southern Guild. Here, gallery co-founder Trevyn McGowan introduces some of the hottest names in South African design today.
Trevyn McGowan: ‘Porky Hefer has transcended the expectations applied to his field to forge a path that is new and inventive. Porky’s work is design without boundaries — for him, a chair doesn’t have to have four legs and a straight back. His seating is immersive, inviting you into a world that holds almost childlike fascination.’
Dokter and Misses is the brainchild of industrial designer Adriaan Hugo and graphic designer Katy Taplin — South Africa’s rockstar design couple. Their works take inspiration from traditional graphic designs, tribal body paint and forms of writing — as is the case with Kassena Isibheqe, above.
Trevyn McGowan: ‘Works by the husband-and-wife pair are often monumental in scale, and are sought after by the world’s leading museums, galleries and design institutions. They were recently recognised with a Southern Guild Design Foundation Award, South Africa’s most prestigious design accolade, and, in 2016, their work formed part of Beauty—Cooper Hewitt Design Triennial.’
Trevyn McGowan: ‘To take an important artwork by one of the country’s top artists and turn it into a rug is no small feat — but Paco Pakdoust has done exactly that, transforming John Murray’s painting Oust into wool and silk with incredible precision. Hand-knotted in Nepal, this rug is a work of art in its own right.’
Trevyn McGowan: ‘Adam Birch is a tree surgeon. When he is unable to save a damaged or dying tree, he transforms them into beautiful pieces of furniture. Sculpted from fragrant camphor wood, this chair smells as delightful as it looks.’
Trevyn McGowan: ‘Design duo Madoda and Chuma recently held a solo exhibition of their work in our Cape Town gallery, featuring almost 20 pieces of their smoke-fired ceramic pieces. The show was a testament to the collaborative spirit of their work, which is created using traditional pit-firing methods, imbuing pieces with cultural narrative. Madoda and Chuma are two big new talents worth keeping an eye on.’
Trevyn McGowan: ‘To witness Conrad at work in his Cape Town forge is a spectacular sight. Formerly a cinema, the space comes alive as old machinery springs into life, and Conrad fires and hammers away at pieces of metal. His designs ooze personality, and his ability to render delicate textures in copper is exceptional.’
Trevyn McGowan: ‘Jesse is one of our new rising stars. He casts the aluminium used in works such as the bench above in sand, so that his process is completely organic. It’s a brave way of working, and results in designs that demonstrate both innovation and mastery. Jesse showed with Southern Guild at Design Miami 2016.’
Trevyn McGowan: ‘Trevor is one of the most talented sculptors to have emerged in recent years. He approaches his work with passion and personality — its detail is remarkable, and each piece has an element of fun to it.’
Trevyn McGowan: ‘Xandre’s obsession with geometric shapes is evident throughout his designs, and pieces such as Vos, above, are unmistakably his. The materials he works in are just as compelling, resulting in eye-catching pieces that demand to be touched. This is a designer whose voice is set to be prominent in African design.’