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The Norval Foundation announces the opening of a new exhibition of sculptural works by South African artist Walter Oltmann. Entitled ‘Metamorphosis’, the exhibition will open on 16 November 2023 with an evening opening event, and will run until 14 August 2024.

Walter Oltmann, Instar II, 2023. Anodized aluminium wire, brass rods and plastic beads. Courtesy of the artist and Goodman Gallery.

Dedicated to the sculptural works of Johannesburg-based artist Walter Oltmann, the exhibition will showcase 10 of Oltmann’s sculptures. The sculptures range in size and comprise of multiple materials including aluminium wire, enamel paint, brass rods, plastic beads, razor wire and other materials.

Born in 1960, Walter Oltmann has been an active member of the South African art scene since the 1980s. Oltmann obtained a BA Fine Arts degree from the University of Natal, Pietermaritzburg in 1981; an MA Fine Arts degree in 1985; and a PhD in Fine Arts from the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg.

In 2022 Walter Oltmann received the Claire & Edoardo Villa Will Trust’s Extraordinary Award for Sculpture, enabling him to produce an extensive body of work which was undertaken in the Villa Legodi workshop at NIROX Sculpture Park where the works were also publicly shown. A related publication, In Time, is forthcoming. This body of work includes multiple pieces which form part of the forthcoming exhibition.

The name of the exhibition, ‘Metamorphosis’, is a reference to the act of becoming and transformation: From egg to pupa to moth or beetle; from embryo to foetus, to child to wedding gown and dress suit and then to shroud. Oltmann’s work celebrates such magical and seamless transformations in the world, and in his wire-weaving processes creates metamorphoses of his own. The shifts of scale in his works alone play with our perceptions, a bit like Alice in Wonderland. Viewers are overwhelmed by the scale of some and enchanted by the smallness of others. They bristle with beauty or stand quietly, sheer presences in their dark and mysterious symmetry.

In the Norval Foundation atrium, Walter Oltmann’s sculptures assume monumental proportions, and stand as towering figures. In their display, the very nature of these works questions what we consider to be a monument, while their display against the sculpture garden reminds viewers of our own human ecological fragility and impermanence.

Oltmann’s sculptures seem to transcend the terrestrial and evoke a cosmic and eternal quality that defies the ephemeral nature of both insect and human existence. Within this intersection, Oltmann’s work contemplates the passage of time, weaving the impermanent into immortality.

Oltmann’s works have been included in exhibitions across South Africa and abroad, including exhibitions in China and Italy. He has been the recipient of the Ampersand Fellowship; the Sasol Wax art Award; and he hasreceived the Standard Bank Young Artist Award for Visual Art in 2001. The exhibition is in dialogue with other much-anticipated exhibitions which will open this summer including an exhibition dedicated to the legacy of Alexis Preller, and an exhibition of paintings by Cinga Samson. These exhibitions will join the current exhibition dedicated to the Malian artist and NSAAP 2023 Famakan Magassa.

‘Metamorphosis’ was curated by Karel Nel and Ally Martinez, and is open to view at Norval Foundation from the 16th of November, 2023, until the 14th of August, 2024. For more information, please visit Norval Foundation.

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