Another recent project this year was Cape Town-based artist Brett Murray's bronze sculpture "The Citizen". Commissioned by Spier Arts Academy, "The Citizen" evolved as an idea based on a previous series of works by Brett Murray called "Bubble Head" and it speaks about the power of the individual within a collective. One body, many heads, one South Africa. Ubuntu.
There were a number of challenges regarding this 3 ton, 7.5m tall figure that we needed to overcome as a group. In collaboration with the artist, the structural engineer, Karl Hvidsten of Tank Industries, Bronze Age and our fabrication department, these challenges were successfully overcome. Karl Hvidsten’s structural engineering of the piece was once again of major importance and allowed us to set about fabricating the metal framework to accommodate the moulded bronze pieces and build The Citizen.
Each "head", made up of 8 panels were individually affixed and welded together. The body was delivered in sections by Bronze Age and was assembled in a way that ensured the structural integrity was maintained and the substantial weight of the piece was properly supported. The entire sculpture was sanded and finished to hide any welding seams of the panels. A challenging and time consuming process, however, achieving the desired outcome resulting in a magnificent work of art.
With a structure of this magnitude, taking weight and height into consideration, great lengths were taken to ensure that the support structure was firmly rooted to the foundation, thereby making the statue accessible to the public, who can connect with its materiality and experience the scale of the piece from close proximity. As with many free standing structures, weather needed to be taken into consideration and in this instance wind was a particular concern. Many hours of research and calculations were performed, taking into account the strongest winds that Johannesburg has experienced over the last 50 years, to ensure the structure would support the sculpture under the toughest meteorological conditions.
Although working with bronze can be challenging as it is a malleable and organic material, we were successful in securely adhering the bronze moulds provided by Bronze Age to the frame, ready for Brett and his team to commence the patination process to achieve the brown film on the surface of old bronze. This process involved treating the bronze with chemicals and applying heat to the surface to achieve a distinctive surface appearance usually acquired over time.
The transport and assembly of The Citizen was a massive undertaking. With meticulous preparation, efficient teams and precise systems in place, the assembly was executed according to plan. The Citizen stands tall and proud outside the newly constructed offices of Auto and General in Steyn City, Gauteng. We are very proud to be associated with an artist of the calibre of Brett Murray and look forward to further opportunities to assist in bringing creativity to fruition in the future.
To watch the installation process, see BRETT MURRAY_ CITIZEN from HEYLUKE on Vimeo.