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Walter Oltmann (1960-)

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  • Walter Oltmann (South African, born 1960) Larva Suit 202 x 137 x 48cm (79 1/2 x 53 15/16 x 18 7/8in).

  • Walter Oltmann - Spotted Beetle

  • Walter Oltmann (South African 1960-) EX-SITU (CHILD SKULL) etching, signed

Walter Oltmann Biography

Born and raised in Rustenberg, Walter Oltmann studied Fine Art at the University of Natal. His artworks take their inspiration from the traditional art and craft of the region, particularly studies of the local flora and fauna. Whilst studying the engravings of 19th naturalists, the artist became fascinated with the insect form. In 1998, he created Silverfish for the Standard Bank National Arts Festival. It now hangs in the Johannesburg Art Gallery. The seminal work spawned a series of metal wire constructions, including the present lot, Larva Suit. As with Silverfish, Larva Suit, also takes its form from the insect world.

However, these later metallic exoskeletons have a second source: the regalia worn by the fifteenth century explorers and conquistadors on their voyages of discovery. The suit encourages the viewer to consider the impact of colonisation in South Africa's history, but also its moral implications. The sharp metal wires protrude from the figure's arms and legs like spikes; part protective exoskeleton, part agent of destruction. Oltmann states that these suits are designed to provoke ambivalence:

"I enjoy a hands-on approach to sculpture and most of my work involves processes that allow forms to grow and evolve slowly into meditative statement...I have explored objects and insects which occupy our domestic spheres. By referring to such everyday objects and insects I have tried to create a framework for the viewer which is familiar and thereby creates freedom for association...I hope that I can articulate tensions or ambivalences between between private and public, past and present, in these objects. The medium and the image spark off something."

Since completing his MA in Fine Art, Oltmann has received several awards including the Standard Bank National Drawing Prize in 1990 and the Standard Bank Young Artist Award for Visual Art in 2001.

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