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ARTIST OF THE MONTH :  November - December 2008

R U A N    H O F F M A N N    :    P O E T    O F    T H E    P L A T E



Ruan Hoffmann is a Pretoria-based artist, who, at 37, has already gained a significant reputation for his highly individualistic ceramic pieces. It seems a fitting time to showcase his work, as he has just had a major, critically acclaimed, solo exhibition (his second solo show) of his ceramic plates at the University of Stellenbosch Art Gallery in Stellenbosch, Cape.

Hoffmann has been working with ceramics for some eighteen years. What sets him apart, however, is that he has never regarded himself as a 'potter' or a ceramicist, but simply as an artist. (He insists that he has never even had any formal ceramic training). Rather, he uses the three-dimensional surfaces of vases, plates, bowls, tile panels and small sculptures as 'canvases' for his icon-like images; and his art is often infused with personal concerns about identity and sexuality, as well as mythical and mystical allusions.

In this respect, his work can be favourably compared with that of controversial London ceramic artist, Grayson Perry, winner of the prestigious Turner Prize in 2003. Perry's 'improper, semi-autobiographical' pots typically depict controversial topics, such as sex and child abuse, yet they are aesthetically exquisite. In his acceptance speech , on receiving his award, Perry declared: 'I want to make something that lives with the eye as a beautiful piece of art, but, on closer inspection, a polemic or an ideology will come out of it'. This is a statement that could apply as well to the work of Ruan Hoffmann.

Ceramics' popularly thought-of status as a craft - rather than as a contemporary form of art production - is an issue that Hoffmann thrives in subverting. By focusing on the medium's fragility, combined with a discriminating eye for details and painstaking craftsmanship, he finds a sympathetic vehicle for expressing concerns that span both the present and the past.

Unlike some other forms of art, ceramic art often forces the artist to negotiate with the built-in diosyncrasies of the medium. Thus, in Hoffman's work, casual and accidental elements frequently interrupt the process and induce surprising results. These spontaneous mishaps are part of the ceramic medium itself, and serve to make his work particular exciting'.
Thus, for Hoffmann 'a plate is not just a plate, and a pot not always a pot: firstly not in a strictly utilitarian sense', observes artist, art writer and UNISA lecturer, Prof. Frikkie Eksteen. ' The artist is very quick to point out that none of his objects are meant to be functional. The plates are often covered in thick clay textures, making them clearly unpractical as serving bowls, and the vases, replete with unsealed imperfections, will not hold any liquid. From what I gather, the artist sees their dysfunction as a sign of autonomy'.

Secondly, and more significantly, adds Eksteen, 'for Hoffmann, a bowl is sometimes also a cosmic field, an area of confinement, a vast region of emptiness, and a vase can be a throbbing, mutating mass upon which an array of characters and words swell and churn…In what may appear to be predictable decorative conventions, dark, cynical, sometimes funny, yet often poignant, subject matter causes an uneasy stirring'. (Click here to read the entire article).

Hoffmann's first important solo exhibition at Franchise Gallery in Johannesburg, in September 2005, was the culminaton of three years of working and exploring every possible aspect of the clay medium. With a total of some 30 vases/urns and more than 500 circular paintings on plates, the exhibition could be described as the first major solo show of fine art ceramics on this scale in South Africa.

A few months later - in February 2006 - Hoffmann had a private viewing of his plates in Pretoria. Their caustic, tongue-in-cheek wit was hailed by Pretoria News art reviewer, Miranthe Staden-Garbett, who enthused: 'With their dry wit, cantankerous edges and poisonous glazes, they would be hard to swallow, were they, or anything served on them, meant for human consumption. Unpalatable, though they may be, as a feast for the eye, they are spot-on'. (Click here to read the entire article).

Hoffmann, however, has successfully explored various other media for his emotive imagery, His recent exhibition at the University of Stellenbosch Art Gallery (16 October- 14 November 2008), followed shortly after his return from a 2007 residency at the Franz Masereel Centrum in Kasterlee, Belgium, where he completed a series of lithographs and participated in several group shows.

Earlier this year, selected works were included in the Universiy of Pretoria Centenary Exhibition, followed by a group show.
His latest work,however, once again continues his exploration in clay . After working in slip casts for several years, Hoffmann has begun to further develop the clay as canvas by experimenting with paper clay and shaping the plates in various forms. This method has significantly expanded the definition of his work.

"Thematically, his imagery is the expression of his personal life and experience', sums up a reviewer of his Stellenbosch show, 'and therefore retains a sincerity which completes the metaphor of the honesty of the clay'


Reviews

Ruan Hoffmann City scene, Pretoria News, February 16 2006
Visuele Kuns: Ruan Hoffmann by Liza Grobler, US-galery, Stellenbosch (Die Burger, 11 November 2008)
Caught in the middle of something: decoration and transcendence in the art of Ruan Hofmann by Frikkie Eksteen
Ruan Hoffmann - Caustic Tongue-In-Cheek Wit by Miranthe Staden-Garbett, Pretoria News (Thursday, February 16 2006)


Artist's Statement

An artist by trade, Ruan Hoffmann has turned to working with ceramics over the past 14 years. He uses the three-dimensional surfaces of plates, bowls, tile panels and small sculptures as canvases for his icon-like images. His art is often infused with personal concerns about identity and sexuality.

Ceramic's popularly thought of status as a craft - rather than a contemporary form of art production - is an issue Hoffmann eagerly subverts. By focusing on the medium's fragility, combined with a discriminating eye for detail and painstaking craftsmanship, the artist finds a sympathetic vehicle for expressing concerns that span both the present and the past.

Unlike some other art forms, ceramic art often forces the artist to negotiate with the built-in idiosyncrasies of the medium. Casual and accidental elements frequently interrupt the process and induce surprising end results. These spontaneous mishaps are part and parcel of the material properties of the ceramic medium itself, which is profoundly attached to the earth and its unpredictable processes.



Biography

Qualifications

1989   Matriculated from Pro Arte High School, Pretoria
1990   BA [BK] University of Pretoria

Solo Exhibitions

2008   US Gallery, University of Stellenboch
2005   Franchise gallery, Johannesburg, 9 September to 1 October

Group Exhibitions

2008   Alumni Potters of  the University of Pretoria, Van Tilburg Museum, Old Arts Building,University of Pretoria, 30 September 2008
2008   Visuality/Commentary,centenary exhibition of the University of Pretoria
2008   Platform on 18th Gallery, [Pretoria]
2007   Inventory, 8 May to 2 June, 34 on Long Gallery, Cape Town
2007   16th Rose Korber Art Salon [Camps Bay, Cape Town]
2006   15th Art Salon at the Bay [The Bay Hotel, Camps Bay , Cape Town] in association with Rose Korber Art
2006   ABSA L'Atelier Awards-Regional Exhibition at ArtB Gallery, Bellville,ABSA L'Atelier Awards-National Exhibition at ABSA Gallery,Johannesburg
2005   14th Art Salon at the Bay [The Bay Hotel, Camps Bay, Cape Town ] in association with Rose Korber  Art
2004   30 x 30, exhibition of works measuring 30 x 30, Art Gallery University of Stellenboch
2004   13th Art Salon at the Bay [The Bay Hotel, Camps Bay, Cape Town ] in association with Rose Korber Art
2001   Four by Four, Association of Arts, Pretoria
2001   Group Exhibition at Bamboo, Melville, Johannesburg

Collections

Spier corporate art collection [Stellenbosch]
The Frans Masereel Centrum [Kasterlee, Belgium]
South African National Association for the Visual Arts [Cape Town]
Monarch Hotel, [Johannesburg]
UWC-Mayibuye Archives [Robben Island]


Residency

Frans Masereel Centrum, Kasterlee, Belgium, 26 June - 14 July, 2006
European Ceramic Work Centre, sg'Hertogenbosch [the Netherlands], 2009

Media

2006   Elle Decoration, summer edition, no 41, 2006. "Serving suggestion"
2006   Caustic tongue-in-cheek wit, Pretoria News, Thursday, February 16, 2006
2005   "Kleingoed pynlik gevuur in siel se binneste hoogvuur", Beeld newspaper PLUS supplement, 22 September
2005   Arts & Leisure, Business Day, Monday, September 26, 2005
2004   Tydskrif vir Letterkunde 41[1], South Africa, cover and article
2004   10 Best at Design Indaba Expo, Sunday Times Lifestyle supplement, 7 March,"Ten reasons why local design is lekker"
2004   Elle Decoration, spring edition, no 33, recipient of the Elle Decoration WOW award

A selection of works by Ruan Hoffmann

Click on the links below the thumbnails to view the full image with cataloguing



RUAN HOFFMANN
Dew Drop Dead Inn


RUAN HOFFMANN
Hell Boy


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RUAN HOFFMANN
Orange On Grey Flowers


RUAN HOFFMANN
Serious Art


RUAN HOFFMANN
Careful What You Wish For


RUAN HOFFMANN
Pavilion


RUAN HOFFMANN
Dr Doom


RUAN HOFFMANN
You Were Not The Perfect Parent


RUAN HOFFMANN
We're Idiots Because We Don't Know What's Causing It


RUAN HOFFMANN
Nada


RUAN HOFFMANN
Monster Plant


RUAN HOFFMANN
RH 21 10 09


RUAN HOFFMANN
RH 2008


RUAN HOFFMANN
The End of Another Relationship


RUAN HOFFMANN
Begging For It


RUAN HOFFMANN
I Think It's Better For You To Cling To Your Art Rather Than Me


RUAN HOFFMANN
Silly Girl


RUAN HOFFMANN
Untitled Orange/Pink Portrait


RUAN HOFFMANN
Untitled - Blue Glass Centre Yellow Edge


RUAN HOFFMANN
Another Fucking Skeleton


RUAN HOFFMANN
Middle Distance


RUAN HOFFMANN
Green Face


RUAN HOFFMANN
Fake Orchidaceae


RUAN HOFFMANN
Blue Nose


RUAN HOFFMANN
It's Coming For You


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RUAN HOFFMANN
Green Flowers


RUAN HOFFMANN
Scared Shitless


RUAN HOFFMANN
One More Year


RUAN HOFFMANN
Howling Wind


RUAN HOFFMANN
Orange Flowers


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RUAN HOFFMANN
Dissolved


RUAN HOFFMANN
Love Hate


RUAN HOFFMANN
Guru


RUAN HOFFMANN
Going Where?


RUAN HOFFMANN
Crocodile Tears


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RUAN HOFFMANN
Brave New World


RUAN HOFFMANN
Inane


RUAN HOFFMANN
Vase


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RUAN HOFFMANN
Vase


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RUAN HOFFMANN
Vase


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RUAN HOFFMANN
Vase


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RUAN HOFFMANN
Vase


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RUAN HOFFMANN
Vase


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RUAN HOFFMANN
Vase


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RUAN HOFFMANN
Vase


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RUAN HOFFMANN
Vase


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RUAN HOFFMANN
Vase


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RUAN HOFFMANN
Vase


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RUAN HOFFMANN
Golden Pagoda Hotel, Fire Island


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RUAN HOFFMANN
Plate


RUAN HOFFMANN
Plate


RUAN HOFFMANN
Plate


RUAN HOFFMANN
Plate


RUAN HOFFMANN
Plate


RUAN HOFFMANN
Plate


RUAN HOFFMANN
Plate


RUAN HOFFMANN
Plate