Pigmented resin and glassfibre with full colour stickers, Ed: /10
(containing photographs by Merwelene van der Merwe on the sides)

Height: 44cm

Width: 49cm

Length: 69cm

Artist's statement:

'In my recent work I explore a specific working methodology that seems to be prevalent at the moment, which may be stated simply as 'how to animate dumb objects from found and sourced objects, artefacts, implements, ruins and so on. Where text is absent, the history of (African) oral societies is constructed '.

'In my work, I have tried to further the idea of objects as augmentation to speech, posing questions such as : 'In speech, when does a speaker revert to visuals?' I have also looked at oral cultures, the charismatic speaker and 'priority perspectives' - truth, and what people want that truth to be.'

'In my recent suite of four prints, I made reference to a set of sculptures that I have been working on. I have tried to imagine what the iconography of a pan-African religion might look like. There are four animals, all female: a lioness, a cow, an eagle and a peahen. The land animals have three heads and six legs, and the sky animals have three heads.'

Joachim Schonfeldt 2004

Statement on the sculptures:

Joachim Schonfeldt's many-headed animals denote the psychic duality of human beings. Inspired by multi-headed cows and lions in Hindu and Assyrian sculptures, the animals refer to the rich symbolic substrata of world cultures - Eastern, Middle-Eastern, African and Western art traditions.

The cow, for example, is the feminine aspect of Brahma - simultaneously the melodious cow and the cow of abundance. In Egypt she is symbolic of vital heat, representing both earth and moon.

These multi-headed animals become symbolic receptacles of the world.

The use of photographs (by Johannesburg conceptual artist, Hentie van der Merwe, and by Johannesburg photographer, respectively) - superimposed on the sides of these resin and fibreglass animals - underlines the contemporary, cutting-edge nature of Schonfeldt's concerns.

Statement on the prints:

Prior to these prints being made, Schonfeldt worked on paper, using similar images embossed into the paper and coloured with oil paint, which was then sealed with a high gloss varnish. In a similar way, the four prints have been deeply embossed, so that sections of the image tantalise the viewer into questioning the two dimensionality of the printed surface. The images are then sealed with a clear ink varnish.

As in much of his work, Schonfeldt has included text in the prints. The slogan 'Authentic works of art and curios' brings up the notion of authenticity, which is a central concern of the artist. It also has a cynical ring to it, which can be understood within the context of contemporary art and craft production in Africa.

This suite of four prints was recently purchased by The Museum of Modern Art, New York.


Joachim Schonfeldt was born in Pretoria, and completed his schooling in Namibia. After graduating from the University of the Witwatersrand in the early 1980s, he worked for Meneghelli Holdings as a curator and researcher in old African art.

Schonfeldt became a full time artist in 1988. In 1989 he lived and worked in Italy, before settling in Johannesburg the following year, writing criticism for a local daily and curating, but mostly practising art. In 2002 Schonfeldt taught and was artist in residence at ECAV, Sierre, in Switzerland.

He has exhibited widely in South Africa and internationally. His work has been included on the Venice, Sao Paulo and Johannesburg Biennales. He is one of the founding artists of the Fordsburg Artists Studios (The Bag Factory) , which runs an international residency programme, and where he and a number of Johannesburg artists have their studios.

© 2006 All rights reserved. Origination by Di Conradie.