Vertical Aerial: Johannesburg

Gerhard Marx
FNB Joburg Art Fair, South Africa (2013)
3,2m x 5,6m

  • For his work ‘Vertical Aerial: Johannesburg’, a freestanding sculpture composed of 56 mosaic panels mounted onto a rectangular steel frame with a compound angle, Gerhard Marx has worked with a continuous aerial view of Johannesburg’s historical city centre.

    “An aerial view is both a photograph and a map,” explains Marx. “As a photograph it functions in a sort of scientific objectified manner. It is literally an ‘overview’. As a map, the aerial view interests me because of the manner in which one ‘reads’ a map – particularly a map without text, which is what the aerial view arguably is."

  • Each mosaic panel measures 800 x 800mm, suggestive of a grid reference found on maps. The artwork was produced in the indirect method: seven professional mosaic artists, (three of them former Spier Arts Academy graduates) together with nine apprentices, applied the tesserae facedown to a backing paper before they were transferred.

    The 35,8 square metre surface of the artwork weights 3 tons, and includes natural and engineered stone, ceramic elements and Venetian glass.


Construction Workers

Sam Nhlengethwa
FNB Joburg Art Fair, South Africa (2013)
Triptych, 2060 x 1650mm; 2060 x 1945mm; 2060 x 1275m

  • Spier Architectural Arts collaborated with South African painter and printmaker, Sam Nhlengethwa to create a 10sqm ceramic relief panel, ‘Construction Workers’.

    The artwork depicts uniformed construction workers and pedestrians set against a cityscape of Johannesburg. The origin of the relief is a mixed-media collage cut-up by Nhlengethwa. To create his photomontage artworks he uses magazines, newspapers and billboards, in particular old Drum and Ebony magazines. Explaining his method he says, "Like a jazz musician who can depart from the original melody altogether and improvise on its harmonic base, I create a well-balanced final product with interesting textures, perspective and dimensions from juxtaposing pieces from different original backgrounds."

  • The vertically displayed relief is realised in handmade ceramic elements, and also features small sections of mosaic areas. The work is composed of over 10 000 irregular ceramic elements; some are individually hand painted, others have been overlaid with UV resistant photographic transfers.

    New to the media of ceramic, the artist has not worked on a project such as this, where trained craftsmen collaboratively interpret his work into a final product. A team of six ceramic artists worked for two months to complete the project.

    The artwork was unveiled at the 2013 FNB Joburg Art Fair.


The Dying Slave

Marco Cianfanelli
Spier Wine Estate, Stellenbsoch, South Africa (2012)
9 Columns, 4,2m x 0,6m x 0,3m each

  • The large-scale mosaic artwork is divided into nine columns and when seen from a specific vantage point, the columns line up revealing the complete image of The Dying Slave. Located at the junction of two prominent pedestrian footpaths, the site specific artwork is visible as one approaches from either direction and lures visitors from the estate to the Spier Hotel, and vice versa. Measuring 4,2 metres in height, the work has a strong graphic impact similar to a billboard in the landscape and the staggered placement of the columns invites visitors to interact and circulate through the artwork. Cianfanelli based the design of the artwork on Michelangelo’s well-known figure of a male slave in the ecstatic throes of dying. Mirror images of The Dying Slave are installed back-to-back, one a ‘positive’ image and the other a ‘negative’ or photographic inversion of the same image.

  • The 42sqm surface of The Dying Slave showcases 225 000 pieces of hand cut tesserae - over 1500kg of material - through a wide palette of natural material including limestone, marble, granite, pebbles, with bright splashes of colour realised in industrial glass, porcelain, hand crafted ceramic elements and Venetian glass.

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The Wayfarer

Conrad Botes
Auto & General Park, Fourways, South Africa (2012)
13m x 6m

  • The Wayfarer by Conrad Botes is a site-specific, mosaic artwork commissioned by Telesure Investment Holdings, for their new headquarter building in Fourways, north of Johannesburg.

    The colossal central figure portrayed is a self-portrait of the artist that dominates a landscape populated with diminutive anarchic figures running amok. The figure’s body and face, overlaid with tears, indicate the artist’s preoccupation with the troubled state of man’s current existence. Yet the artist portrays this vision of violence and degradation as surrounded by radiating and beautifying light. This light immediately disrupts the viewer’s perceptions of good and evil and challenges the fixity of our beliefs and ideologies. This artwork is seen by Botes to suggest the possibility of a life free and unbounded by the constraints of limited and indoctrinated ways of thinking values inherited from our forefathers.


  • The planning of the 6 x 13 metre artwork commenced together with design inception for the building, to ensure harmony between the built fabric and the artwork. The Wayfarer is placed against a mammoth off-shutter concrete wall, providing a neutral backdrop for the striking and vibrant colour palette of the work. The artwork is visible as one enters the four-story volume atrium, with a pedestrian bridge providing an up-close view to appreciate the detail of the mosaic artwork.

    The 78 square metre surface of The Wayfarer is constructed with 2.8 tons of material. Applied in the direct method, these materials include limestone, travertine, marble, granite, engineered stone, bricks, industrial glass, porcelain and Venetian glass. Fourteen mosaic artists spent 8 months in studio, and two weeks on site during installation, totaling 1200 days (8400 hours) to complete the mosaic artwork.

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Brett Murray
Auto & General Park, Fourways, South Africa (2013)
7.5 x 0.1m

  • ‘Citizen’ is a site-specific public sculpture by South African artist Brett Murray, commissioned by Spier Architectural Arts on behalf of the inaugural Telesure Investment Holdings Arts Programme. Positioned at the main entrance to the building, and accessible to the public, ‘Citizen’ measures over 7.5 metres high. The five-headed bronze sculpture is a visual metaphor describing a coming together of minds. It is informed and inspired by the linguist staffs (tall wooden sticks) of the Akan and Asanta kingdoms of Ghana. Theses staffs have been used since the Nineteenth Century. Carved in wood and covered in gold leaf, they are held by the Chief’s poet as badges of office. They are symbols of the chief’s powers and wisdom and often allude to local proverbs.

  • ‘Citizen’ is an interpretation of one of these African proverbs and describes an idea that the community determines the strength of an individual and that collective undertakings yield richer results.

    ‘One hand does not catch a buffalo’

    Production of ‘Citizen’ took 10 months. Grandi Manufacturing ensured the structural stability of the artwork, and the bronze was cast by Bronze Age Cape Town.

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Coming to the City

BASA Winner - International Sponsorship 2012 / BAMM Winner - Mosaic of the Year 2012

Clive van den Berg
Nando’s Kings Cross, London, United Kingdom (2011)
3m x 18m

  • Coming to the City takes the stage as a key piece within Nando’s UK’s extensive collection of African Art. Unique to Nando’s Kings Cross and accessible to the public in an exciting and welcoming environment, Coming to the City is testament to the fact that not all art masterworks are exhibited in the great museums and galleries of the world.

    The idea of site-specificity is fundamental to both the concept and execution of Coming to the City. Clive van den Berg carefully analysed the characteristics of the London site. This included an investigation of the history and culture of King’s Cross as a central railway terminus opened in 1852.

  • The experiences of the many thousands of people from different countries that have journeyed to London seemed to the artist to be inscribed in the architecture of the site. Their own personal histories and digitally aided communications with their home countries are translated through van den Berg’s use of map imagery and binary code (10101010).

    Ten mosaic artists worked for 9 months to complete the artwork, totalling 11 553 hours. Materials used include natural sandstone, limestone, granite, pebbles, marble, semiprecious stones, glass ‘smalti’ tiles from Venice, Italy and hand crafted ceramic elements. Created in sections, using a Contemporary mosaic style in the direct method, Coming to the City was shipped to London and re-built panel-by-panel by a team of the world’s leading experts in mosaic.

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Melodi ya matsha (Birth of Rhythm)

Pat Mautloa
Odeion School of Music, University of the Free State, Bloemfontein, South Africa (2011)
1,2m x 12m

  • 'Birth of Rhythm' for the University of the Free State, sponsored by the National Lottery Distribution Trust Fund (NLDTF), with a contribution made by Hollard Insurance.

    Melodi ya matsha is a celebration of music. The artwork, designed for the Odeion School of Music at the University of the Free State, beautifies the foyer wall of the concert hall.

    The mosaic piece refers to musical expression through eleven panels, each showcasing a variation of musical style and rhythm. Each style is represented in a different mosaic style – the classical is rendered in formal, Byzantine mosaic style, while modern music is reflected in a looser and bolder Contemporary style.

  • The most prominent central figure featured in the artwork is a female vocalist who finds expression in a natural instrument – her own voice. The guitarist to her right plays one of the oldest instruments known to humankind - a string instrument. The central panels are flanked with ‘quieter’ panels on both sides, referring to ‘pianissimo’, the soft, slow music from a musical score, and culminate with precise numbers expressing timing, rhythm, pace & cue.

    Nine mosaic artists and a wire master worked for 3 months (2 700 hours) to complete Melodi ya matsha. Materials used include natural stone (limestone, marble, granite, sandstone, pebbles), semiprecious stones, brick, mirror, wire, terracotta, ceramic and glass ‘smalti’ tiles from Venice, Italy.


The Rat Race

BASA Winner - Single Strategic Project 2011

Marlise Keith
Hollard Business Campus, Parktown, Johannesburg, South Africa (2010)
2m x 16m

  • Located in the central courtyard of the Business Campus in Parktown, Johannesburg, The Rat Race has transformed the staff seating area and fishpond into a pageant of soft colour and texture. The artwork received an award for the 14th annual business day BASA awards, supported by Anglo American in 2011.

    The artist, Marlise Keith lives and works in Kalk Bay, Cape Town, where the sea served as inspiration for the artwork:

    The sea has always been a symbol of inspiration and change for me, from the times of the ancient mariners to the present day “rat race”. We are constantly surrounded by motion or are in motion, just like the sea; and even more so at Hollard in Parktown, Johannesburg, where the highway roars past, aeroplanes fly

  • by and people jossle and bussle on their way to work. The movement of rip currents and tides are simulated in the design by the repetition of lines and shape.

    It was an honour to be asked by Spier Architectural Arts to create an art concept for this commission and I was excited by the departure. I usually draw on paper or plywood and knowing that the image was going to be 16m x 1.5m in its final form meant I had to draw to scale. The result is the biggest work I have ever created. This was a collaborative work. It gave me the opportunity to do what I do best and the mosaic artists to do what they do best and the result is magic.

    Thirteen mosaic artists worked for 5 months to complete the Byzantine style artwork in the indirect method.

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