A Kind of Biography – ‘The Artist Needs a Hat’

By Richard Kilpert

Steven Sack at Nel Gallery October 2022

I was privileged to be at both the alpha and omega of Steven Sack’s first proper solo show in Cape Town.  I have followed this man since my days as a lecturer at Wits University, and the gentleman was the head of culture for that most fertile of southern cradles, Johannesburg.

The initial meeting was on the preposterous First Thursday of October, where Church Street in Cape Town becomes the ground zero for culture vultures seeking to up their Insta game.  Here the well-placed gallery was buzzing with all manner of connoisseur, from second-years upping their tertiary process work, to those brave enough to break out of suburbia to grab a piece of the thirsty action in Long and Bree Street.

What transpired was probably the prettiest show that Nel has hosted, props due to the in-house staff who dealt with the eclectic body of work on display in the sculptural and vegetable brief.

From entering the gallery one was confronted with sketchbooks and animated sculptures which asked the adjudicator to assess the provenance of the projects, and to deconstruct them as they were presented in their provocative forms.  The fact of the matter is that the gallery was filled from top to  bottom with sketchbooks, and  jelutong leftovers from the Handspring studio.

“Here Steven & Christian Nerf activate ‘Perish the Thought’, one of many balloon-based gems on this playful, lightest-of-touch but conceptually deft and historically dense exhibition. The show exemplifies the ‘serious but never solemn’ tone in art, which was my most precious advice via the OG Robert Hodgins. “, Steven presented the detritus of conceptual wonderings from a major player of the South African cultural stage.

His serious challenge to the viewer over a deep-cut of babkha…

‘Does the clay know what the potter is thinking?
Does the breath in the balloon know what the artist is thinking?
Does the dough know what the baker is thinking?’ – Steven Sack