2011 - The journey

The journey goes on, the journey is the destination, and the journey is here. The year has watched me come and go, back and forth, to and fro. Planes, trains and boats all in a row. But what’s this rhyming nonsense? Let me begin at the start then.

With the Two oceans Aquarium in Cape Town, I saw an opportunity to see the location as an exhibition. So I hunted and collected plastic from the shorelines and roadsides to use as my material and inspiration for the artworks. Using a studio space in the Cape Castle of Good Hope, I created a series of synthetic creatures that represented the satirical emergence of life from the oceans. A warning prophesy of the tide that was changing for the worse. The installation was well received as it linked with an awareness message of how we need to control our waste (namely plastic) better.

While the exhibit was up, an amazing coincidence occurred. The research I had done into the topic had connected me with the 5gyres institute, who were at that very point were conducting water sampling across the South Atlantic. They had planned to be in CT in December and had been interested in my work. I wanted to join their expedition back to S. America and managed to raise half the funds required (as they run a volunteering business model). They arrived and once they had viewed my exhibit, decided that I must join them! I literally had a week to prepare for my first sailing trip. The Black South Easter blew for 3 days, while we were moored in the CT harbour, with a looming presence. What a dream to travel across an ocean! We finally left on the 30 December and I welcomed the new year on the bow of the “Sea Dragon”. We sailed by the lee, up the West coast to Walvis Bay to meet the rest of the crew and then westward to St. Helena. The island is an incredible speck of Earth that very few get to visit. But the entire trip was beyond what I can convey in these few lines. Bioluminescent plankton in the wake, flying fish skipping across the surface of the mercurial skin that is the boundless reflection of light. Cloud dancers and on a full circle horizon, floating on the restless waters of creation and chaos. Truly inspiring to feel the vast space of the open waters. We took 42 samples across the Gyre, before we reached Pirriapolis, Uruguay. Every single one contained some degree of plastic fragments. A confirmation of the immense pollution footprint the last 50 years of progress have left behind. On my return (via 9hrs by plane) I recounted my learning’s from the last 30 days I had been at sea and the insights this experience gave me. Both for better and worse I continue to be fascinated by the paradox of plastic as a giver and taker of life.

It was only fitting that on my return to Cape town I then got involved with an inner city art festival called” infecting the city”. Myself and 8 other artists were challenged to create an artwork from 30 bags of household waste. Pretty insane actually, a real challenge to find a single solution amongst many strong minded artists, a real test in working together in the heat of the moment.

I then had an incredible opportunity open up in the form of a graphic design position at Londolozi. Working on the premise of doing their marketing print communication, I would have the time and space to pursue my land art after hours too. I found that this has given me a centre of gravity to operate from for the rest of the year. A place of warm smiles, good energy and inspirational wildlife. I have been working here for 10 months and it has great to spend time with my brother, who, when he is not busy driving guests  as a ranger and taking photographs of leopards and lions, manage to co-create by working on 2 books that use photography and poetry to convey the insights of living in the bushveld, we wish to share those soon with you.

Being in this part of the world opens up many beautiful getaway locations, Swaziland being one of them. I have found a magical retreat there near Mbabane and have enjoyed taking walks in the mountains and contemplating the art of the simple life.

I managed to reconnect with my parents in the Drakensburg mountains soon after my wonderings in Swaziland. We spent some peaceful afternoons enjoying the scenery and had a very special hike to this beautiful waterfall called the Blue Grotto in the Champagne Castle region.

With each getaway I maintained my creation process of making artworks along the way and pushing proposals for involvement in upcoming events. One such proposal was the creation of the first land artwork on the Eden to Addo corridor initiative; this perfectly coincided with the launch of the Site_specific land art fest in Plettenburg Bay. I worked in a small town called Kranshoek in a far-out location on top of a cliff overlooking the ocean. It was a dramatic setting for the piece, which consisted of moving 8 large boulders into the shapes of 3 elephants. The result was great and added a new permanent attribute to the little town and a highlight for the co-ordinating project groups.

After this I had to return to Londolozi and so took the trip by car. A fantastic long drive through the desolate but rich heartland reminded me of the need I have to constantly explore the unknown, cover new ground and learn more about the mystery and magic of this country.

After a couple of weeks back in the bush, I returned to the Western Cape to participate in the Grahamstown festival. I saw a few outstanding shows and created a small exhibit in the sustainability commons at Rhodes. I enjoy participating in the transformation of the town, taking to the streets, meeting creative folk from around the world and pushing my artistic boundaries.

I had the absolute pleasure of joining my parents for a hike called the whale trail down in the De Hoop reserve. An incredible array of fynbos flowers lined the path of shells with sweet and unusual aromas. One walks a combination of mountain, cliff and beach amongst stunning rock formations of ancient sand dunes turned stone, sculpted by rain, wind and ocean for millions of years. The tranquillity, rugged nature and isolation make this place one of my favourite locations of all time. It was great to see how fit my parents are, they kept a healthy pace the whole way and we shared good times and great meals along the way.

I had one of my works exhibited at the Standard Bank gallery in a collection entitled “Water” along side some of SA’s most recognised artists. The work entitled “return” was used as the exhibit poster image and subsequent catalogue. This is a good sign that finally, the effort and energy I am pouring into my craft is coming through.

The acclaimed Boekenhoutskloof wine estate commissioned a giant porcupine made from timber in October. It was fantastic to be in Franschoek for a couple of days and taste the matured fruits of the delicious red wine “chocolate block”.

This last month has taken me by train from Johannesburg to Durban as an artist required to make temporary artworks to demonstrate the effects of climate change with found objects along the way. The objective was to bring awareness to the COP17 conference and the issues to be addressed there. I was unable to attend the debates and so busied myself with the expo stands trying to get my head around the incredible latest technologies in renewable energies. One thing is for sure, as a collective we have the power, but it lies in the hands of a few. For how long will this be the case? You can find my latest artworks here on my blogsite, simontothemax and my website: maxplanet.info

This year has been incredible for me, I’ve found my passion and am pushing it on all levels. Creation is sublime and essential to progressing and processing the nature of the world, for better or worse. Life is what you make it, and I am grateful for every breath. I wish to inspire you to follow your passion strongly as the world keeps turning, everyday is never the same. Everyday is yours to begin, again.  

With grace and gratitude, Simon Max Bannister 20011/12/02