Father of 3D art heads to Durban

2013-04-02 00:00

A FORMER space illustrator for Nasa, Kurt Wenner, the father of 3D art, is in Durban this week to showcase his captivating artworks, which have been drawn on pavements, in shopping centres, train stations and other public spaces using pastels.

In Durban, as part of the launch campaign for Hyundai’s new compact coupé, the Veloster, Wenner told The Witness that his 3D art was born out of his interest in Renaissance classicism. “The artform is an expression of two of the things I’m interested in: drawing in the classical style and artist geometry,” he said. “I think that the ability to draw in the classical style is a lost art. Nobody teaches it anymore even though it’s been a part of the history of Western art going back thousands of years.

“To create a work like the Pieta required the artist to have certain skills. It could not have been made without the ability to draw. I wanted to know what it was like to have that ability.”

His interest in classical drawing — the style used by Leonardo Da Vinci and Michelangelo to create their iconic works — drew him to Italy in 1982, where he isolated himself from 20th century art to explore the ideals and concepts practiced in earlier centuries. In order to finance his travels and studies he created chalk paintings on the streets of Rome.

Among his many works was The Last Judgment in Mantua, Italy, which was commissioned by Pope John Paul II in 1991. Under Wenner’s direction, 30 of Europe’s best street painters worked for 10 days to create the work. When it was finished, Pope John Paul II signed the mural, recognising street painting as an official form of sacred art.

He also worked with Greenpeace in 2010 when the organisation called for a ban of genetically-modified crops and presented the European Union members in Brussels with one million signatures on a petition at the site of a 22 metre by 22 metre image in 3D by Wenner. The giant composition set a world record for the largest image of its kind drawn by a single person.

Before heading to Italy, however, Wenner worked at Nasa, creating illustrations of future projects to Mars, Venus, and even the sun. But not even an artist who had studied at both Rhode Island School of Design and Art Centre College of Design in the United States, could stop progress.

“The introduction of computer graphic imaging brought an end to the tradition of drawing we used at Nasa,” he said, “so, sadly, I was among the last artists to draw in this way.”

Nasa’s loss was the world’s gain.

When not creating 3D pavement art, Wenner, who lives in the San Juan Islands, paints, sculpts, creates decorative stucco relief and ceramic murals, and does architectural design. His latest project is his book Asphalt Renaissance, which documents the history of pavement art and his role in transforming it from a dying tradition to a dynamic multi-dimensional art form.

Wenner, who has also visited Cape Town and Johannesburg during his trip to SA, said he couldn’t wait to show his work to the people of KZN at the Gateway Shopping Centre in Umhlanga on April 5.

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