Making do with debris

2008-07-24 00:00

YOU head off to the beach for a holiday, only to find it covered in debris from the South Coast floods. That might be a disappointment for some, but not Kim Goodwin. He turned his two weeks at Umzumbe into a feast of creativity.

And when he left, the beach had been transformed into a sculpture park and other holidaymakers were getting into the act.

“We booked the cottage in January and, although we knew about the floods, I had forgotten about the debris washing up. I saw it all — and knew how I would occupy my two weeks. I didn’t know how the medium was going to work, but knew I would build objects out of all the wood.” Goodwin had thought the wood would be pliable, but despite having been in the sea, it would not bend very much. Nonetheless, he managed to weave the driftwood into shapes.

Goodwin specifically did not want to use wire or any kind of brought-in material. His sculptures were all to be made out of what the sea had brought him — and there was more than enough. By the time he left, one of the pieces, close to the high water mark, had been knocked over by the waves, but the rest were still standing, illustrating both the power of nature that washed the wood on to the beach and the ingenuity of the artist.

The first two major pieces were built in the first week, but as word got out, more and more people walked up from the main beach and Goodwin found himself talking to them, explaining what he was doing. Soon the beach became a gallery space, with children in particular creating works.

Goodwin studied fine art at the then Natal Technical College, majoring in sculpture, although he did not finish his course — all he wanted to do was get out into the world and sculpt. But in the end, time spent doing military service and a growing family meant the real world began to intrude, and he needed to earn a steadier income than being a sculptor could offer. So when Andries Botha and Etienne de Kock started a foundry at Natal Technical College to cast bronze sculptures, Goodwin joined them, working there for five years.

“I also had a bit of a dream of living in the midlands and running a business there,” he says.

Originally his father bought the land where Goodwin lives and works, near Lidgetton, and for the past 12 years, Goodwin has been there, running what is almost the only foundry in KwaZulu-Natal, and where Goodwin’s meticulous attention to detail has resulted in it being the place where almost all major sculpture in the area is cast.

It is work for a perfectionist, and Goodwin is that. He has a staff of 11, and the foundry’s success has been built around its relationship with its clients. With sculpture, while the original work comes from the sculptor, the finished result is in the hands of the foundry master. It is a very close relationship.

It leaves Goodwin little time for his own work, but he is creating a studio space where he can work, above the foundry. “I’m champing at the bit to start creating my own art again,” he says. And his two weeks at Umzumbe, with no pressure, gave him a chance to explore his own creativity. “Making frivolous art”, is how he describes it. But the sight of the Umzumbe beach as an art gallery offers something more than frivolity.

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