The rhythmic textures and calm surfaces of Ismael Shivute

‘I Keep My Circle Small’ exhibition opening remarks delivered by Hercules Viljoen, 25 October 2022, Fresh ‘n Wild at Utopia, Windhoek

“Ten years ago, Ismael Shivute was a young 24-year-old who participated in probably his first group exhibition after his studies. At the time I was employed at the National Art Gallery of Namibia (NAGN), and the group show was called Art Inside, which was an initiative to give Namibian artists a boost and to acquire the best artworks for [Namibian] government premises. I clearly remember his mixed media artwork incorporating recycled materials, which was purchased for the Government Collection.

The 29 works on display here – exclusively free-standing sculpture in soapstone – are a result of two years of disciplined dedication to his craft. Upon closer observation each one of these sculptures reveals a subtle but potentially powerful subject for the discerning viewer to discover.

Firstly, the thought-provoking titles tell of Ismael’s deeper consciousness of humanity and his individual values, and serve as an entry point to the understanding of every individual work – e.g. Textures of emotion, Lean on me, I’m shy, and Within myself, which all serve as a source of contemplation for the viewer.

‘Textures of emotion’, soapstone, 580 x 730 x 470mm
‘Lean on me’, soapstone, 1005 x 760 x 300mm

Secondly, you will find evidence of Ismael’s working method which forms an integral part of his creative process. He characteristically limits the application of power tools to the most necessary, preferring to search for the essence of each stone by working meticulously with hand tools. The rhythmic textures and calm surfaces left by his mallet and punch are witness to his peaceful and respectful method of meeting his material halfway, to allow it to retain its natural character. 

‘I’m Shy’, soapstone, 400 x 340 x 440mm
‘The tool in my hand’, soapstone, 720 x 450 x 250mm

Thirdly, you will notice that the overall form of each matrix (original block of stone) was retained without overworking or overpowering them. The only intervention is for the purpose of leaving a subtle message. Ismael’s circles – whether open, convex or concave – have become a personal code for his valuing of true relationships and friendships, and ultimately an important aspect of his world view.

Since our first encounter ten years ago I have observed Ismael’s steady development and maturation as an artist and have been privileged to work alongside him. In 2018 we shared workspace at Tulipamwe International Artists’ Workshop, in 2020 we co-coordinated the public art project Art Can Transform in Oranjemund and a few weeks ago we were co-participants in the Baker’s Bay Artists’ Retreat. These experiences gave me a unique opportunity to observe the professionalism and discipline that have become Ismael’s trademark. It is clear he is an artist who invests in the long term and whose work will stand the test of time. I am convinced that acquiring one of his sculptures will be a wise investment and will be a source of inspiration and contemplation for years to come.”

Hercules Viljoen (b. 1957) was born in Gibeon, and now lives and works in Windhoek. He is a former Head of Department in Visual and Performing Arts at the University of Namibia, Windhoek, and a visual arts professional making interactive sculptures and installations using wood and sticks, but also plastic and mass-produced found objects, drawings and photography. He has exhibited and participated in international artists’ workshops in Namibia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, South Africa, UK, Germany and France.

Browse the digital catalogue of the exhibition here.