Gert Swart: Four Cruciforms
Gert Swart Cruciforms
by Gert Swart
My wife Istine and I live in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa. I have pursued a career in sculpture for most of my adult life. It is only after I became a Christian that I gained a meaningful understanding of the Cross of Calvary. This great signifier has rightfully been used by artists over the centuries, to express the profoundest sentiments about the human condition. Sadly, it is also a symbol that generates crass trivia to meet the demands of a consumer-driven society. In a post-Christian era, contemporary Christian artists have to find new ways of evoking the power of the cross. Over time I have tried to address this by making several large cruciforms. However, more recently, I felt the need to make these four more intimate cruciforms, to stimulate meditation. Here are some ideas about the cruciforms that I hope will help the viewer to explore the pieces as they project their own thought-forms onto them.
The Tree Cruciform
From Genesis to Revelation the tree has the role of an overarching symbol. There is so much one can read into this piece as the tree is rooted and flourishing in the restorative salvation of the cross. On a very pragmatic level, the artist Joseph Beuys, “reminds us forcefully that the symbolism of the Tree of Life is founded on the surest of facts; no trees, no life.”
The Sphere Cruciform
As a child I was perplexed and not a little frightened by my mother often quoting “In my Father's house there are many mansions ...” It was only years later, when I became a Christian, that I understood her eschatological (end of time) longing and the reassurance that she derived from this scripture.
So, in this piece a sphere (wholeness) is at rest in an elongated house-form that has no enclosing front or back walls. The apex of the house-form pushes upwards, giving impetus to Augustine's wonderful dictum “We must fly to our beloved homeland”.
When contemplating this piece, the various houses lived in over a lifetime come to mind and if you go back far enough there is the sanctuary of the mother's womb.
The Wave Cruciform
At a critical stage of my life (around 26 years old) I became a Christian. I was baptised in the sea with the sound of rolling waves about me – hence the wave of renewal/transformation in this cruciform. I often have a desire to place this cruciform to my ear in the hope that I could hear the sound of the waves on that memorable day of my baptism in the sea: the great ocean-womb.
The Rhino-Egg Cruciform
In this piece a rhino-egg is placed rather precariously in a convex shape (crucible/womb) in the heart of the cruciform. Although the outward thrust of the horns simulate a rhino in protective mode, there is an overwhelming sense of fragility about it for any undue aggression will cause the egg-shape (womb) that the horns are attached to, to shatter. There is a poignant fragility and strength to this piece.
In Southern Africa we are fast losing the race to save the rhino as poachers go about decimating the rhino population for their own greedy gains. It is ironic that this symbol of power and virility, having survived cataclysmic upheavals in nature over the millennia, should now be facing such an ignoble end.
Gert Swart was born in 1952 in Durban, Natal, South Africa. He has worked as a sculptor in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa, for the past 30 years. See his work on http://gertswartsculptor.homestead.com.
PUBLISHED BY THE ICHTHUS FOREST HILL ARTS FORUM 2020