At a gala event held at the University of Johannesburg Art Gallery on the evening of 4 April 2018, upcoming young artist Chris Soal was announced as the overall winner of the PPC Imaginarium Awards 2018. The 24-year-old sculptor, a fine arts graduate from the University of the Witwatersrand, garnered R150 000 in prize money, and participation in an eight-month-long nationwide travelling exhibition.
First launched by the innovation department of the renowned cement company PPC Ltd, the PPC Imaginarium Awards is an art-and-design competition that challenges emerging artists and designers to demonstrate their knack for innovation by incorporating concrete into their respective disciplines. In 2014, PPC extended its existing sculpture, fine art and industrial design competition (The Young Concrete Sculptor Awards) to include the creative disciplines of jewellery, fashion and film. Hence, the PPC Imaginarium Awards was born. The ambitious art-and-design contest gives emerging artists and designers the chance to showcase their talents through the medium of concrete.
Chris Soal’s winning piece, entitled Imposed Structure to the Detriment of the Members, consists of cement cast into the shape of a deflated and scuffed soccer ball, through which a construction rebar has been forced. This sculpture lies on the floor, leaning up against the wall, as dejected, pierced and deflated as abandoned soccer balls often are.
The work speaks not only to the realities of growing up in a city environment, where soccer is played in the streets, on concrete and tar, but also to the relationship of soccer to South African industry. One example of this relationship is the 2010 FIFA World Cup. To this day, questions are posed regarding the event’s benefit for the country.
Soal’s artwork was chosen as the winner by the PPC Imaginarium Awards national judging panel. The panel includes globally acclaimed contemporary artist Mary Sibande and Daniel van der Merwe (who heads the PPC Imaginarium Awards), in addition to renowned local artist Stephen Hobbs and UJ Art Gallery curator Annali Dempsey, bringing a wealth of industry know-how to the judging of South Africa’s top art and design contest.
The national judges were also responsible for choosing the various category winners and runners-up, as follows:
Each of the category winners received R50 000 in cash with the runners-up getting R15 000, bringing the total prize money for the competition to R500 000. These winners were chosen from a record number of 62 national finalists from 302 regional entrants, topping last year’s number, which saw 55 finalists chosen from 869 regional entries.
Growing from strength-to-strength each year of its existence, the award-winning competition has once again outstripped expectations with a dazzling selection of concrete pieces by upcoming local talent. The awards programme has been in existence for four years, with entrants submitting work across a number of categories, including film, fashion, sculpture, jewellery, industrial design and architecture.
Earlier this year, regional entries for the 2018 PPC Imaginarium Awards were showcased in a series of pop-up public exhibitions held in Durban, Cape Town and Port Elizabeth during February 2018. Regional entries were judged by experts, practitioners, scholars, artists and curators. Award-winning artist and curator Raimi Gbadamosi judged entries from Pretoria, which sent twelve finalists to the national gala exhibition. Mary Sibande and accomplished curator Rolihlahla Mhlanga judged Johannesburg’s entries, choosing 29 finalists, while Tumelo Mosaka, whose stellar career led to his appointment as the curator of the Investec Cape Town Art Fair, chose eleven finalists from Cape Town. Award-winning sculptors Mellaney Ruiters and Eugene Hlophe chose three entries from Port Elizabeth and two from Durban, respectively, and Adelheid von Maltitz, sculptor and fine art lecturer at the University of the Free State, selected one from Bloemfontein. Documentary filmmaker and visual artist Wessel van Huyssteen chose four finalists for the film category of the 2018 PPC Imaginarium Awards.
Unlike in previous years, entries in the Architecture category will be showcased and judged at the 2018 ArchitectureZA conference, replacing the prestigious Des Baker Award for outstanding work by an architecture student. ‘The winner will be seen as the best design student currently enrolled for a degree in architecture,’ says Van der Merwe.
After its stop at the UJ Art Gallery, the finalists’ work will form part of the awards’ prestigious travelling exhibition, visiting platforms like the Turbine Art Fair and 100% Design South Africa 2018 in Gauteng, the AVA Gallery in Cape Town, and the KZNSA Gallery in Durban. ‘The initiative has enabled and empowered more artists and designers than any comparable project in South Africa,’ states Van der Merwe.
For its role in supporting local developing artists and designers, the PPC Imaginarium Awards has been recognised by several Business and Arts South Africa (BASA) Awards. The PPC Imaginarium Awards has now extended its reach from South Africa to Zimbabwe, and is running its first PPC Imaginarium Awards in Zimbabwe in 2018.
A penetrating work on urban soccer wins takes overall prize
PPC Imaginarium Jewellery Winner: Aleks Ashton
PPC Imaginarium Fashion Winner: Gabrielle Foulis
PPC Imaginarium Sculpture Winner: Chris Soal
PPC Imaginarium Industrial Design Winner: Giovanni Zambri
PPC Imaginarium Film Winner: Phumulani Ntuli