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The art of staying still

Creativity @ Work is a monthly column written by Dave Mann, an editor and award-winning arts journalist.

Jake Singer Dave Mann artist South African
Jake Singer, Whirl and Scramble, 2018

Jake Singer is always busy with something. When the Johannesburg-based sculptor and multimedia artist’s not working with his hands, it’s his mind that’s busying itself through books or conversation, and this is less a case of restlessness than it is a desire to learn and experiment, constantly.
     ‘Listen, man,’ he says as we reach the small industrial balcony of his August House studio, which looks out onto the bustling reaches of Johannesburg’s End Street. ‘Do you wanna make some paper planes? We can fly them into the street.’
     Two of the small planes are down there already. One has landed in a puddle of grey water and is slowly disintegrating, while the other lies with a bent nose in the middle of the street, stealing second wind from the vehicles rushing by. Inside Singer’s studio, there are artworks, tools, materials, books, and everything else you’d expect to find in the working space of a sculptural artist. It’s a busy space that’s full of activity and Singer, seemingly charged by its pace, seems right at home.
     ‘When I first moved into this studio, I remember thinking that if I could live on End Street, I could do anything,’ he explains. ‘I actually ended up quitting smoking here! Maybe it was the intensity of the city that made me look for more quietness in myself and calmer in myself. I think, in a sense, moving to the city actually made me go towards the other way – towards order. I think the work I was making prior to that was more chaotic.’

Jake Singer Dave Mann artist South African
Jake Singer, Burst, 2017

     These days, Singer spends half of his time in studio and the other half someplace a little quieter, but the effects the studio space have had on him (and continue to have on him) shine through in the artist’s work, brilliantly. Singer’s work occupies a wonderfully precarious point between chaos and order, idealism and futility, always striving towards a point of equilibrium if only for a moment. Those familiar with the artist’s work will know how his sculptures can seem like paradoxical monuments, always threatening to collapse or come undone. Indeed, some of them do. Works from his RGB Sky and CATASTROPHES shows, for example, are haphazardly held together by masking tape and plastic sheeting, made lasting only through his photographing of them. Then there are other works such as Murmurations and Bifrost which, despite their seemingly delicate foundations and perilous leanings, will go on despite themselves.
     As such, experiencing a work by Singer can feel a little like watching the evening news: Things are bad, but there is hope. The world is falling apart, but we strive to piece it all back together. We are not sure what will happen next, but we are ready for it.

To read the full article on Jake Singer, purchase the July 2019 issue of Creative Feel or, to continue supporting our role in the South African arts and culture sector, subscribe to our monthly magazine from only R180.00 to R365.00 per year!

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