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The language of the universe: Brendon Edwards unveils ‘A Symphony of Spheres’

By Angela de Wet

A monumental steel work of intertwined spheres by renowned South African artist Brendon Edwards will be unveiled at Art@Africa‘s Franschhoek Sculpture Garden on the grounds of Perfume Privé Workshop this Heritage Day, 24 September 2022.

Brendon Edwards spiral sculpture
Concept drawing for ‘A Symphony of Spheres’

A Symphony of Spheres appears as a large-scale, three-dimensional representation of a harmonious sound vibration made by a repetition of steel coils of various sizes.

It is inspired by Beethoven’s 5th Symphony, a masterpiece considered by many to be the greatest classical composition in history, with the famous dramatic four note opening motif (ta-ta-ta-Taaa) ever-present in popular culture’s music and entertainment sectors. The 5th Symphony is regarded as a powerful symbol of triumph over adversity, having been composed by Beethoven during his mid-30s while the pianist was challenged by the devastation of increasing deafness. Edwards’ sculpture thus aims to encapsulate the determination of the resolute human spirit as reflected in Beethoven’s 5th Symphony and celebrates the theme of the individual’s ability to create and inspire even amidst the unravelling of one’s darkest fears.

Brendon Edwards spiral sculpture
‘Nexus’, Powder Coated Steel, 700cm x 2000cm x 1500 cm

When contemplated in this light, the artwork triggers thoughts of great masters such as John Milton, who wrote world renowned sonnets while grappling with the loss of his sight, and Keats, who left a legacy of some of England’s most praised poetry despite his passing from tuberculosis at the young age of 25. Yet the works of such masters have immortality in their substance. Their art embodies expressions of bravery, passion and fortitude that moves its audience to the very core and act as a reminder of the necessity to stand tall and overcome those shadows that threaten to ensnare great gifts and impoverish bright spirits.

It is this inclination towards triumph, rooted in sheer resilience, that Edwards exults in his grand steel sculpture. The 5th Symphony is also referred to as Beethoven’s Victory Symphony. The first movement introduces the listener to a musical journey in a sombre and somewhat volatile C-Minor while the finale definitively concludes the four movements in a celebratory C-Major. ‘Joy follows sorrow, sunshine – rain,’ Beethoven commented regarding this development in his writings. Thus, the colossal three-dimensional steelwork that has been meticulously constructed at Edwards’ studio-farm in KwaZulu-Natal, is indeed more than a symbol of hope and courage, it is an icon of certain victory.

Brendon Edwards spiral sculpture

Contemplating notions of heritage and victory

One is probed to question what victory might mean for South Africans on Heritage Day, emerging from a history of division, injustice and brutality. It would imply that as a collective we have overcome ignorant notions of superiority as well as fear and suspicion of our respective differences. It might also suggest that as a people we have chosen to relinquish the trauma embedded in our past in order to move forward in unity, so that, as a whole, we might thrive (with or without electricity!).

A Symphony of Spheres interlinks circular shapes in a way that Edwards describes as the unification of our diverse cultural systems. Just as an orchestra is comprised of a variety of musicians and instruments, so South Africa is enriched by its plethora of cultures. Like an exquisite tapestry of languages, belief-systems and ways of living, we are complemented and completed by one another. It is the diversity of our various heritages, having evolved to a place of forgiveness, mutual respect and harmony – as personified by the heroism of Madiba – that is woven together to form a cultural wealth unlike any other. Victory, in this sense, equates to a remembering and an honouring of the many heritages that make up South Africa’s remarkable identity and vibrant spirit, as well as an acknowledgement and appreciation of the African continent at large for providing a home for our country and its people.

The components of the artwork being assembled at the farm-studio in Mount West, KZN Midlands

Listening to the music of the universe

Edwards is known for creating clean, uncomplicated visual narratives that embody intricate and expansive themes. The artist’s large-scale works, consolidate vast ideas into harmonious, high-impact sculptures. It can be noted that A Symphony of Spheres has further drawn inspiration from Plato’s records of Pythagoras’ notion of the ‘Music of the Spheres’. The Pythagorean theory reasoned that because objects in motion produce sound, such as the strings of an instrument, planets orbiting the sun should also emanate sounds. This suggests that the heavens are alive with music. As the planets shift and rotate, and their distances vary, so the melody in the ether changes and evolves, forming a vast and magnificent celestial body of intermingled cosmic sound vibrations.

Brendon Edwards spiral sculpture
Brendon Edwards

Edwards refers to his latest artistic genre as ‘Muse-spheric’. The sphere is inspired by nature and although A Symphony of Spheres is technically the first of its category, the circular motif is evident in several of the artist’s works, Horus and Nexis being two breath-taking examples of such. The perfection of the circle, having been recognised by mathematicians, scientists, philosophers and artists alike, is indicative of flawless intelligence. Organic variants, so to speak, of that geometric ideal abound in the rhythmic pulse of nature. From the delicate dewdrop to the luminous moon, the natural world demonstrates the magnificence of the sphere in an array of glorious manifestations.

A Symphony of Spheres intends to pay homage to that infinite consciousness that resonates across boundaries and borders, far beyond discords and divides. That which emerges in circular patterns throughout natural phenomena, as is evident in the human cell, the trunk of the tree, the spiral of the seashell and beyond to the god-like spheres that move graciously throughout space.

Edwards states, ‘The spherical form is the language of our universe, the most inclusive language from the beginning to the end of time. From the tiniest atom to the infinite space of galaxies, all creation is spherical.’

The reference to ‘Muse’ in the term coined by Edwards to define his genre, ‘Muse-Spheric’, originates from the nine muses of Ancient Greek mythology – the daughters of Zeus and Mnemosyne (the goddess of memory). The nine deities were the quintessential embodiments of science, literature, and the arts and were said to endow individuals with the inspiration needed to kindle creativity. The beautiful muses were also inextricably linked to music and as such can be considered a most appropriate inspiration to have fanned the creation of A Symphony of Spheres.

A celebration of art and diversity

Brendon Edwards spiral sculpture
‘Horus’, Powder-coated steel, 300cm x 160cm x 70cm

The patinaed steel structure consisting of large interlinking rings is further intended to celebrate the merging of opposites. Steel, which is generally used to build practical geometric structures, takes on a life-like quality as it appears to vibrate from one spiral to the next. Inclusivity is evident in Edwards’ choice of medium and approach to design. Humankind’s activity is not seen as separate from nature, and similarly, the artist makes room for the assimilation of hard, cold steel into immersive, rhythmical organic design. The result is a unification of contraries, an altogether splendid celebration of art and diversity.

The exhibition will be opened by Rik Ghesquière, the famous Flemish Conductor, and the launch will be followed by a garden party. Those wishing to attend must email to book.

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