WILLEM BOSHOFF (full name WLLLEM HENDRIK ADRIAAN BOSHOFF), artist from Gauteng (previously Transvaal), South Africa. 4 children (Karen, Martin, Willem, Emma). Nationality: South African. Born 1951, Vereeniging, South Africa.
Media: Creates primarily language/text-related art prepared over long periods and referring to a social context in the form of large installations, visual poetry, concrete poetry, sculpture. Uses wood, stone, objet trouve, mixed media and various graphic media.
Main Areas of Exploration: Dictionaries, botanical gardens and nature, medieval and early music, avant garde music, ethnic music, philosophy. Language systems that stonewall or subvert the institution of the traditional gallery to empower disenfranchised social groups or raise ecological issues. Boshoff is generally classified as a conceptual artist.
Chronology: 1976–82 Interlocking wooden structures 1979–80 MICROSCOPIC PROJECTS, KYKAFRIKAANS visual poetry 1982–83 370-DAY PROJECT 1980–86 BANGBOEK and projects in cryptic writing 1986–94 seeds and soils – collections from different locations 1988–97 BLIND WALLS, a post-modern dictionary for the 11 official languages of South Africa, consisting of 10 000 arcane words on 10 obstacle walls – work in progress 1991–96 BLIND ALPHABET ABC, a dictionary of essays on morphology sculpted in palpable forms and controlled by the blind 1996 BAD FAITH CHRONICLES 1997–99 GARDEN OF WORDS I & II, relief printing of Gardens of Eden as installations of thousands of plant names – work in progress 1997 THE WRITING THAT FELL OFF THE WALL, an installation that disqualifies failed colonial promises 2000 INDEX OF (B)REACHINGS, an installation of 85 works that bridges the divination practices of Europe and Africa 2001 large installations that force linguistic interaction between different interest groups: PANIFICE, KRING VAN KENNIS and WINDFALL, made of granite, and WRITING IN THE SAND, made of sand 2004 Objecting to ‘good’ things being hijacked by ‘bad’ people: SERIAL KILLER, WHAT IS OUR OIL DOING UNDER THEIR SAND?, WAR & PEACE and NOTHING IS OBVIOUS 2006 GARDEN OF WORDS III 2007 BLIND ALPHABET D & E 2008-09 CHILDREN OF THE STARS granite sculptures 2009 BIG DRUID IN HIS CUBICLE Installation/performance showing druid walks, dictionaries and divination
Devotes most of his time to research in preparation for artworks and talks. This includes the drawing up of botanical checklists at major botanical gardens of the world, and the writing of dictionaries.
Studies: 1970–74 Johannesburg College of Art (now University of Johannesburg, FADA), National Art Teacher’s Diploma; 1980 Technikon Witwatersrand (now University of Johannesburg, FADA), National Higher Diploma in Fine Art – Printmaking; 1984 Technikon Witwatersrand, Masters Diploma in Technology in Fine Art – Sculpture. Study visits to Austria, Germany in 1982 , and again in 1993 , to England, Wales and Scotland. 2008 Honorary Doctorate, University of Johannesburg
Dictionaries and botanical research: 1977 Writes Dictionary of Colour. Other dictionaries include: Dictionary of Manias and Phobias, Dictionary of Morphology, Dictionary of – ologies and – isms and Dictionary of Beasts and Demons, Dictionary of Winds, Dictionary of Obscure Financial Terms; PlacesMother Might not Approve of; Unmentionabilia; Red Names; 2004 Completes the Oh No! Dictionary. 1982 – 85 Secretary of the Dendrological Society, Gauteng, leads many groups on ecological excursions; 1999 Completes a dictionary of perplexing English after more than ten years, using research from 200 dictionaries including the 25 volumes of the Oxford English Dictionary ; 2000 compiles Beyond the Epiglottis, a dictionary of extraordinary terms in rhetoric. 2007What Every Druid Should Know (in progress)
Teaching career: In a teaching career spanning 23 years he taught various art-related subjects to students at all levels of development: 1975–77 teacher, Parktown Boys’ High School – Afrikaans, Religious Instruction and Fine Art; 1977–80 lecturer at Technikon Witwatersrand; 1980–82 senior lecturer; 1983–91 Associate Director at the same institution and Head of Department; 1991–96 Associate Director
Guest Lecturer/Speaker: Regularly presents slide shows at numerous institutions in South Africa and abroad. Frequent guest speaker at exhibition openings and events; lecture tours: 1996 United States of America – University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana; University of Southern Illinois at Carbondale; University of Iowa, Iowa City; University of Chicago; since 1981 Performances of KYKAFRIKAANS and lectures on language, concrete and visual poetry, especially at the White Box Gallery, New York in 2000 and at the International Language Congress 2003 ; 2005 guest lecturer for the Smithsonian Institution at Washington universities and schools
Judge of art competitions, advisor to art institutions: Since the mid 80s has been a judge on the Vita Art Now panels that select the most promising artists in the Johannesburg region. Frequent judge of ABSA Atelier (previously Volkskas Atelier), New Signatures and Rembrandt Triennale competitions. Advisor to the Standard Bank Visual Arts Committee and currently art advisor to the Sanlam Collection. Trustee and advisor to the Ampersand Foundation, an organisation that awards fellowships to artists for cultural enrichment in New York. Member of the Fine Art Advisory Committee, University of Johannesburg.
Examiner: External examiner for a number of tertiary institutions in South Africa; examiner for many post graduate students; 1995-2009 External examiner for students in their third and fourth year as well as Masters students at the fine art departments of various universities and colleges including Michaelis School of Art of the University of Cape Town; Johannesburg College of Education; Pretoria University, Rhodes University in Grahamstown; Natal Institute of Technology, Pretoria Technikon; Durban Institute of Technology; University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg; Johannesburg University; Stellenbosch University; University of the Free State.
Unisa Art Gallery; BHP Billiton Art Collection, Johannesburg; Technikon Witwatersrand (now University of Johannesburg); IZIKO SA National Gallery, Cape Town; Johannesburg Art Gallery; University of the Witwatersrand; King George VI Gallery, Port Elizabeth; Durban Art Gallery; Sandton Municipal Collection, Johannesburg; Pretoria Art Museum; Jack Ginsberg Collection of Book Arts, Johannesburg; Pierre Lombart Collection of Contemporary South African Art; David Krut Collection of Fine Art, Johannesburg; Gordon Schachat Collection, Johannesburg; Sackner Archives of Concrete and Visual Poetry, Miami, Florida, USA; Robert Loder Collection of International Art, London; collection of ARTSENSE, a group that promotes art among the Blind, Birmingham UK; Sammlung der Stadtishe Galerie, G ö ppingen, Germany; MTN Art Collection, Johannesburg; Sanlam Corporate Collection, Cape Town; Randse Afrikaanse Universiteit (now University of Johannesburg); Museum Boijmans van Beuningen, Rotterdam; Dimension Data, Johannesburg; Constitutional Court of South Africa; Reserve Bank of South Africa; Ferguson Collection, Boston.
1989 GAIA I, a triptych of sand and soil collected on a 10 000 kilometre journey allover South Africa, made for the reception area of Rand Merchant Bank; 1994–95 PSEPHOS, nine panels with 18 pebble types, collected from the nine provinces of South Africa for the Billiton headquarters; 1996 Telkom’s Art and the Internet project – a work entitled DISCUS; 2000 KRING VAN KENNIS – Circle of Knowledge, a 33 ton circle of stones installed at the main entrance to the Rand Afrikaans University (now University of Johannesburg) and consisting of 11 massive stones with texts engraved in the 11 languages of South Africa; 2001 WINDFALL, an installation of 168 granite tiles depicting financial terms and the names of the winds of the world for the atrium of the new NEDCOR head office in Sandton; UMHLABATHI, a work consisting of 200 handfuls of sand collected from the nine provinces of South Africa and installed at the main entrance of the Mpumalanga Legislature Building; 2002 CHIASMUS, an installation of large glass floor panels with text at the new MTN headquarters, Roodepoort; 2003 PHILOSOPHERS’ AVENUE, a large walkway of ‘prehistoric’ stones in the courtyard, new Dimension Data headquarters, Bryanston; the permanent installation WRITING IN THE SAND, ABSA Bank, Johannesburg; 2004 PRISON SENTENCES, granite plaques commemorating the prison sentences of the eight accused at the Rivonia Trial, installed at the Constitutional Court of South Africa; 2006 SIGNS OF PEOPLE, a ‘language work’ installed in the central light shaft of the Origins Museum, University of the Witwatersrand; GARDEN OF WORDS III, a memorial garden for 15 000 plants, installed in Cape Town on the main lawn of Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden for the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI) to coincide with the third assembly of the Global Environmental Facility (GEF); CLAVIS SCRIPTORIUM, a large installation in the foyer of the Standard Bank Global Leadership Centre; WOOD CONCERTO IN FOUR PARTS, installed at Black residence, Bantry Bay; 2007 LONG SHADOWS seven granite shadows laid in the floor at the entrance to the Constitutional Court of South Africa
Art Awards: 1971 Prize-winner, Sculpture, New Signatures; 1974 Prize-winner, Graphic Art and Drawing, New Signatures; 1974 Best Student Teacher Award in art graduate course; 1995 Recipient of a grant from Anglo American Chairman’s Fund to facilitate exhibition costs for BLIND ALPHABET ABC at Johannesburg Biennale; recipient of a research grant from the Foundation for the Creative Arts to continue work on BLIND ALPHABET PROJECT; nominated for the Alumnus of the Year Award by Technikon Witwatersrand; 1996 South African representative at the Sao Paulo Biennale; 1997 Winner of the FNB Vita Award for Art; 1998 winner of the Ludwig Giess Preis fur Kleinplastik by the LETTER Stiftung, Cologne, Germany; 1999 Winner of Gauteng Arts Culture and Heritage Award for Visual Art; 2000 Winner of the Aardvark prize as top artist at the Aardklop arts festival, Potchefstroom; 2001 Recipient of an honorary medal for Visual Arts, Sculpture from the SA Academy for Science and Art; Winner of the Helgard Steyn Award for Sculpture; 2005 With Ogilvy SA, winner of the Golden Loerie Award as well as the D&AD Global Award. 2008 Honorary Doctorate, University of Johannesburg
Other achievements: 1983 Silver medal, Comrades Marathon – Durban to Pietermaritzburg; 1984 Silver medal, Korkie Marathon – Pretoria to Germiston.
Publications and Papers by Boshoff
Visual/Concrete Poetry: 1981 KykAfrikaans, the only anthology of visual poetry in Afrikaans, Uitgewery Pannevis; 1995 Blind Alphabet ABC in Braille, Braille Services, Johannesburg.
Papers, Publications: 1984 ‘Die Ontwikkeling en Toepassing van Visuele Letterkundige Verskynsels in die Samestelling van Kunswerke’ – Verhandeling vir Nasionale Diploma in Tegnologie 1984; 1991 First National Sculpture Symposium, Michaelis School of Fine Art, University of Cape Town: ‘Judging Art Competitions in South Africa’ – Published in symposium record; 1992 Second National Sculpture Symposium, Technikon Natal, Durban: ‘Change of Mind in South African Art Education’; 1995 Third National Sculpture Symposium Technikon Pretoria ‘Aesthetics of the Skin’; 1997 ‘Aesthetics of Touch – notes towards a blind aesthetic’ – Published by University of Pretoria, Department of Visual Arts and Art History; 2000 Huet, Wilfried (ed.) Gagarin – The Artists in Their Own Words GAGARIN, Waasmunster, Belgium; 2001 A publication of the writings of international artists, Waasmunster, Belgium – the original text of Bangboek (1977–1980), with notes and key for decipherment; 2003 Licked – exhibition catalogue, Michael Stevenson; 2004 Nonplussed – exhibition catalogue, Goodman Gallery; 2007 Épat – exhibition catalogue, Michael Stevenson; ‘Language Works’, an article in Inscribing Meaning, Writing and Graphic Sysytems in African Art, a book published by the Smithsonian, National Museum of African Art.