Artist Statement and Synopsis for:
If wishes were fishes we’d all cast nets (2019)
Used beer bottle-tops, threaded onto woven steel rope, secured onto a supawood support with polyurethane sealant.
190 x 110 x 10cm
For a city formed out of a nineteenth century gold-rush and nicknamed “Egoli,” it is perhaps somewhat surprising that the only gold to be seen on the streets of inner-city Johannesburg, are in the glimmers of light reflected off discarded beer bottle tops strewn along the pavements. These tops are the debris of socio-economic processes of manufacture and consumption. Their presence is a reminder of the excesses available to us in our modern day. The spirals formed by the winding rings of bottle tops suck the viewer in to the centre, holding them mesmerised and seduced. Such a feeling mimics the hold that not only alcohol has on some people, but also that of greed, the desire for gold, and all that it appears to promise.
Through an ongoing engagement and fascination with the discarded, used beer bottle top, Chris Soal has, over the past three years, built up a substantial body of work through a focused engagement with the material; best likened to a process of “material research,” seeking to challenge and engage the assumptions and perceptions around value.
If wishes were fishes we’d all cast nets (2019) was made through a process of collecting used beer bottle tops from various shebeens, taverns and bars around Johannesburg every week. The tops are sorted according to colour and threaded together on steel rope, creating a golden thread, allowing the artist to “draw” in three dimensions, and “paint” with found objects. The bottle tops have a strong association to currency, not only in form and colour, but also that each bottle top represents a beverage that was paid for and consumed. The labour apparent in the making of the artwork also signals an economic practice that is centred on currency and value. The bottle tops are never altered in colour, and often times retain traces of their handling, both in smell and touch, creating a visceral relationship with the viewer. Keeping the integrity of the bottle top intact is important in responding to them as found objects, objects that carry their own meanings and histories.
Thus, If wishes were fishes we’d all cast nets (2019) is a material meditation on desire, perception and value. The title is a quote taken from Frank Herbert’s sci-fi, Dune, and struck the artist as significant in the way it poetically contained a deep longing, a desire or naïve optimism that underlies action. Is it any wonder that in a world where your value as an individual is so often derived by your economic worth, that drinking is more than a casual endeavour for so many? And why is it that the things which glitter and seem to promise us the most, deceive and deliver on so little?