Andries Fourie

Salem, OR | by June 11, 2010

Andries Fourie’s art­work is welded to his iden­tity as an immi­grant from South Africa – and more specif­i­cally with the Afrikaner cul­ture he grew up in.  He moved to the US in 1989 after serv­ing as a con­script in the South African Army at the height of that country’s civil war.  When he arrived in the US, Andries enrolled in art school at Sacra­mento State and later earned his MFA from UC Davis.  His art has been a way for him to attempt to resolve the con­flicts within him­self as the work cri­tiques and cel­e­brates Afrikaner culture.

It would be easy for an artist to cre­ate art that attacked and ridiculed a racist gov­ern­ment and cul­ture, but Andries does not take the easy way out.  He is a prod­uct of that cul­ture and through his sculp­ture and assem­blages he is engaged in a seri­ous search for truth.  Over the past sev­eral years, his search has taken him not only back to his home­town of Port Eliz­a­beth, South Africa, but also to Patag­o­nia, Argentina, where many Afrikan­ers, includ­ing Andries’ grand­fa­ther, immi­grated at the turn of the 20th cen­tury. He’s also trav­eled to Namibia, which bor­ders South Africa and gained its inde­pen­dence from it in 1990.

I vis­ited Andries in his stu­dio at Willamette Uni­ver­sity in Salem, Ore­gon where he teaches sculp­ture.  I’ve known Andries since the fall of 2006 when we both moved to Salem.  I arrived in this quiet cap­i­tal city after ten years sur­rounded by artist friends in Wash­ing­ton, DC and was relieved to meet Andries right off.  We spoke the same art lan­guage and I enjoyed his use of found objects and assem­blage.  There was a refresh­ing funk­i­ness to his forms that he com­bined with well-​​crafted wood work.

His stu­dio is a clut­tered, low-​​ceilinged space  that seems more like a lab­o­ra­tory than an artist’s stu­dio.  One wall is equipped with a chalk­board cov­ered in notes writ­ten in both Eng­lish and Afrikaans. The tools he uses to cre­ate his art – welders and saws – are in the adjoin­ing teach­ing stu­dio where much of his work is made.  Over­head pro­jec­tors, lights, screens and inks are all piled about that are used for his silk screened images.

The sculp­tures I saw dur­ing my visit were for an upcom­ing exhi­bi­tion at the Salem Art Asso­ci­a­tion.  They incor­po­rated instru­ments used in tra­di­tional Afrikaner music (a fid­dle, a con­certina, and an accor­dion), that had been placed under steel cages and mounted atop tall wheeled plat­forms.   The cages were welded from ¼” steel rods and con­structed with small por­tals or open­ings at the top, not quite big enough to fit your hand through.  They serve both as metaphor and form nicely.  In fact, the merg­ing of con­cept and form is a con­stant bal­anc­ing act for Andries.  He clearly loves the mate­r­ial he works with and his poetic steel lines are ably jux­ta­posed with the pow­er­ful sub­ject mat­ter he’s addressing.

The wheeled plat­forms are also made from steel rods and are influ­enced by the intri­cate and ele­gant toy cars that the chil­dren, who lived in the town­ships that Andries once patrolled, made from dis­carded wire and other found objects.

The iden­tity pol­i­tics infused in Andries’ art strikes me as very dif­fer­ent from much of the iden­tity based art that comes from Amer­i­can artists.  It doesn’t take an affirm­ing, right­eous, or vic­tim­ized stance – largely because his work does not come from the per­spec­tive of an oppressed minor­ity, but rather the minor­ity oppres­sor. The guilt and shame of Afrikan­ers is not a topic of much sym­pa­thy, but it’s one that Andries explores head-​​on, delv­ing into the psy­cho­log­i­cal car­nage that is the legacy of oppression.

Andries told me his pater­nal grand­fa­ther, who was une­d­u­cated and spent his life work­ing in the dairy busi­ness, was the only per­son who under­stood the ref­er­ences and imagery in his art with­out expla­na­tion.  Andries told me he was his “audi­ence of one.”

Rec­on­cil­i­a­tion and redemp­tion are a dri­ving force for Andries. This month he is trav­el­ing once again to Namibia, this time as a cul­tural envoy from the US State Depart­ment.  He will exhibit a new series of assem­blages and teach a work­shop for art teach­ers from around Namibia on mak­ing art from found objects and non-​​traditional mate­ri­als. Those teach­ers will then return to their rural com­mu­ni­ties and incor­po­rate Andries’ teach­ings into their own curriculum.

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  • John Taylor says:

    Great idea for a blog. Near way to stay up/​learn about cre­ative and inter­est­ing people.

  • Great write-​​up! I love see­ing Andreas studio–it truly give insight into his process/​practice.

  • Nicely done! The com­plex­i­ties of Andries’ work defy easy con­cep­tual res­o­lu­tions and yet, on a technical/​formal level, they are resolved very nicely. This ten­sion makes his artis­tic endeav­ors all the more intriguing.

  • Charles says:

    Con­grat­u­la­tions Jonathan. Nice article.

  • KP says:

    Way to go JB! Smash­ing arti­cle and elo­quent treat­ment of a fine artist.

  • Kathleen Dinges says:

    I par­tic­u­larly love the insight about Andries’ pater­nal grand­fa­ther under­stand­ing the visual ref­er­ences with­out expla­na­tion. There is that under­cur­rent in Andries’ work that I have always responded to. Thanks Jonathan.

  • sharon ricci says:

    Hi Andries: Hope all is will with you. I offer won­dered how you did with your art. We are both retrieded and liv­ing will on the north coast were the Redswoods meet the Sea. Its a great place to live, clean, quiet,evrything is slow and easy here we love it. We do some RVing and cruise to place we can not get to by RV. Hope life has been good to you. Your old friends from Elk Grove. We had some good time together. Sharon and Kerry

  • Daan Fourie says:

    Andries greet­ings from South Africa and tx again for your visit to us in port elizabeth.I hope that your ardu­ous road is rewarded Stature comes from expo­sure the essence of art to my think­ing Daan Elna

  • KEN HAWKINS says:

    thanks 4 the christ­mas card. Enjoy your efforts. Still in Santa Fe. Fin­ished that por­trait I started 14 years ago, just need a place to send it.

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  • Ortwin Knorr says:

    Won­der­ful back­ground on Andries and his work. Loved the pho­tos of his stu­dio. For­tu­nately, he now has larger shelves than the white ones depicted on one of your pic­tures so he and his stu­dents can cre­ate and store larger pieces of work.

  • Laurine says:

    I have nuthin aig­nast giv­ing hick­ies or get­tin them it’s just that i dnt lyk get­tin them. I’d rather have ma dude con­stantly lick ma neck pas­sion­ately and wildly rather than just suk it. Itz fun an all but i dnt like any­one in ma busi­ness so i keep it on the min­i­mum + the 1st hickie i got that ma muther saw geesh i got my ass whopped by mother and pun­ish­ment lol .by the way just becuz u get hick­ies doesn’t mean that ur a slore (slut +whore) and it doesn’t mean that u had sex 2 get them

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