Top Billing interviews Anton Smit
Voiceover: Over 200 of these unique creations fill this sculpture park on the Bronkhorstspruit dam. They are the constantly evolving product of an imagination that began sculpting 42 years ago and never stopped. When Anton discovered a book about Michael Angelo, little did he know that his journey would lead him to this. He’s exhibited in Rome, New York, Hong Kong and naturally, Bronkhorstspruit.
Lorna: What goes on in your head to create such artistic work?
Anton: Mostly what goes on in my head is the next sculpture that I’m going to make. One often gets ideas that lead into other ideas. The piece that I’m working on at the moment led to these works here which is grace raining from heaven.
Voiceover: Since the Boksburg Raised Anton entered his first competition aged 16 and won first prize, he’s created more than 12 000 sculptures. Art was a revelation to him.
Lorna: Discovering the book of Michaelangelo literally changed your life.
Anton: I actually didn’t know anything about art when I was a child. Growing up in a policeman’s house, when I saw the Michaelangelo book I thought wow, an angel came from heaven to make sculptures. I saw these beautiful white things, I didn’t know what marble was and then I realized that this guy was a man. Man was I blown out of the water by that. So I thought to myself, if a man can do this I can also do it.
Voiceover: He raised his sons in a household full of art and debate which his youngest, Lionel, responded to by becoming a successful artist himself. Selling at Christie’s and to major art collections.
Lorna: I believe your son has followed in the same footsteps.
Anton: I encouraged him by not giving him any pocket money. I gave him a pen and paper instead and said, draw something and sell it then you’ll have money.
Voiceover: Between father and son, their work has been featured on the front page of the new York times the cover of a Christie’s catalogue and today about 30% of what Anton sculpts here is sold overseas.
Lorna: Your work is showcased all over the world, why did you choose this space as your location.
Anton: This is a hidden gem that I managed to find and buy. Like my son says, the bigger the space, the bigger the art.
Lorna: I believe this art is influenced by a really strong force in your life.
Anton: When my mother passed away there was no memorial for her so I decided to make a memorial called Johanna Kararina. I made a series of them called earth, wind and fire.
Lorna: It seems like there is a fascination with heads.
Anton: I had a dream of this park full of heads many years ago and the dream reoccured and I decided to do something about it. I saw these flat heads in the dream and I made a series of heads in a way inspired by the heads on Easter Island. I called my largest head the passover which is Easter.
Lorna: Am I correct in saying that the heads reflect your profile?
Anton: Yes everything an artist does is autobiographical and I don’t do it deliberately or consciously, it just happens.
Voiceover: Much of the casting method he uses here dates back to ancient Greece so Lorna was getting two and a half thousand years of technique in a day.
Anton: This is a special wax that they made for me and this is an older sculpture that I’ve decided to change. We stick the hot sticky wax onto the face and remodel her.
Lorna: How does the process work?
Anton: You start with a metal armature over which you put clay and then you sculpt. Then we make a mould and from the mould we do a bronze casting.
Voiceover: The process is so detailed he usually produces only two pieces a month so it helps that his work sells in dollars, euros and pounds,and definitely qualifies as a precious metal export.
Lorna: You are self-taught, how did you go about honing your skills?
Anton: I spent a lot of time in art libraries at the university of Pretoria and I read all the available books that there were. I spent time with other artists and they taught me how to make moulfs and how to work clay and the various materials. I honed my skills in that way by teaching myself to do this.