Metal Mastermind


For the past three months, Park Square shoppers and passers-by have been watching and wondering what was happening in the Umhlanga mall’s outdoor piazza where a larger-than-life metal puzzle was being constructed by cranes and men with welding machines.

Brendon Edwards is the metal mastermind behind the enormous spheres and circles that twirl and twist across a suspended slab – a sculpture that won a national competition run by Nedport Developments in search of the perfect art piece to complete the unique, multi-purpose building.

“The sculpture is called Nexus, which refers to a connection. In this case, it is the connection of people where physical pathways bring people together in one place and connect different cultures,” he says. Brendon was born in Johannesburg in 1970, spent his childhood years in Zimbabwe and was schooled at Michaelhouse.
Connection is a strong theme in Brendon’s work and his signature shapes are circles and spheres.
“Circles are about a connection and life. If you go back to the black hole and astrology, you will find that the world emanated through spheres, and our whole existence is based on them – seasons, the shape of the earth, the solar system. Our world is held together by a symphony of spheres.”

Through the use of these shapes, Brendon has created a fascinating feeling with Nexus, as it draws you in and makes you want to walk right into the centre of the sculpture.
“I wanted it to make everyone feel included, to feel part of a community and connected.”
Listening to Brendon talk and seeing his passion for thought-provoking art, it seems bizarre to think that he only became an abstract artist in his 30’s. “I never wanted to be an artist. I wanted to make lots of money,” laughs the Midlands-resident who has a masters in politics, philosophy and economics.

“I wanted to help uplift communities, but after years of trying, I felt completely disillusioned and frustrated by how much donated funds were wasted on conferences and schmoozing fancy people, leaving little to no money for the people who actually needed it.”
He reached a career turning point and realised that he hadn’t made a lot of money doing what he thought he should do, so why not just do what he loved – art.
“It was a daunting decision! I had kids and a bond. It was a big risk and a process, but it felt right. People say you can learn to be an artist, but I think you are born one. It is in the way you think,” says the strongly-built, charming father of three boys.

He knew from the start that he was not going to go into the business of pretty paintings. “Painting on canvas has never been my thing. I have an inherent love of metals – steel, copper, brass and lead – one of the oldest materials of the world. Alchemists used lead to make gold – it has such a rich history. I love how it looks, how it weathers, discolours and always changes. Metal almost becomes an art-piece on its own, as beautiful patterns start to emerge while you work with it. They have life in them.”
Working with such a muscle-demanding medium comes with its challenges and a lot of patience.

“The older you get, the harder it becomes to work with metal. I used to do all the grinding and welding myself. Sometimes you need big winches to stretch the steel and often the pieces are incredibly heavy. The only way to move some of my work is by crane truck, which costs R10 000 a day to hire! It’s very physical work, but I love that.”

The trick to working with metal, is to understand how it behaves, according to Brendon.
“Unlike clay sculptures that you can change and remould, steel has a limit to its flexibility and if you push it too far, you break it or it breaks you. I like that feeling of working on the edge of possibility, trying to see how far you can push the boundaries. In turn, it pushes you to new limits.”

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Text: Elana Wagner | Photos: Mbali Mpofu