Renowned South African artist, Atang Tshikare – through his design studio Zabalazaa Design – recently collaborated with Crayon Artel, a contemporary fine art production company, and Form Farm, a South African 3D printing and product development start-up, to create a 3m-long, PLA-printed sculpture that was installed for the opening of the new Time Out Market at the V&A Waterfront, in Cape Town, in November 2023.
Atang Tshikare’s ‘Hui ! Gaeb’
Atang Tshikare is a Cape Town-based, self-taught multidisciplinary artist whose practice has evolved over the past twenty years – from graffiti and drawing, to fine art sculpture. In recent years, he has collaborated with the likes of Dior to create one of the brand’s famous medallion chairs, and has exhibited his Mollo Oa Leifo – Ngoanana (“fire in the hearth – Girl”) chair at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.
The sculpture is aptly titled ‘Hui ! Gaeb’, meaning ‘where the clouds gather’ in the language of the KhoiSan people, a tribe of hunter-gatherers in southern Africa who are believed to be the first to inhabit the continent. The design talks to the nature of Cape Town, a city synonymous with the ‘tablecloth’ clouds that cover Table Mountain.
The cloud comprises multiple individual vehicles, a majority of them boats – referencing the port city surrounded by water – and asks the viewer “How did you get here?”
Prior to this project, Atang Tshikare worked more hands-on with traditional methods of sculpture such as carving and sanding wood, but is now actively exploring the largely untapped potential of, and freedom provided by, 3D printing techniques to produce sculptural artworks.
The use of 3D printing to bring a sculpture with this level of detail to life was not only necessary, but also speaks to the contemporary and forward-thinking ways of the city. The sculpture was designed to be hung on a wall approximately 4m above the ground – made possible by lightweighting the individually-printed pieces, using an approximately 1% infill throughout.
What Form Farm is today was born out of necessity – after undertaking the seemingly impossible task of delivering the sculpture within 17 days, to be installed in time for the opening of the new market. At the time the order was received, the small team, based in Johannesburg, South Africa, had one working FDM printer, and two resin printers.
“With pretty much the entire order amount, and some, we expanded our capacity to 20 Creality desktop 3D printers within a few days,” said Neo Waterson, Co-founder of Form Farm. “It’s a fairly low-level additive manufacturing technology, but sometimes that’s all you need.”
Creality has a fairly good supply chain in South Africa, and, considering the price of the printers and the materials, purchasing an additional 16 Creality Ender-3 V2 printers, and approximately 20kgs of the company’s filament, was the only viable option to ensure that the project was completed on time. The sculpture consists of more than 260 Creality Ender-3 printbeds worth of PLA pieces, and more than 1,000 individual pieces in total – all of which were manually post-processed and glued together.
Not only was this the first time Form Farm has created something of this size and complexity, but it was also the first time Yael Matute, the artist responsible for the 3D modeling of ‘Hui ! Gaeb’, based in Mexico City, had to export for 3D printing – deciding to switch from STL to 3MF halfway through exporting the files.
Atang Tshikare, Crayon Artel, and Form Farm are currently collaborating on multiple other fine art projects that incorporate the use of 3D printing, in one form or another.
*The author of this article has a stake in both Crayon Artel and Form Farm.