In Johannesburg it is not unusual to see street artists, particularly wire artists, selling their work from the side of the roads. The Zimbabweans on the corner of Bompas and Jan Smuts in Rosebank are legendary, with their brightly coloured zebras, beaded chickens, beautiful protea flowers and hilarious wired woolly sheep.
Now, a new artist has taken to the streets. Melvyn is a South African who can be found on the corner of Tyrone Avenue in Parkview, opposite Scusi Restaurant. His work is amazing. He uses wire and tissue paper to create these extraordinary, translucent sculptures that are fragile, intricate and incredibly detailed.
Melvyn is self taught. He starts off with wire, long thin strands, and moulds it into a 3 D frame, using only his hands to pinch it into shape. He then paints it with wood glue and quickly applies tissue paper, layer after layer, alternating paper with glue, giving the sculpture form and creating a see-through effect.
I sat watching Melvyn working from the back of his bakkie. He has no drawings to work off and no measurements, just his eyes and his raw talent. His only tools are a pair of pliers and a paintbrush, and the materials are wire, tissue paper and wood glue.
Melvyn has started off small, with just two ‘street stalls’, both on different pavements in Parkview, close to all our Johannesburg guesthouses. He is keen to add to his collection, and as soon as funds allow, will buy coloured wire, and use feathers and beads to enhance his work.
I didn’t think it needed any enhancing. The work that I saw included an antelope, frog, star, unicorn, three foot high giraffe and even a woman stretched out doing sun salutations.
They would look very nice sitting in the entrance to my living room. I am sure they would look very nice in yours too. Ask your Johannesburg Guesthouse owner to direct you to Melvyn’s corner.