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Willem Boshoff

Plywood splinters, plywood, 24 blue mapping pins

Double glazed: extruded acrylic

Framed work: 1995 mm (width) X 1255 (height) X 140 mm (depth)


  • I often end up with finicky artworks that took me extended periods to make. NO! is such a work. I picked up a box of discarded splinters from the floor of my workshop and spent a great deal of time interlacing them with a band saw to spell out the exclamation ‘no!’. I put in a great deal of work to camouflage the single word so that it is difficult to see. I took my cue from military uniforms and in the end landed up with a razzmatazz of splinteredness. Usually the military uniform derives its designs from leaves and leafy shadows to create an irregular patchwork pattern that will help soldiers blend in with their surroundings. NO! takes its camouflage idea from a bomb blast and the demolished aftermath.


    My pacifist nature rebels against anything military. I find it hard to look at soldiers in uniform and I have developed what I call the ‘anti-salute’. When soldiers in uniform, especially with shining buttons and brass, approach, I make a point by switching my head away from them, to not see them. If a military vehicle appears, I will lift my arm rapidly, the elbow higher than the hand, across my face, in anti-salute as if to protect myself against the heat of a searing fire.


    In the case of NO! I have it against all military attacks, but in particular against the attacks that happened at the time of the making of the work, namely the attacks between Israel and Palestine. Since the loss of innocent lives on the Palestinian side far outweighs the loss of innocent lives on the Israeli side, my NO! is directed more at Israeli politics and military than that of Palestine.


    On the intermediary sheet of extruded acrylic in NO! there are twenty four small blue mapping pin markers. These unobtrusive pins are placed at the points and nodes of two national symbols and should the pins be correctly connected, the symbols would become visible. A war experience is one where the ‘dots’ are always invisible and are practically impossible to connect.


    When it takes months to make an artwork, one has much time to meditate. I often experience an itch to stop and I then have to pluck up courage from somewhere to carry on again. Because I tend to make painstakingly laborious attempts in my work my friends and students used to call me obsessive. I thought that the word ‘obsessive’ sounded rather harsh, until one day I discovered the word ‘assiduous’. After that, when someone pointed out that I was ‘obsessive’ I would counter that I was not ‘obsessive’, I was ‘assiduous’.


    I had the chance to check out ‘obsessive’ in the dictionary. The roots are Latin: ob means ‘opposite’ or ‘facing’ and sedere ‘to sit’. To be obsessive one has to sit in front of a job or quest, facing it in an enduring manner. Later I also looked up ‘assiduous’. In Latin a is ‘towards’ or ‘facing’ and sedere ‘to sit’. It appears that ‘obsessive’ and ‘assiduous’ mean one and the same thing. After this discovery I stopped worrying about being labelled.


    Patience and obsession are closely related. It sounds noble to say that patience is a virtue, but the opposite of patience, impatience, is as much a virtue. In NO! I am trying to be as patient as possible with my thoughts and some dismal materials in order to express a sense of outrage and impatience. It is my anti-salute at what is happening in Palestine.


    Willem Boshoff

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