In 2017 I was awarded the Claire and Eduardo Villa Will Trust Award, enabling me to produce a body of sculptural work primarily at Nirox Sculpture Park, located in the Cradle of Humankind landscape northwest of Johannesburg. During 2019, Benji Liebmann, Villa Will trustee and also Director of the Nirox Sculpture Park, facilitated the acquisition of my sculpture Flagstone (2014) by Yorkshire Sculpture Park (YSP) in Yorkshire, United Kingdom for its permanent collection.
To introduce its viewing public to my work at the time of this acquisition, Yorkshire Sculpture Park invited an exhibition of my work. This exhibition, titled WILLEM BOSHOFF: WORD WOES, was curated in South Africa by Helene Smuts in collaboration with Yorkshire Sculpture Park curator Louise Lohr and ran from March 15 to June 2 at YSP.
As a travelling exhibition, WILLEM BOSHOFF: WORD WOES included a selection of graphic works and smaller sculptures produced over the past four decades. The exhibition presented a body of conceptual visual art, my work primarily engaging with words and language. Through particular graphic works reference was made to larger works and conceptual books as sculptural installations. Most works often involve long term archival research projects, such as a series of Oh No! etchings drawing on one of several dictionaries I have written over the years, titled the OH NO! DICTIONARY. A series of large silkscreen prints from a 1980s volume of concrete poetry titled KYKAFRIKAANS was also exhibited. The exhibition presented my decoding of language, its sound and form, often also unlocking the relative meaning of words.
The exhibition title was taken from the title of a signature work, WORD WOES, a large etching which presents a multitude of words which, although spelt exactly the same in English and Afrikaans, have entirely different meanings. Read in English, for example, the title WORD WOES laments issues of language. Translated into Afrikaans, the same words liberate, instructing one to let go and be wild.
This work and others on the exhibition confront the viewer with the relative and at times absurd meaning of words: In a way they are a Dada list – a mini Dada dictionary. Their inclusion is dependent on the throw of a dice. In this case, the dice is the fact that the English and Afrikaans meanings of these words of the same spelling have absolutely nothing to do with one another.