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Walter Oltmann Prints

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Walter Oltmann is a quiet, gentle man. He has the calm of a happily cloistered monk, his serenity seemingly placing him above the messy concerns of the material world. Born in 1960 he went to school and completed his Fine Arts Degree in Kwa-Zulu Natal. His father worked as a civil servant and the family moved between one remote area of Kwa-Zulu Natal to the next. This migratory life style exposed Walter Oltmann to the rich craft tradition of rural South Africa.

Oltmann recalls the rigorous training in drawing that university art students underwent at the time. Drawing skills were seen as a foundation to build the rest of one’s art making practice on. His teachers “made it clear to us that drawing should be a regimen in one’s creative practice and also a way of thinking as an investigative activity”. The mastery of drawing skills has translated well into Oltmann's interpretation of the mastery of traditional craft skills that are to be found in South Africa.

Walter Oltmann’s work can be divided into two main areas of practice: drawing (pencil, ink and bleach) and sculpture (wire work). He is a master at manipulating both two-dimensional and three-dimensional line. A thread runs through the prints that he made at The Artists’ Press: “While I have dabbled with lithography, this is my first real adventuring into it. The thread of the pencil line moves into wire which moves into polymer plate and then is transferred onto paper”. “Mark helped me to find a way to translate the delicacy of lace and wire work into a suitable print media via letterpress. This was unexpected, a nice discovery!” The embossed quality of the letterpress printing gives an added tactile dimension to the work. The spirit of the wire work has translated well into print. The hand-made quality of the woven and knotted wire sculptures objectifies the aspect of time passing - the viewer grasps time as a tangible quality embodied in the material. Walter is often asked: “How long did it take to make that?” This aspect also carries over into the drawings and prints that Walter Oltmann makes.

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