The sun may finally be showing its face in Cape Town, but it is intermittent and a biting chill is still in the air. A warm drink at The Power and the Glory in Tamboerskloof is the ideal way to stay warm, accompanied by good conversation with sculptor Sina Sulger.
Hailing from Germany, Sina has been living in South Africa for five years. She studied graphic design and fine art in Germany and spent a year doing special effects at City Varsity. She landed work making model trains, helping with the development of prototypes and the experience aided an attention to detail and technique. However, the repetitive nature of the work eventually convinced her to continue only part-time in order to give her more freedom to focus on her own work. Her love for sculpting was something which had always been with her; but despite always wanting to try it, she had never gotten around to it. It was only during her time at City Varsity that she actively started pursuing it. Dabbling in maskwork as part of her studies, her love of sculpting grew and developed from this initial step. Once she started, she discovered a natural passion and ability for the work and it hasn’t stopped since. Relentless in her pursuit to develop this newfound passion she went on a drive to learn everything she could – from tutorials to forums to whatever else she could lay her hands on –and eventually started Mutabor Sculptures as a way of getting her work out there.
Mutabor is Latin for “I will be transformed” – an apt name to epitomise what she does. In her experience thus far, Sina has found her world to be very small. There is no real community, no network of fellow sculptors with whom she can explore, discover and promote. Popular in the States and in China, it is something which still requires a lot of growth in South Africa. Even her native Germany does not have much of a community and she is constantly on the lookout to grow her art. With this last word, we immediately stumble upon an interesting notion as Sina declares: “I don’t think I’m an artist. I consider an artist someone who doesn’t create something definite; it is more the thought behind what they do.” This comment brings to light the intriguing argument of art vs. craft; particularly as she is commissioned to do certain and specific type of work for clients. What she is does is reminiscent of the Renaissance, when artists were commissioned by wealthy patrons to fulfil their aesthetic (and oft materialistic) desires, making what artists did a set task and nothing inherently creative.
When it comes to her own work, however, there is definitely a creative spark. She loves elaborate designs and attention to detail and is currently experimenting with a mermaid theme. Given her love for female subjects, this is not surprising. “I love the curves of the female body,” she says; and this aspect allows her the opportunity to exaggerate and go to extremes whereas “the male body is very square” and leaves her with less room for interpretation and experimentation. She is often commissioned to do comic book hero figurines – X-Men’s Wolverine being a popular request – and one can only imagine what a hit this makes her at Reader’s Den Free Comic Book Day. “It’s the right kind of crowd and I get lots of commissions from it”. I muse that she must love the thought of attending Comic Con in San Diego and she definitely agrees and tells me that Dubai is also starting their own version and she hopes to be eastward bound in 2013. I ask whether she would ever teach others what she does and she nods: “I would…just to build the community. I don’t mind sharing secrets”. This reiterates her comments on the tiny community within which she works. “It’s difficult to get anywhere, because I have to create awareness that this exists first.”
And what of more traditional sculptures? She laughs: “I I don’t know what it means, but I like the aesthetic feel it has…the way it is put together” and she sites Henry Moore as a sculptor whose work she admires. Considering her fans and where most of her commissions come from, is she a comic book fan too? She shakes her head “Not really. If anything, I like graphic novels. Even then, more for their look than reading them.” She is now keen to develop some new characters and push her own products and is looking forward to possibly partaking in Kunjanimation – an animation festival taking place in Cape Town in October that aims to promote local animation, in collaboration with France. Whether artist or artisan, Sina has an amazing talent. Her keen eye and love of the aesthetic sees and absorbs the splendour and wonder of what fills the world, which we so often neglect and forget in our rush to do everything else.