About Willem Boshoff

Willem Boshoff, one of South Africa’s leading artists, uses a variety of media including printmaking and sculpture to explore language, text and botany.

The study of plants has been central to his practice for over thirty years, over which time he has photographed, identified and catalogued almost 10,000 species of plants and trees around the world.

In summer 2018, Boshoff spent a month at YSP, researching and meticulously recording the flora and fauna within the park. The residency forms part of an ongoing project, for which this exhibition is one element, with the eventual outcome being the creation of a new sculpture for the open-air at YSP, currently in development.

As with his catalogue of plant names, Boshoff also collects words, researches their origins and even collates dictionaries. He created his first, the Dictionary of Colour, in 1977 and has since created numerous others, the largest of which, A Dictionary of Perplexing English, has over 18,000 entries. His dictionaries have not been published as books but form the basis of some artworks, for example the series of Oh No! prints, which are inspired by his collection of unusual words that compile a dictionary of the same name.

For a series of works made in the 1990s Boshoff explored fifteen ancient stone circles in the UK and collected bundles of twigs at each one before sunrise. The intricately formed wooden sculpture Annuloid (1993-1994) contains small clusters of these twigs, each with a description of where they were found written in braille underneath, and presented in an immaculate torus form. This and a number of other wooden sculptures can be seen in this exhibition.

Born in 1951 in Vanderbijlpark, South Africa, Boshoff is represented in various public and private collections in South Africa and abroad. His work has been shown extensively in numerous museum exhibitions and festivals including the São Paulo Biennale, Venice Biennale; the Museum for African Art at the Smithsonian, Washington and Museo Nacional, Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, Madrid.

'To me, the experience of the languages I speak is like travelling through the landscape I grew up in, the landscape I love and know so well.' Willem Boshoff