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Artists in Residence

South African Artist, Nic Bladen

He has become known for his extraordinary botanical sculptures – entire plants cast in bronze and sterling silver, using a technique he pioneered himself.

Born in 1974 in Pretoria, Nic trained in the field of dental technology, a discipline that requires great precision and attention to detail. After working for eight years crafting gold and porcelain crowns in local and UK dental laboratories, he developed an interest in sculpture and began working at the Bronze Age Foundry in Cape Town, learning the art of large-scale bronze casting as well as all aspects of metalwork. Knowledge of the two seemingly different fields of dental technology and bronze casting precipitated Nic’s experiments in 2001 of casting flowers and leaves. In marrying the micro and macro disciplines, he pioneered a technique of developing perfect castings of organic matter. His way of preserving and fossilizing actual plants and flowers involves a method known as ‘lost wax casting’, or ‘cire perdu’, and results in one-off sculptures of entire plants.

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Nic’s first solo exhibition, ‘Peninsula’, held in 2013 at the Everard Read Gallery in Cape Town, focused on the richness of botanical diversity that surrounds his Simonstown studio, situated within the heart of the Cape Floral Kingdom – the smallest, yet richest of the world’s six Floral Kingdoms. For this exhibition, concessions from land-owners on the Cape Peninsula enabled Nic to harvest plant rarities such as the Blue disa and the endemic Serruria villosa.

In 2015, Nic worked as an Artist in Residence at Tswalu Kalahari Reserve. The sculptures that he created during this period – depictions of iconic, beautiful and strange Kalahari desert plants and trees – later in the same year formed his second solo exhibition, namely, ‘Kalahari: a Season at Tswalu’, which was held at the Everard Read Gallery in Johannesburg.

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