Simon Max Bannister is a full-time sculptor with over 10 years experience.
Originally from South Africa, his studio is now based in Wanaka, New Zealand. He currently works with bronze and steel as his material of choice. With his partner Chelsea, he enjoys engaging with the sheer mountains and lakes of the south island through trail-running and paragliding. He has been an ambassador artist for the David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation since 2013. His journey with art originated from land art experiences with Ahmad Nadalian. His original profession with graphic design and subsequent photography gradually shifted into sculpting full time. Simon then worked as an artist in residence at Londolozi Game reserve, inspired by the haven for wildlife and made aware of its precarious state. He then left to explore deeper into the texturally diverse South African backwaters, creating ephemeral works, exploring materials and developing new approaches as he went. Themes of environmental degradation and habitat loss became apparent, as well as a fascination with fire. These themes culminated in 3 years at the original bronze age studio in Cape Town, working alongside Nic Bladen and Dylan Lewis.
At this time a very clear change in material and approach occurred. He learned a bronze casting technique that encapsulated his creative theme of habitat and species loss into a distinctive language. By frequenting sawmills he collected splinters and shards of invasive timber. With these, he then constructed indigenous birds, nests and wings. These wooden creations serve as the kindling for a unique lost cast technique, where the incineration of shape becomes the mould for the final sculpture. These hollow spaces are then cast with bronze, thereby immortalising the species that are so significant to him. The results are naturalistic, yet lean toward abstraction as the figure hovers between dissolution and form. To create larger-scale works he utilises what are primarily labelled industrial materials and welds them into wilder themes around Greek mythology and so-called natural processes. Beams of steel become branches, bones and feathers. Hard lines find gentle movement, rust and plants intertwine and re-establish their co-existence. Old stories find their place in a new world.
“Since I met Emily and became aware of the DSWF, I have found a way to give directly back to the very things that inspire me. To have lived in the bushveld and to know the feeling of South Africa's dawn chorus, gives me such passion for the protection of those protected spaces and all its indigenous creatures. To know that deeply, I can portray the beauty and inherent wisdom of wild animals through sculpture, which can, in turn, give them a means of protection, gives my work real meaning. The projects that the DSWF engage with represent multiple biomes and the iconic species that call them home. Through the foundation, my work can now embody a story of survival in the face of man’s ills. These endangered creatures are in our hands, in our art, in our historical being. How could we, in our time, not do whatever we can to help them?
Early days at Londolozi Game Reserve
Selected bronze works