Cape Town-based artist Shirley Fintz makes figurative ceramic sculptures and functional objects, inspired by her interest in Eastern spirituality, African artefacts and animal life. She only ever hand-coils the clay, opting for a slightly naïve use of form to create whimsical tableaux of everyday life.
An inveterate collector of Baule spirit spouse figures from West Africa, contemporary African craft, vintage toys and rare textiles, Fintz’s art-making is intimately bound up with the visual vocabulary of objects that surround her. Her creativity is equally connected with her daily yoga practice and interest in healing modalities, as seen in her latest collection of functional sculpture for Southern Guild, titled The Healers.
Born in Zimbabwe in 1971, Fintz completed a Bachelor of Fine Art, majoring in graphic design and photography, at the University of Cape Town’s Michaelis School of Fine Art in 1994. She quickly discovered ceramics and thrived under the direction and mentorship of acclaimed South African ceramicist Barbara Jackson, who became a close friend and collaborator. Her first solo show, held at the Association of Visual Arts in 1999, consisted of supersized ceramic replicas of South African supermarket products. She has exhibited widely since then, with subsequent solos at the Brendon Bell-Roberts and Church Street galleries, and group exhibitions at international fairs and venues in Germany, the US and the UK. Fintz has also supplied her work to international retailers such as Anthropologie and West Elm.
Driven by her passion for uniquely South African craft forms and a desire to support and empower underprivileged women, she co-founded MonkeyBiz with Jackson in 1999. This non-profit organisation has employed over 450 beaders and continues to lead the revival and modernisation of the African beading tradition.
Now based in her studio at the Shangri La Centre in Tamboerskloof, Cape Town, Fintz makes all her forms hollow, even the smallest pieces, and enjoys experimenting with colour, mixing up various glazes without being certain of the end result. Her syncretic approach to form is mostly intuitive and unplanned, emerging organically as she works with the clay.