Watch: Gavin Elder’s beautifully crafted film tribute to the work of Conrad Hicks

Acclaimed filmmaker Gavin Elder directs this short documentary about the work of Conrad Hicks and the role of toolmaking on human evolution. Commissioned by BMW to mark its visionary support of forward-thinking design, the film takes us inside the mind of South Africa’s foremost artist-blacksmith. Made on the occasion of Hicks’ solo exhibition, Implement, at Southern Guild, it features a score by Italian composer Alessandro Gigli made from sounds captured inside Hicks’ studio.

A sculptor by training, Hicks uses only hand-forging techniques, working in steel, iron and – most unusually for a blacksmith – copper. He chooses not to weld his pieces, opting instead for traditional jointing methods that express the structure, and ultimately the symbolic meaning, of the finished form.

Tools hold deep resonance for him, and his collection of vintage and purpose-made implements includes prehistoric stone tools.

“As an artist, I feel like I’m drawn to use tools – there’s something, a potential that needs to come out of them. What I’m looking for is exactly that same recognition of that stone tool – that form and that innate quality which is our instinctive understanding of form and beauty,” he says.

The pursuit of beauty, ingrained in our DNA over the millennia, has lessons for us as we evolve into the future. He says: “We need the right technology to advance as a species and we need to learn how to evaluate the technologies we have, in order to ascertain whether it’s in line with our evolutionary development.”

This film is the latest in a series of unique collaborations that Southern Guild and BMW began a year ago, grounded in a common commitment to forward-thinking design and creative excellence.



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