1920 – 2017
David Brown was a graduate of the Michaelis School of Fine Art, studying graphic design from 1970 and completing a postgraduate diploma in photography in 1973. It was during this year that he photographed members of the Harfield Village community, in a body of work recently curated by Dr Siona O’Connell as “Returned to Harfield” at the Homecoming Centre. It was only after his formal studies that he was introduced to sculpture by Cecil Skotnes, and this was the start of his life-long love affair with a creative practice: with the scoop of a gouge through Jarrah wood, the slice of a blade through copper, the glance of an angle grinder on steel, and the push and pull of beeswax.
His works are reminiscent of Breughelian tableaus, and of battlefields in which sanity is suspended and contradiction reigns. His works from the 1980s and early 1990s responded to the horrors of apartheid, to dehumanisation, violence and the abuse of power. Many of these works are to be found on the University of Cape Town campus and remain a constant reminder of the injustices of the past and a cautionary warning that they not be repeated.
His witty and wry sculptural work influenced generations of artists. David was for many of us a friend, a mentor, and a member of the extended Michaelis family. He regularly donated work to auctions and print portfolios at the school to raise funds in support of student scholarships.
His untimely death three weeks ago leaves an impossible void in the hearts of many, and I thought are and have been with Pippa and Jules. David’s work will serve as a reminder of an artist with humility, integrity and courage, and he will always be remembered for his generosity, his freedom of spirit, and for his laugh.