Skip to content

Head-Image

ARMOUR & LACE: A Bestiary presents new works by Walter Oltmann comprising wire sculptures, wall hangings, drawings, prints and paintings. In these works Oltmann explores dynamics between humans, animals and plants, highlighting features of armour, protection and disguise. By introducing defensive characteristics such as bristles, quills and thorns as well as engaging with interspecies protective strategies of mimicry, deception and aposematism, he teases the borders between human and nonhuman, presence and absence, fantastic and real.

 

"I have seen sungazer lizards in real life in captivity but in the wild they are very shy creatures. This critically endangered animal is unique to southern Africa and lives in the grasslands of the northeastern Orange Free State, western Kwa-Zulu Natal and southern Gauteng. The common name for the lizard comes from its habit of basking on a rock or termite mound whilst facing the sun. It is mainly threatened due to habitat loss as a result of agriculture, mining and development, but the pet and muthi trades as well as insect and rodent control also contribute to its threatened status.

I was drawn to include this endangered animal because of its armoured appearance. The sungazer lizard lives in burrows in the soil and if threatened, it retreats and inflates its body until it is jammed tightly against the burrow walls, making it almost impossible to extract. The genus name ‘Smaug Giganteus’ comes from J.R.R. Tolkien’s character in ‘The Hobbit’, the dragon encountered by Bilbo Baggins, the protagonist of Tolkien’s book. According to Tolkien the name comes from the Old German verb smeugen – to squeeze through a hole. Like the type species, Smaug lived underground and was heavily armoured. Appropriately, Tolkien was born in the Free State Province, the core area where the sungazer lizards come from."

- Walter Oltmann 

Walter Oltmann

Sungazers, 2022

Anodized aluminum wire and bitumen paint

Variable Dimensions: 260 x 410 x 7 cm

Enquire

Walter Oltmann

Sungazers, 2022

Anodized aluminum wire and bitumen paint

Variable Dimensions: 260 x 410 x 7 cm

Enquire

 

 

Walter Oltmann

Smaug Giganteus, 2021

Oil paint, oil stick and gold foil paper

Work: 102 x 102 cm

Enquiry

Walter Oltmann

Smaug Giganteus, 2021

Oil paint, oil stick and gold foil paper

Work: 102 x 102 cm

Enquiry

Walter Oltmann

Sungazer II, 2021

Oil paint, crayon, oil stick and gold leaf on paper

Work: 50 x 102 cm

Enquire

Walter Oltmann

Sungazer II, 2021

Oil paint, crayon, oil stick and gold leaf on paper

Work: 50 x 102 cm

Enquire

Oltmann creates a magical world inhabited by a variety of armoured suits next to armoured animals such as the Sungazer lizard (Smaug Giganteus) and the African pangolin (Smutsia Temminckii). Such works bring attention to the plight of critically endangered species and the impact of climate change, human predation and illegal captured wildlife trade. The pangolin is in grave peril since the animal’s lovable appearance also counts against it in the pet trade,. Similarly, its defensive scales have become a target, prized as supposedly having such powerful medicinal properties to make it valuable and worth slaughtering pangolins for, despite no science in evidence of these properties.

Oltmann’s animal subjects are at times playful and humorous but also include images of dead or near-dead creatures. The latter serve as memorials to animals that are not only dying, but literally ‘dying off’, i.e. on the edge of extinction. Images of fossils and skeletal remains similarly function as symbols of posteriority. As portraits of loss, they are meditations on the consequences and impact of environmental distress.

Walter Oltmann

Lull, 2021

Oil paint, copper foil, and oil pastel on paper

Work: 56 x 75 cm

Enquire

Walter Oltmann

Lull, 2021

Oil paint, copper foil, and oil pastel on paper

Work: 56 x 75 cm

Enquire

Walter Oltmann

Sanctum, 2021

Oil paint, pastel and charcoal on paper

Work: 66.5 x 77 cm

Enquire

Walter Oltmann

Sanctum, 2021

Oil paint, pastel and charcoal on paper

Work: 66.5 x 77 cm

Enquire

Walter Oltmann

Furl, 2021

Oil paint, copper foil and oil pastel on paper

Work: 55 x 65 cm

Enquire

Walter Oltmann

Furl, 2021

Oil paint, copper foil and oil pastel on paper

Work: 55 x 65 cm

Enquire

Walter Oltmann

Trace, 2021

Ink on paper

Work: 49 x 67.5 cm

Enquire

Walter Oltmann

Trace, 2021

Ink on paper

Work: 49 x 67.5 cm

Enquire

Such works bring attention to the plight of critically endangered species and the impact of climate change. As a collection of descriptions and interpretations of animals, the bestiary affords a cross-species framework where observation and imagination combine to open up fresh perspectives of and with, other living beings. It presents a fantastic imaginary world where borders between the human and non-human become permeable.

Bestiaries were made popular in the Middle Ages in illuminated manuscripts illustrated by monks. The word ‘illuminated’ comes from the Latin illuminare meaning ‘to light up.’ To achieve such illumination, monks frequently used thin sheets of gold and silver leaf to decorate their images.

Walter Oltmann

Rover, 2021

Aluminum wire

Work: 36 x 88 x 9 cm

Enquire

Walter Oltmann

Rover, 2021

Aluminum wire

Work: 36 x 88 x 9 cm

Enquire

Oltmann’s use of gold and silver by way of anodizing aluminium wire in his sculptures as well as introducing gold and copper leaf and fluorescent colours in his drawings, similarly serve to ‘light up’ his chosen subjects, lending them an other-worldly, auratic glow. His subjects are at times playful and humorous but also include images of dead or near-dead creatures. The latter serve as memorials to animals that are not only dying, but literally ‘dying off’, i.e. on the edge of extinction. Images of fossils and skeletal remains similarly function as symbols of posteriority. As portraits of loss, they are meditations on the consequences and impact of environmental distress.

 

Fossil, 2020.  Anodized aluminium wire.  Work: 109 x 219 x 12 cm. Enquire

Aurum, 2022

Anodized aluminum wire, bitumen paint and plastic beads

Work: 113 x 203 cm

Enquire

Aurum, 2022

Anodized aluminum wire, bitumen paint and plastic beads

Work: 113 x 203 cm

Enquire

"Images of dissected flowers taken from botanical illustrations intrigue me and led to a series of flower sculptures and wall reliefs. I occasionally visited the specimen collections in the university Botany department, but most works were based on images from books. Studying plant images and preserved flora highlighted how plants have evolved in response to functional requirements, some adapting with defensive appearance to preserve themselves and others using attractive colours or perfumes to attract their pollinators, in a complex web of interspecies signalling."

- Walter Oltmann

Bouquet, 2020

Aluminum wire, upholstery studs and resin

Work: 198 x 140 x 30 cm

Enquire

Bouquet, 2020

Aluminum wire, upholstery studs and resin

Work: 198 x 140 x 30 cm

Enquire

Amber flower, 2022

Anodized aluminum wire, bitumen paint and plastic beads

Work: 220 x 210 cm

Enquire

Amber flower, 2022

Anodized aluminum wire, bitumen paint and plastic beads

Work: 220 x 210 cm

Enquire

Insects are literally woven into the fabric of our human affairs, yet we consider them alien and observe them in a detached manner, being frequently both fascinated and repulsed by them. It is good to be reminded that all form integral parts of the food chain, of cycles of growth and interrelation on which our very existence depends. Showing them as though trapped in lacey nets or fabrics, the artist teases out some of these ambiguous feelings that we have towards them, Fragile, diminutive and vulnerable yet often feared and the subject of phobia. Seeds too, can be tiny yet virtually indestructible in protective casing, with sharp protrusions, or be so light and fluffy as to enable their own flight in the wind . Seeds and pods also range widely across species in their sophisticated evolutionary states to enable dispersal, and escape predation or being consumed before entering their new growth phases.

Locust Lace, 2022

Aluminum wire

Work: 153 x 239 cm

Enquire

Locust Lace, 2022

Aluminum wire

Work: 153 x 239 cm

Enquire

Spray I, 2021

Aluminum wire

Work: 200 x 200 cm

Enquire

Spray I, 2021

Aluminum wire

Work: 200 x 200 cm

Enquire

"Fine lacework conveys delicacy and refinement and contrasts with the ‘bruteness‘ of armour. With the title ‘Armour & Lace’ for my exhibition I wanted to present a sharp paradoxical contrast between the powerful and authoritative (armour) and the more fragile and refined (lace). Lace is androgenous and belongs to both men and women. It was worn in the past as a sign of distinction, grace and dignity. Armour, on the other hand, symbolizes power, strength and authority."

- Walter Oltmann

Spray II, 2021

Aluminum wire

Work: 210 x 220 cm

Enquire

Spray II, 2021

Aluminum wire

Work: 210 x 220 cm

Enquire

Spines, thorns or trichomes (hairs) found on caterpillars and nettles, are very clear mechanical defenses that deter (as featured in ‘Spinosa I and II’). Black and yellow colouration in spots and stripes (as in ‘Pachnoda I and II’) often mimics dangerous wasps or bees. Bright colours and patterns (as in Lepidop I and II’) can startle predators and serve to warn against toxicity. False eye spots can mimic the eyes of an animal that is dangerous to the predator, e.g. owl eyes (as in ‘Ocellata I and II’). In drawings and sculptures Oltmann often presents  figures which appear to be metamorphosing; acquiring more armoured defenses, spikes, scales and threatening postures which suggest these species have in common with the great predator, humans, the need to ward off threats.

Spread, 2020

Lithograph

Work: 51 x 76 cm

Edition of 3

Enquire

Spread, 2020

Lithograph

Work: 51 x 76 cm

Edition of 3

Enquire

“Empty suits feature as substitutes or surrogates for the body.”, writes Oltmann. “Although they may look a bit like vacated husks and one can’t be quite sure whether they are waiting to be renewed or not, the hollow, shell-like space invites one to imagine inhabiting it; suggesting an in-between space - a potential zone of commonality with nonhuman animals, allowing us to imaginatively step inside to have a different view or experience of them, and also of ourselves. The empty suits can also imply bodies in transition, or as if suspended between two states, as during metamorphosis.

In many drawings and prints I present the suits in opposing pairs. The famous painting titled ‘The Ambassadors’ by Hans Holbein the Younger (1533) has always intrigued me. Holbein’s image depicts two powerful men posing in a stage-like manner in showy clothes. There is an exaggerated masculinity about their confident and formal stances; they convey their presence as men in positions of power and control. I use this twin image display as comparative power-dressing portraits; striking one pose against another.  My suits too suggest personal armour or disguises to demonstrate power and defensive ability.”

- Walter Oltmann

Slide-Show

Slide-Show Thumbnails
Caterpillar Suit I, 2020

Lithograph

Work: 45 x 33 cm

Edition of 3

Enquire

Caterpillar Suit I, 2020

Lithograph

Work: 45 x 33 cm

Edition of 3

Enquire

Caterpillar Suit II, 2020

Lithograph

Work: 45 x 33 cm

Edition of 3

Enquire

Caterpillar Suit II, 2020

Lithograph

Work: 45 x 33 cm

Edition of 3

Enquire

Caterpillar Suit III, 2020

Lithograph

Work: 45 x 33 cm

AP 2 of 3

Enquire

Caterpillar Suit III, 2020

Lithograph

Work: 45 x 33 cm

AP 2 of 3

Enquire

Caterpillar Suit IV, 2020

Lithograph

Work: 45 x 33 cm

AP 2 of 3

Enquire

Caterpillar Suit IV, 2020

Lithograph

Work: 45 x 33 cm

AP 2 of 3

Enquire

Barb Suit I, 2021

Monoprint

Work: 71 x 57 cm

Monoprint 1 of 1

Enquire

Barb Suit I, 2021

Monoprint

Work: 71 x 57 cm

Monoprint 1 of 1

Enquire

Barb Suit II, 2021

Monoprint

Work: 71 x 57 cm

Edition of 1

Enquire

Barb Suit II, 2021

Monoprint

Work: 71 x 57 cm

Edition of 1

Enquire

Caterpillar Suit I, 2020

Lithograph

Work: 45 x 33 cm

Edition of 3

Enquire

Caterpillar Suit I, 2020

Lithograph

Work: 45 x 33 cm

Edition of 3

Enquire

Caterpillar Suit II, 2020

Lithograph

Work: 45 x 33 cm

Edition of 3

Enquire

Caterpillar Suit II, 2020

Lithograph

Work: 45 x 33 cm

Edition of 3

Enquire

Caterpillar Suit III, 2020

Lithograph

Work: 45 x 33 cm

AP 2 of 3

Enquire

Caterpillar Suit III, 2020

Lithograph

Work: 45 x 33 cm

AP 2 of 3

Enquire

Caterpillar Suit IV, 2020

Lithograph

Work: 45 x 33 cm

AP 2 of 3

Enquire

Caterpillar Suit IV, 2020

Lithograph

Work: 45 x 33 cm

AP 2 of 3

Enquire

Barb Suit I, 2021

Monoprint

Work: 71 x 57 cm

Monoprint 1 of 1

Enquire

Barb Suit I, 2021

Monoprint

Work: 71 x 57 cm

Monoprint 1 of 1

Enquire

Barb Suit II, 2021

Monoprint

Work: 71 x 57 cm

Edition of 1

Enquire

Barb Suit II, 2021

Monoprint

Work: 71 x 57 cm

Edition of 1

Enquire

"‘Thrips’ are minute insects (only about 1 to 2mm in length) that attract little attention because they are so small and inconspicuous. Most of them are weak fliers and feed by piercing plants and sucking up the sap. Because of their feeding habits and transmission of viral diseases, some of them are significant pests of cultivated plants, but they can also have beneficial effects as pollinators or in controlling other small creatures such as mites and aphids. In spite of their small size they can do damage to large trees.

In my monoprint series I play imaginatively with these tiny insects by presenting them as humanoid suits with defensive features such as bright colours, patterns, thorny spikes and hairs. I tried to create stark profiles against the white of the paper so that they would literally pop out. Using the fluidity of watercolours, I wanted to achieve spontaneous effects that might suggest adaptations such as camouflage or mimicry. As small as they are, they hint at a magnified capacity for aggression and harm. They thus represent postures of both power and vulnerability."

- Walter Oltmann

Thumb-Show

Thumb-Show Thumbnails
Thrip I, 2022

Monoprint

Work: 38 x 31 cm

Edition of 1

Enquire

Thrip I, 2022

Monoprint

Work: 38 x 31 cm

Edition of 1

Enquire

Thrip II, 2022

Monoprint

Work: 38 x 31 cm

Edition of 1

Enquire

Thrip II, 2022

Monoprint

Work: 38 x 31 cm

Edition of 1

Enquire

Thrip III, 2022

Monoprint

Work: 38 x 31 cm

Edition of 1

Enquire

Thrip III, 2022

Monoprint

Work: 38 x 31 cm

Edition of 1

Enquire

Thrip IV, 2022

Monoprint

Work: 38 x 31 cm

Edition of 1

Enquire

Thrip IV, 2022

Monoprint

Work: 38 x 31 cm

Edition of 1

Enquire

Thrip V, 2022

Monoprint

Work: 38 x 31 cm

Edition of 1

Enquire

Thrip V, 2022

Monoprint

Work: 38 x 31 cm

Edition of 1

Enquire

Thrip VI, 2022

Monoprint

Work: 38 x 31 cm

Edition of 1

Enquire

Thrip VI, 2022

Monoprint

Work: 38 x 31 cm

Edition of 1

Enquire

Thrip VII, 2022

Monoprint

Work: 38 x 31 cm

Edition of 1

Enquire

Thrip VII, 2022

Monoprint

Work: 38 x 31 cm

Edition of 1

Enquire

Thrip VIII, 2022

Monoprint

Work: 38 x 31 cm

Edition of 1

Enquire

Thrip VIII, 2022

Monoprint

Work: 38 x 31 cm

Edition of 1

Enquire

Thrip IX, 2022

Monoprint

Work: 38 x 31 cm

Edition of 1

Enquire

Thrip IX, 2022

Monoprint

Work: 38 x 31 cm

Edition of 1

Enquire

Thrip X, 2022

Monoprint

Work: 38 x 31 cm

Edition of 1

Enquire

Thrip X, 2022

Monoprint

Work: 38 x 31 cm

Edition of 1

Enquire

Thrip XI, 2022

Monoprint

Work: 38 x 31 cm

Edition of 1

Enquire

Thrip XI, 2022

Monoprint

Work: 38 x 31 cm

Edition of 1

Enquire

Thrip XII, 2022

Monoprint

Work: 38 x 31 cm

Edition of 1

Enquire

Thrip XII, 2022

Monoprint

Work: 38 x 31 cm

Edition of 1

Enquire

Thrip I, 2022

Monoprint

Work: 38 x 31 cm

Edition of 1

Enquire

Thrip I, 2022

Monoprint

Work: 38 x 31 cm

Edition of 1

Enquire

Thrip II, 2022

Monoprint

Work: 38 x 31 cm

Edition of 1

Enquire

Thrip II, 2022

Monoprint

Work: 38 x 31 cm

Edition of 1

Enquire

Thrip III, 2022

Monoprint

Work: 38 x 31 cm

Edition of 1

Enquire

Thrip III, 2022

Monoprint

Work: 38 x 31 cm

Edition of 1

Enquire

Thrip IV, 2022

Monoprint

Work: 38 x 31 cm

Edition of 1

Enquire

Thrip IV, 2022

Monoprint

Work: 38 x 31 cm

Edition of 1

Enquire

Thrip V, 2022

Monoprint

Work: 38 x 31 cm

Edition of 1

Enquire

Thrip V, 2022

Monoprint

Work: 38 x 31 cm

Edition of 1

Enquire

Thrip VI, 2022

Monoprint

Work: 38 x 31 cm

Edition of 1

Enquire

Thrip VI, 2022

Monoprint

Work: 38 x 31 cm

Edition of 1

Enquire

Thrip VII, 2022

Monoprint

Work: 38 x 31 cm

Edition of 1

Enquire

Thrip VII, 2022

Monoprint

Work: 38 x 31 cm

Edition of 1

Enquire

Thrip VIII, 2022

Monoprint

Work: 38 x 31 cm

Edition of 1

Enquire

Thrip VIII, 2022

Monoprint

Work: 38 x 31 cm

Edition of 1

Enquire

Thrip IX, 2022

Monoprint

Work: 38 x 31 cm

Edition of 1

Enquire

Thrip IX, 2022

Monoprint

Work: 38 x 31 cm

Edition of 1

Enquire

Thrip X, 2022

Monoprint

Work: 38 x 31 cm

Edition of 1

Enquire

Thrip X, 2022

Monoprint

Work: 38 x 31 cm

Edition of 1

Enquire

Thrip XI, 2022

Monoprint

Work: 38 x 31 cm

Edition of 1

Enquire

Thrip XI, 2022

Monoprint

Work: 38 x 31 cm

Edition of 1

Enquire

Thrip XII, 2022

Monoprint

Work: 38 x 31 cm

Edition of 1

Enquire

Thrip XII, 2022

Monoprint

Work: 38 x 31 cm

Edition of 1

Enquire

"Certain plants signal to animal pollinators by way of their attractive colours. Some of my ‘Romper’ suit drawings suggest this form of signaling in a playful way. A romper is a one-piece garment, especially worn by a young child (a baby grow), but it can also be understood in the sense of boisterous and wild behaviour of a person. Here I have also used fluorescent colour to suggest bioluminescence in insects as defense mechanism as well as signaling other individuals of the same species to attract one another.  The Lampyrid (glow worm) larvae use it to alert nocturnal visual predators that they are dangerous. My romper suits are an imaginative collection of luminescent creature garments and even include a few baby jumpers with wild animal faces on their fronts. While we are familiar with cuddly Maja the Bee and Mickey Mouse baby grows, these ones are of wilder animals. They raise questions of proximity of human to animal at an early stage of development and our later conditioning towards such animals."

- Walter Oltmann

Video-Show

Romper 1, 2021

Acrylic, ink and pastel on paper

Work: 26 x 19 cm

Enquire

Romper 1, 2021

Acrylic, ink and pastel on paper

Work: 26 x 19 cm

Enquire

Romper 2, 2021

Acrylic, ink and pastel on paper

Work: 26 x 19 cm

Enquire

Romper 2, 2021

Acrylic, ink and pastel on paper

Work: 26 x 19 cm

Enquire

Romper 3, 2021

Acrylic, ink and pastel on paper

Work: 26 x 19 cm

Enquire

Romper 3, 2021

Acrylic, ink and pastel on paper

Work: 26 x 19 cm

Enquire

Romper 4, 2021

Acrylic, ink and pastel on paper

Work: 26 x 19 cm

Enquire

Romper 4, 2021

Acrylic, ink and pastel on paper

Work: 26 x 19 cm

Enquire

Romper 5, 2021

Acrylic, ink and pastel on paper

Work: 26 x 19 cm

Enquire

Romper 5, 2021

Acrylic, ink and pastel on paper

Work: 26 x 19 cm

Enquire

Romper 6, 2022

Acrylic, ink and pastel on paper

Work: 26 x 19 cm

Enquire

Romper 6, 2022

Acrylic, ink and pastel on paper

Work: 26 x 19 cm

Enquire

Romper 7, 2022

Acrylic, ink and pastel on paper

Work: 26 x 19 cm

Enquire

Romper 7, 2022

Acrylic, ink and pastel on paper

Work: 26 x 19 cm

Enquire

Romper 8, 2022

Acrylic, ink and pastel on paper

Work: 26 x 19 cm

Enquire

Romper 8, 2022

Acrylic, ink and pastel on paper

Work: 26 x 19 cm

Enquire

Romper 9, 2022

Acrylic, ink and pastel on paper

Work: 26 x 19 cm

Enquire

Romper 9, 2022

Acrylic, ink and pastel on paper

Work: 26 x 19 cm

Enquire

Romper 10, 2022

Acrylic, ink and pastel on paper

Work: 26 x 19 cm

Enquire

Romper 10, 2022

Acrylic, ink and pastel on paper

Work: 26 x 19 cm

Enquire

Romper 11, 2022

Acrylic, ink and pastel on paper

Work: 26 x 19 cm

Enquire

Romper 11, 2022

Acrylic, ink and pastel on paper

Work: 26 x 19 cm

Enquire

Romper 12, 2022

Acrylic, ink and pastel on paper

Work: 26 x 19 cm

Enquire

Romper 12, 2022

Acrylic, ink and pastel on paper

Work: 26 x 19 cm

Enquire

Romper 13, 2022

Acrylic, ink and pastel on paper

Work: 26 x 19 cm

Enquire

Romper 13, 2022

Acrylic, ink and pastel on paper

Work: 26 x 19 cm

Enquire

Romper 14, 2022

Acrylic, ink and pastel on paper

Work: 26 x 19 cm

Enquire

Romper 14, 2022

Acrylic, ink and pastel on paper

Work: 26 x 19 cm

Enquire

Romper 15, 2022

Acrylic, ink and pastel on paper

Work: 26 x 19 cm

Enquire

Romper 15, 2022

Acrylic, ink and pastel on paper

Work: 26 x 19 cm

Enquire

Romper 16, 2022

Acrylic, ink and pastel on paper

Work: 26 x 19 cm

Enquire

Romper 16, 2022

Acrylic, ink and pastel on paper

Work: 26 x 19 cm

Enquire

Downloads

ARMOUR & LACE: A Bestiary

Full catalogue of works in the physical show.