The artwork of Lyndi Sales, one of South Africa’s most acclaimed installation artists, is like the bottom of the ocean, unfolding our perceptions and uncovering mysteries of what lies deep beneath us. Lyndi tells me as we sit down in her studio in Observatory, “The ocean is alive with mystery and also it is a gravesite for all those who have died in it.”
Lyndi has always drawn inspiration from the great ocean as it is the resting place of her late father who was one of the 159 passengers aboard the Heldeberg flight that crashed tragically into the Indian Ocean in 1987. Lyndi admits that when the Heldeberg crash occurred she disassociated her father from it as she does not like to be in the public eye. It was only many years later after collaborating on a bird installation with fellow artist Lise Firer, that the suggestion came up for her to do something about the Heldeberg because it was an historical South African event. “I was so worried I would appear sentimental, Lyndi explains, “In the art world sentimentality is not looked upon favorably.” However this was not the case when Lyndi did her first exhibition inspired by the crash. Lyndi created 159/295 out of 159 paper kites , one for each passenger on board South African Airways Flight 295 who all died tragically in the crash, making up one giant kite. The massive kite has gone around the world starting in Cape Town and appearing in exhibitions in Tokyo, San Fransisco, Sydney and Paris. It eventually was sold and landed in Salzburg, Austria where it lives today in the airport hanger for all to see. She admits that at first she tried to deny that the artwork was about the Heldeberg because she didn’t want to be exposed, but soon came to realize her belief that, “Most good art is drawn from the heart and it is personal. The hardest part is being able to tap into that. ”
Before embarking on her next artwork, Lyndi’s spends ample amounts of time researching and drawing inspiration from photographs or objects to create her installations. When she first decided to use the Heldeberg as inspiration she set out to find photographs and came across life vests on the bottom of the ocean. She found a supplier of life preservers at the airport and drove out to have a look at what she could use to create her next artwork. The man who helped her there had no idea why she was there sourcing life vests. He thought maybe she was from the film industry and he brought out new ones which were quite expensive. Lyndi asked him if he had any old ones as she was going to be cutting them up anyway. He went to the back to look for a damaged or older vest. On every life vest there is a date stamped of when it was manufactured and on this particular one he brought out, the date was December 1987. The Heldeberg crashed in late November 1987. She saw it as a sign.
One of her later installations, Shatter, cut out of boarding passes, was inspired by watches found at the bottom of the ocean. Still today Lyndi is drawing from the magnificent ocean to inspire her art. Currently she is exhibiting an installation inspired by an iceberg at the big summer show at the What if The World Gallery in Woodstock. The show opens today and her work is on exhibit in the viewing room. Lyndi says she has not yet named the piece but the installation is about the physical body being just the tip of the iceberg.
Through the decades Lyndi’s work has morphed considerably from 2 dimensional art into 3 dimensional massive art installations. It just seems to get bigger and bigger I say to her and she smiles. I realize the time and have to dash, as I thank Lyndi and head for the door she says to me, “I feel like we just scratched the surface.” With certainty we had, time and space and depth are all integral parts of her work, Lyndi Sales’ artwork goes deep evoking an incredible sense of discovery for all who observe it.