Walter Oltmann is a quiet, gentle man. He has the calm of a happily cloistered monk, his serenity seemingly placing him above the messy concerns of the material world. Born in 1960 he went to school and completed his Fine Arts Degree in Kwa-Zulu Natal. His father worked as a civil servant and the family moved between one remote area of Kwa-Zulu Natal to the next. This migratory life style exposed Walter Oltmann to the rich craft tradition of rural KZN.
Oltmann recalls the rigorous training in drawing that university art students underwent at the time. Drawing skills were seen as a foundation to build the rest of one’s art making practice on. His teachers “made it clear to us that drawing should be a regimen in one’s creative practice and also a way of thinking as an investigative activity”. The mastery of drawing skills has translated well into Oltmann's interpretation of the mastery of traditional craft skills that are to be found in South Africa.
"I manipulate industrial materials in a way that contradicts their prefabricated nature by emphasising hand-made processes. Hence I use the linear qualities of these materials to create various forms and surfaces through techniques that parallel handcrafts. I have become deeply interested in the interchange between different cultures in southern Africa, and my sculptures and drawings often reflect and acknowledge the crafts of Africa”. Walter Oltmann 201
Text: The Artists Press