Simon Max Bannister is a full-time sculptor with over a decade of experience.
Originally from South Africa, his studio is now based in Wanaka, New Zealand, and he currently works with bronze and steel as his materials of choice. He has been an ambassador artist for the David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation since 2013. His artistic journey began with land art experiences with Ahmad Nadalian.
Simon’s original profession of graphic design and subsequently, photography, gradually shifted into sculpting full time. Simon then worked as an artist in residence at Londolozi Game Reserve, inspired by the haven for wildlife and made aware of its precarious state. Upon leaving the game reserve, he went onto to explore the texturally diverse South African backwaters more deeply, creating ephemeral works, exploring materials, and developing new approaches as he went.
Themes of environmental degradation and habitat loss became apparent, as well as a fascination with fire. These themes culminated in three years at the original Bronze Age Studio in Cape Town, working alongside Nic Bladen and Dylan Lewis.
“Since I met Emily and became aware of DSWF, I have found a way to give directly back to the very things that inspire me. To have lived in the bushveld and to know the feeling of South Africa’s dawn chorus, gives me such passion for the protection of those protected spaces and all its indigenous creatures.
To know that deeply, I can portray the beauty and inherent wisdom of wild animals through sculpture, which can, in turn, give them a means of protection, gives my work real meaning. The projects that DSWF engage with represent multiple biomes and the iconic species that call them home. Through the Foundation my work can now embody a story of survival in the face of man’s ills.
These endangered creatures are in our hands, in our art, in our historical being. How could we, in our time, not do whatever we can to help them? “
At this time, a very clear change in material and approach occurred. He learned a bronze casting technique that encapsulated his creative theme of habitat and species loss into a distinctive language. By frequenting sawmills, he collected splinters and shards of invasive timber. He began constructing indigenous birds, as well as their nests and wings. These wooden creations serve as the kindling for a unique lost cast technique, where the incineration of shape becomes the mould for the final sculpture. These hollow spaces are then cast with bronze, thereby immortalising the species that are so significant to him. The results are figurative yet lean toward abstraction, as the figure hovers between dissolution and form.
To create larger scale works, he utilises what are primarily labelled industrial materials and welds them into wilder themes around Greek mythology and so-called natural processes. Beams of steel become branches, bones, and feathers. Hard lines find gentle movement as rust and plants intertwine and re-establish their co-existence – enabling old stories to find their place in a new world.
DSWF’s roots are in wildlife art and we are fortunate enough to have some of the most talented wildlife artists as our Wildlife Art Ambassadors. Learn more about these committed conservationists here.
Visit our website shop to browse every kind of wildlife art. From David Shepherd originals and prints, to outstanding artworks by Wildlife Artist of the Year finalists. These pieces are a true celebration of the world’s wildlife and wild places.
As the founder of DSWF, David dedicated his life to raising awareness and funding for wildlife conservation efforts. Using his incredible artistic skills, David was able to inspire change and make a positive impact on the preservation of endangered species. Find out more.