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A LIFE'S WORK (article first published : 2007-03-13)

James Hall (1916-2006) was one of the Durban art world's most familiar and loved figures. His work is evident wherever one goes in the city, although it is not always recognised or acknowledged as being created by him.

He cast many a school crest into clay. These adorn most of the Durban school entrances such as Northlands Boys High, Northlands Girls High, Beachwood Boys High, Durban High School, Glenwood Boys. He also did the ceramic lettering for buildings such as "Drostdy" and "Stellenberg" in Musgrave Road, the frieze of ceramic panels running round the building at the corner of Moore and Sydney Roads, the ceramic and fibre glass panels at the Jewish Hall of Prayer, Redhill Cemetery and the Madonna at Holy Trinity Catholic Church.

His work embraced the religious and the secular - the Blue Waters poolside bears his mark as does the exterior of the Ocean Terminal Building where his Neptune is a familiar landmark.

His ceramic plates, sculptures and tiles are in many Durban homes and recently his bust of Nelson Mandela made for the UKZN Medical School was unveiled.

His sculptures are in many public collections, including the Durban Art Gallery, and his influence as a teacher is legendary.

He was born in New Zealand and studied at the Slade and Camberwell School of Art in London then taught there and at Harrow. He was a war artist where he sketched many of the personalities in the Second World War and was also commissioned to make small clay models of tanks which were used to plan manoeuvres. Whilst on Active Service in the New Zealand Army, he was selected to play for the New Zealand 15 and proudly wore the "All Black" jersey.

He then immigrated to Durban and took over the Ceramics Dept at the Durban Technical School (now Durban University of Technology) where he taught from 1956 to 1980.

He is acknowledged as being highly skilled in terracotta and also an expert in the use of glazes. In 1967 he was appointed design consultant to the glazing division at Corobrik, Natal, a position he held until the late 1990ís. As well as his many public commissions he exhibited extensively both locally and abroad throughout his life.

This retrospective exhibition will show a selection of his life's work which is a picture of Durban's art and architectural styles throughout the century. Items such as tools, glazes, sketches, etc will indicate his process and will give an educational dimension to the exhibition. It will be opened on March 21 at noon at the Durban Art Gallery. Prof. Rodney Harber, long-time colleague of the artist, and well-known architect and speaker will open the exhibition.




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