In The Studio: Paul du Toit
South African painter and sculptor PAUL DU TOIT says “I live in my head and retain only the elements that fit into how I see the world,” and “my art often begins with an energetic line and ends with a line.”
For me understanding the artist allows me to appreciate their artwork that much more. So, when I was invited to meet Paul during a recent trip to Cape Town, I was beyond thrilled because Paul’s life, much like his art, is full of fascinating twists and turns.
Born in Johannesburg, Paul developed juvenile rheumatoid arthritis at age 11 and spent the next three years of his life in and out of hospitals, but Paul says that life in a wheelchair taught him “how to make a plan.” It was during this time that Paul’s family gave him art books about Miro and Picasso to study and Paul’s aunt tutored him in oil painting.
Paul eventually recovered from his illness and continued to paint leisurely, but it would be years later during a trip to Florence after viewing Michelangelo’s David, that Paul would decide to paint professionally. Paul’s first major exhibit, in Paris, in 1998, was a huge success and brought Paul international acclaim and recognition.
In 2004, PlanetPaul, Paul’s first solo exhibit in New York City was curated by Koan Jeff Baysa which led to being asked to work with President Nelson Mandela and his 46664 foundation. Paul says that meeting his hero, President Mandela, was not only life changing, but that he finally understood that life was about effort and he’s teaching that to his children.
In 2008, the bronze cast sculpture that Paul created of President Mandela’s right hand sold at a Christie’s auction for $3.5 million, and what did Paul do? He donated the entire proceeds to President Mandela’s 46664 foundation. A dedicated philanthropist Paul continues to support various charities throughout South Africa.
When I first walked into Paul’s studio, I was immediately struck by the sweeping strokes of primary colors on Paul’s canvases and the impromptu sketches on his studio floor. Paul greeted me as if I were an old friend dropping by and offered to give me a tour. He explained his impasto technique and showed me a huge bucket of thick industrial concrete filler which he uses to scratch lines and images into his canvases. Paul also works in sculpture, paper and mixed media.
Paul’s art has scrawls, space and movement, but I was most fascinated to learn about Paul’s art vocabulary and the alphabet that he has created which is prevalent throughout his work and still remains somewhat of a mystery.
If I were hosting a dinner party of the most intriguing people on the planet Paul du Toit would definitely make the list. Paul’s openness to discuss his life experiences and his creative process is so sincere that you want to spend time getting inside Paul’s head, enjoying a great meal and asking questions. I’m still pinching myself that I had the opportunity to meet such a great artist who is clearly fascinated with life. Of course behind every great man is an even greater woman and Paul’s wife, Lorette is just as wonderful and I enjoyed getting to know her as well.
THANK YOU Paul and Lorette for allowing me to share my experience with Zavvi Rodaine readers.
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