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Cyril Coetzee

Coetzee is currently curator for Exact Imagination: 300 Years of Botanically Inspired Art in South Africa, for Standard Bank Gallery (October to December 2014).

Coetzee has served as a Fine Art lecturer at Port Elizabeth Technikon and as an Art History lecturer at the University of the Witwatersrand. He has been a full-time artist since 1990. He has obtained an M.A. in Fine Art and B.A. Honours in English (distinction). To further his research into colour theory he has studied at the Tobias School of Art in Sussex, and at the Goetheanum in Dornach, Switzerland.

Coetzee has been invited to give various lectures on Art History and on his own work in South Africa, England, the United States and Canada. He has exhibited widely in South Africa, Switzerland, Canada, India and the USA. He was invited to hold solo retrospective exhibi- tions at the University of South Africa Gallery, Pretoria, and the Getrude Posel Gallery at the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg. He is currently curator for Exact Imagination: 300 Years of Botanically Inspired Art in South Africa, for Standard Bank Gallery (October to December 2014).

Portraits in one form or another are at the centre of Coetzee’s art. He has painted both informal and commissioned portraits throughout his career, in a number of “styles”, both realistic and expressionistic. He has painted two commissioned portraits of Nelson Mandela, the first of which, done during Mandela’s presidential term, was used as the design for the international stamp commemorating Mandela’s 90th birthday. His formal “sitters” include well-known academics, legal professionals, business people and performing artists. 

Previous awards 

1981 Rhodes University Academic Colours 

1982 Kendall Bursary 

1982 First Prize for the NBS National Inter-Art School Competition 

1983 Purvis Prize for Fine Art, Rhodes University 

1983 Rhodian ‘Guy Butler’ Creative Writer 

1993 Vita Art Award 

Works in public collections

Presidential Offices, Union Buildings, Pretoria; Johan- nesburg Art Gallery; Durban Art Gallery; Oliewenhuis Art Museum, Bloemfontein; Sanlam, Cape Town; Telkom, Johannesburg; The Berardo Collection, Johan- nesburg; BKS Engineering, Pretoria; South African Broadcasting Corporation (Boardroom Collection), Johannesburg; William Humphreys Art Gallery, Kimberley; Rhodes University, Grahamstown; University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg: Council Chamber and Gertrude Posel Gallery; University of South Africa, Pretoria; Sasol Ltd Collection, Johannesburg; University of Natal (Council Chamber), Durban; University of Pretoria (Council Chamber); Free State University, Bloemfontein.

The acclaimed work, which was painted and revealed in February 1999 upon request of the University of the Witwatersrand, is on permanent exhibition in the William Cullen Library. The painting is completely documented and interpreted in a publication under the editor Ivan Vladislavic, T’kama-Adamastor; inventions of Africa in a South African painting. (2000. Johannesburg: University of the Witwatersrand Press) Prof. Alan Crump states in the publication that “T’kama-Adamastor is questionably one of the most challenging and evocative paintings produced in this country in recent times ...”

For the judges of the Helgaard Steyn Award it was, firstly, that the work is exhibited in a public accessible space, that it is a very deserving and apt winner of the award and one of the most important works of the 1999 to 2003 period. The award gives recognition to and celebrates Coetzee’s work of artistic integrity and vision. As a painter Coetzee obtained a lasting identity and name, as testified by his work in public art and museum collections.

Coetzee’s T’kama-Adamastor ties-in with the renewed international interest in history painting, while the painting’s multi-cultural play with indigenous ethnic identities takes on an imaginative twist on the political situation of the pre-war cycle as portrayed in the historical panels in the William Cullen library.

In the wall panel the artist metaphorically reconstructs the colonial voyages of exploring Southern Africa through the eyes of an indigenous population. Coetzee reworks the material found in Baroque travel descrip- tions and of Camoes’ mythical version of Da Gama’s journey. He also reacts on the ideological perspective of Amshewitz’s painting Vasco da Gama – departure from the Cape displayed on the opposite wall in the library. (Commendatio 2003)

T’kama-Adamastor (1999), oil paint on canvas, 864 x 326cm
University of Witwatersrand – William Cullen Library

Copyright University of Witwatersrand
Photo courtesy of the artist