Seeking Life in the City
Gerard Sekoto, South Africa’s master of potent urban truth-telling, exquisite use of colour, light, and pattern is understood today as one of the country’s most important 20th century artists, despite being chronically under-appreciated during his lifetime as a consequence of apartheid.
A number of themes come powerfully to the fore in Sekoto’s work – one of which is the story of the country boy moving to town during the explosive expansion of South Africa’s gold mining industry in the 20th century. Sekoto’s early life was spent in a remote corner of Mpumalanga, where he was nurtured in a deeply simple environment. As a child, the adult Sekoto recalled, he had a lightbulb moment when he came across a drawing of his father’s illuminated with bright crayons.
So excited did the child become at the thought of making images with colour that, he had to run around the house to ask his father if he, too, could draw with these magical colours. But he was told that the special crayons could not be bought where they lived – so he had to wait until he was older to begin the love affair with colour which makes his works glow and pulse with masterful use of tone, light and shadow.