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Artist Profile

Nel

Biography

Karel Nel was born in 1955, in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa. He studied Fine Art at the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, St Martin's
School of Art, London and the University of California, Berkeley (Fulbright Placement 1988-89). He now lives and works in Johannesburg and is Associate Professor at the School of Arts, University of the Witwatersrand.

Awards, residencies, commissions, exhibitions, curatorial work and publications - national and international - only hint at Nel's concentrated achievements within three active decades. His work may be found in public collections throughout South Africa, including the South African National Gallery, Cape Town, and the Johannesburg, Durban and Pretoria Galleries. In the USA his work is in the National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington DC and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Key private collectors in South Africa the USA, UK and Europe increasingly seek out his work.

Although known as a collector and curator of African traditional and modern artefacts, and with a background training in sculpture, Nel's major artistic output is drawing. Working with pastel and richly coloured pigment on bonded fibre fabric, and also with a range of other materials such as ochre, volcanic glass, sand and 'dust' from significant places around the world, his use of rare materials onto which he applies pigment, has included Baobab bark fibre, bark cloth made from the ficus ficus tree, Pandanus leaves from Micronesia and giant leaves from the Coco de Mer palms of the Seychelles. Often created on a large scale (2 x 3 m), his art is at times rigorously abstract, or sometimes more representational, depicting objects and textiles from his collection, or structures and environments from his extensive travels.

A complex, sophisticated language has emerged which reflects his abiding interest in scientific phenomena and the increasing relationship between art and science. In 1994 a contemporary South African poet, Stephen Watson, wrote cogently of Nel's work: "Of necessity, his art has had to follow the trajectory of an inner journey, trawling amidst the rich multiplicity of the world's cultural traditions, their rites and symbols, searching for that imagery which might connect our conscious lives with the deepest spiritual potential within ourselves".

Solo Exhibitions

2007 Lost light: fugitive images from deep space, Standard Bank Gallery, Johannesburg
2005
In the Presence of Leaves, Art First, London

2004
Leslie Sacks Fine Art, Brentwood, Los Angeles

2003
Status of Dust, Art First, London

2002
Status of Dust, Art First, New York

2000
Volcanic Texts, Art First, London

1999
Solo Journeys, Standard Back Gallery, Johannesburg

1998
Images of Paradise and Death, Leslie Sacks Fine Art, Los Angeles

1996
View on the Inner House, Art First, London

1995
Isles and the Inner House, Leslie Sacks Fine Art, Brentwood, Los Angeles

1994
Inner Province, Art First, London

1990
Recent Work, Standard Bank Gallery, Johannesburg

1986
Quite Lives, Gertrude Posel Gallery, University of Witwatersrand

1983
Recent Drawings and Guest Artist, Johannesburg Art Gallery

1980
Drawings, Olivetti Gallery, Johannesburg

Selected Group Exhibitions

2005
The London Art Fair, Islington

2004 Ten Years of Democracy, South Africa National Gallery, Cape Town
2003-4
Place, Galerie Asbaek, Copenhagen and Kastrupgardsamlingen, Kastrup, Denmark, Touring to Pretoria Art Museum and Oliwenhuis Art Museum, Bloemfontein, South Africa

2001
Art First at 10, Art First, London

2000
The Shachat Art Collection, SASOL Art Museum, Stellenbosch, South Africa

1999
Claiming Art/Reclaiming Space: Post Apartheid Art from South Africa, Smithsonian, Washington DC

Emergence, Standard Bank National Festival of the Arts,, Grahamtown and touring exhibition

1998
Divided City Installation, In Nearer than Bronze Exhibition, Sandton Civic Gallery, Johannesburg, South Africa

1997
Art '97, The London Contemporary Art Fair with Art First

1996
Art '96, The London Contemporary Art Fair with Art First

Three Years On, Art First, London

'Insights', Wright Gallery, New York

'Vita Art Today', Johannesburg Art Gallery

1995
Terminos Installation, Johannesburg Art Gallery for the Johannesburg Biennale

Common and Uncommon Ground, South African Art to Atlanta, City Gallery East, Atlanta, Georgia, USA

'Art '95', The London Contemporary Art Fair with Art First

1994
'Art '94', The London Contemporary Art Fair with Art First

'Artists Under the Southern Cross', Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam

Giholte-Baard-Breda Fonden, Copenhagen, with Doris Bloom and Marlene Dumas

1993
Resident Artist, Standard Bank National Festival of the Arts, Grahamstown

'Art '93', The London Contemporary Art Fair, Islington

'Affinities', Contemporary South African Art, Venice Biennale (and Rome)

1992
Institute of Contemporary Art, Johannesburg

'Art Meets Science', Grahamstown Festival of the Arts

1991
University Art Museum, University of California, Berkeley

Three South African Artists: A Contemplative View, Midlands Contemporary Art, Birmingham

1988
Cape Town Triennial

Fort Worth Ryder Gallery, University of California (prizewinner)

1987
'Vita Art Now', Johannesburg Art Gallery

National Drawing Competition Exhibition, Standard Bank National Festival of the Arts, Grahamstown

Valparaiso Biennale, Chile

Tapestries , Linda Goodman Gallery, and tour to South Africa National Gallery

1986
'Selections From a Century', Johannesburg Art Gallery

1985
'Tributaries A View of Contemporary South African Art , BMW Exhibition, touring Germany and Europe

Cape Town Triennial

Paperworks Group Show (prizewinner

1983
Tatham Gallery, Pietermaritzburg Association of Arts, Natal

1982
Cape Town Triennial (Gold Medallist)

1980
Durban Arts '80

'Young Artists', Olivetti Gallery

'Sculpture '80', University of Pretoria

1977
University of Witwatersrand

Commissions

2004
Oval Carpet, South Africa House, London

1999
ABSA, Johannesburg, Place of Nurture (Entrance Mural)

1997
B/M/D Headquarters, Cape Town, Signs of Fire (Drawings)

1996
The Way of Stone, Reunion, Indian Ocean

1995
Four ‘Core Tapestries’ for the Mining Group Gencor, Johannesburg

1992
Grahamstown Festival of the Arts: Three Lithographs

1988
Anglo Vaal: Panel

African Oxygen: Tapestry for new Hospital Complex

1986
Johannesburg Art Gallery: ‘Intact’ - Graphic

1984
Anglo American: ‘Trance Atlantic’ - Drawing

Sandt Du Plessis Theatre, Bloemfontein: ‘Inner Dance’ - Drawing

Awards

2004 Brett Kibbel Award
2003
Residency, Louisiana Museum, Copenhagen

1991
The Old Mutual Vita Award: Overall Winner

The Simpson Fellowship, University of California, Berkeley

1989
Art Gallery Founders Prize of the University of California, Berkley

1987
Fulbright Placement (University of California, Berkley)

University Council Fellowship (University of the Witwatersrand)

1986
The Volkskas Atelier Award (and 1987,1988)

1982
Olivetti Travel Grant

1981
Almaks Prize

1979
Montagu White Travel Grant

1978
Montagu White Bursary

Afrox Prize: Open Category

1977
Afrox Metal Art Sculpture Annual Competition (Student Award)