Like diary entries, this group of still lives by Jan du Toit (b. 1974), is impressions of fleeting moments. Expressions of the frame of mind and feelings of the artist at a very specific time and place. By painting interiors with treasured objects on glass sheets, Du Toit, wishes to emphasise the uncertain and temporary nature of the material lives and lifestyles of South Africans at this point in time.

Born and raised on the family farm in Tulbagh, Du Toit has been calling Cape Town home since 2007. A telling choice, for just as the cosmopolitan nature of the Mother City has seen the development of an interesting aesthetic in the city itself, the artist’s own identity and aesthetics are the result of a variety of different, often contrasting, facets.

Even as a young boy Du Toit loved history and beautiful things. He bought his first two ceramic vases made by Daan Verwey when he was only 12 years old. What started with the two Verwey vases, over the years grew to become a choice, much loved, collection of diverse art objects that fills his home.

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What intrigues Du Toit even more than the physical objects themselves, are the stories they can, and do tell, and herein lies his fascination with the still life genre. By grouping together objects he has gathered from all around the world, he is creating new relationships and opening up possibilities for the creation of new meaning – an inclination cultivated under the influence of the artists, Christo and Ferrie Coetzee, as well as the writer, Hennie Aucamp. For Du Toit there is no one viewpoint that trumps all others, but viewers are invited to draw on their personal memories and associations to make sense of his artworks, each in their own unique way.

Although the artworks can be described as intimate and rich, with almost tactile qualities, they do have a somewhat uncomfortable, reserved air about them. Du Toit’s use of bold, divergent colours, inspired by the brightly painted Bo-Kaap houses, further contributes to this slightly unnerving atmosphere. Very much self aware, the still lives can almost be interpreted as portraits, but portraits of whom? Portraits of objects? Portraits of portraits? Or maybe self-portraits of the artist? Watching ones own reflection looking back at you complicates matters even further.

The medium thus forms an integral part of the message, with the fragility of the glass contributing to the uncomfortable tension that underlies these artworks. Using the reverse painting technique, Du Toit paints onto one side of a sheet of glass, while the final artwork would be viewed from the other side, through the glass. In direct contrast to painting on canvas, one starts with the details and highlights, and then fills in the middle ground, shadows and contours, with the background being added last. This technique dates from the Middle Ages, although Du Toit first encountered it through the work of Christo Coetzee who experimented with this in the late 1970’s.

Du Toit has been trying his hand at reverse painting on glass since 2003, but has only recently taken to working in the medium more earnestly. Finding that his style of ‘drawing with a paintbrush’ is well-matched with this technique, he is enjoying the creation of these artworks very much: “Ek het nog nooit so lekker geverf nie.” Even so, the process is intense and reminds him a lot of printmaking. You have to work methodically and yet, despite all the planning, this artmaking process is by its nature spontaneous, the technique resulting in all kinds of surprises.

Du Toit studied under Barbara Pitt & Johann Louw and completed a four-year course at the Foundation School of Art, Cape Town (1998). He was awarded the Paddy Ward bursary of Cambridge, UK, for three years running. After living in London for two years and traveling in Mexico, Peru, Paris and Florence, Du Toit returned to Tulbagh in 2003, settling in Cape Town in 2007. He has participated in numerous group exhibitions and nine solo exhibitions in South Africa and the United Kingdom.

Artworks of Du Toit are included in private collections in Canada, France, Mexico, Switzerland, Sweden, South Africa, the United Kingdom and the United States, as well as the corporate collections of Nando's UK, the Constitutional Court, Braamfontein, the Spier Art Collection and the collection of the Western Cape Provincial Government.


1995 - 4 year course at the Foundation School of Art

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Artworks of Du Toit are included in private collections in: