ART FIRST PROJECTS
8 October - 15 November, 2014
Louis Maqhubela was born 75 years ago in Durban, South Africa. His life under apartheid, against many odds, reached a moment of triumph when in 1967 he was hailed as the first black painter of distinction, winning first prize in the national Artists of Fame and Promise exhibition in the Adler Fielding Gallery. A bursary to Europe, further awards and successful exhibitions resulted in his eventual departure for London, where he has lived in voluntary exile since 1976.
This veteran South African painter blazed a trail, breaking away from the conventions of ‘township art’, to form a personal engagement with modernist abstraction. He developed a distinctive artistic language of his own – lyrical, spiritual and intensely expressive.
Several return trips to a newly democratic South Africa after 1994, and for his landmark retrospective exhibition in 2010, have had a powerful effect on Maqhubela. Formal references to Ndbele wall painting or to Zulu earplugs and youthful memories of rural and urban life, have re-entered his visual language, to great effect. There is evidence of this in recent works, such as the large canvas, Ostrich Dance, though the profound humanism and inner joy of his purely abstract painting remains a distinguishing feature.