JOHN MEYER

(b. 1942, Bloemfontein, South Africa)

BIOGRAPHY

John Meyer studied at the Johannesburg Technical College School of Art before joining an advertising agency. In 1967, Meyer settled in London, where he carried on his studies in art while working as a freelance illustrator.

Meyer is regarded as the leading figure in the realist movement in southern Africa. Decidedly contemporary in his unique vision and as a student of modernism in all its guises, Meyer has maintained a considered commitment to representational painting. Concerned with the complexities of visual perception and their solutions, his paintings are not mere representations of existing places and things, but exist as indelible retrospection, like total recall.

Meyer describes his paintings as being ‘made.’ Each layer of tension or emotion is built up over a mental and physical process, creating a credible, charged and tangible event in each of his paintings. He presents us with strikingly real illusions, all distinctly familiar, yet ultimately invented. They are imagined archetypes rather than specific events. His most recent narrative genre, exploring the complex currents of human relationships, captivates his viewers. Few other artists inspire such commentary. Rarely are interpretations the same. Everyone has their own judgement and somehow the relationships continue to change with every inspection or even passing glance. There is fluidity, an evolving drama, a very real atmosphere.

He later developed these into a series of separate but related views of the same reaction. These ‘Sequential Narratives’ explore the nature of intimacy between men and women. The series reflects his interest in compositional interaction rather than conventional realism and displays his traditional visual hallmark – a tight theatrical control of the painted surface. Meyer is a master of staging, plot and lighting and there is a quality to the paintwork that reinforces the themes of emotional ambiguity between the protagonists in the paintings.

Building on this process, in recent years Meyer has concentrated on several series, his own take on celebrated lives and historic events.

He completed a body of fifteen works set during the Anglo Boer War, titled Lost in the Dust. The exhibition offered an intimate and compelling look at how war affects the lives of those swept up in it. The paintings are not historical, but a collection of completely fictitious, imaginative narratives, woven into a multi-layered realm that deals with the tragedy of war. The collection combines Meyer’s talents for landscape and narrative in a unique body of works.

The entire collection, owned by one collector, was exhibited in Cape Town and Johannesburg in 2015. Thereafter it toured the United Kingdom, where it was shown at Bonhams in London and in Edinburgh at the festival.

Lost In the Dust was followed by a collection of sixteen works on the life of Nelson Mandela titled Mandela, a Life’s Journey. Being such a celebrated life, Meyer avoided the obvious, and showed us what might have happened behind the scenes, from his childhood and as a young man, before he became the icon we all came to know. With the collaboration of the Nelson Mandela Foundation and the private collector who owns the entire series, the collection will start its world tour in Melbourne Australia in September 2018 and continue across the globe for the next five years, from the US to the UK, Europe and beyond.

More recently, and in a similar vein, Meyer has completed a collection of eleven paintings on the remarkable life of queen Elizabeth II tiled, Elizabeth, A Sovereign’s Journey. It explores her life from childhood to Sovereign and beyond, focusing on her love of country, family, corgis and horses. The collection was exhibited at a private opening at the Saatchi Gallery in London in May 2018. Future plans for the series will be announced in 2019 by the private collector.

Also recently completed is a series of fifteen large works titled Migrations, exploring the journeys of the various migrating peoples and immigrants that created the South African nation.

Currently Meyer is working on a new series with the intention on bringing increased awareness to the crisis looming for our planet. The works will highlight the glorious places under threat.

ARTIST’S STATEMENT

‘One could say I’m obsessed with the magical properties of paint, with the process that allows for and unlocks the magic. It all depends on where you direct your energy.
‘Generally, because one’s not witness to the private process of an artist’s creativity, we are not party to the experimental nuances and resulting struggle in the painting process, and that prevents us from completely understanding the artist’s intent. If we accept that we see the world around us in various tones, shapes and patches of colour, rather than their defining contours, we realise that a single brushstroke can be anything it may suggest to us. The complex layering of painterly tones, placed in apparently random order, creates the stage for a personal search. Here I indulge my need to escape from an increasingly intrusive world.’

SELECTED SOLO EXHIBITIONS

2018
Elizabeth, a sovereign’s journey, Saatchi Gallery, London
Inaugural exhibition of world tour for the series Mandela, a life’s journey, Melbourne, Australia

2016
Dedicated booth, Seattle Art Fair

2015
Lost in the Dust, Bonhams Auction House, Edinburgh, United Kingdom

2014
Lost in the Dust, Everard Read, Cape Town & Johannesburg, South Africa

2013
My Country, Everard Read, Cape Town & Johannesburg, South Africa

2011
An Evening with John Meyer, Everard Read Cape Town, South Africa
New Works, OK Harris, New York, USA

2010
John Meyer – Paintings, O.K. Harris, New York, USA

2009
Museum Schloss Gottorf, Germany
Involuntary Consequences, Albemarle Gallery, London, United Kingdom
Karoo Revisited, The Everard Read Gallery, Johannesburg, South Africa

2008
Conduct and Expectations, Galerie Brusberg, Berlin, Germany

2007
Truths Revealed, Everard Read, Cape Town & Johannesburg, South Africa
Distant Lives, Albemarle Gallery, London, United Kingdom

2005
New Work, Everard Read Gallery, Cape Town, South Africa

BIBLIOGRAPHY

BOOKS

Lost in the Dust / Verlore in Stof, Everard Read Gallery

John Meyer, A Retrospective 1972 – 2012, Everard Read Gallery

Art & Artists of South Africa, Esme Berman (AA Balkema)

Painting in South Africa, Esme Berman (Southern Books)

Artspeak, Robert Atkins (Abbeyville Press, New York)

John Meyer, Brett Hilton-Barber (Prime Origins)

John Meyer Sequential Narratives, Brett Hilton-Barber (Prime Origins)

 

CATALOGUES

John Meyer in Retrospect (Everard Read Gallery 1983)

Drawn From Nature (Stremmel Gallery 1990)

Eiteljorg Invitational 2 (Exhibition 1991)

John Meyer Recent Paintings (Everard Read Gallery 1991)

John Meyer (Everard Read Gallery 1996)

John Meyer Sequential Narratives (Everard Read Cape Town 2005)

Distant Lives, John Meyer (Albemarle Gallery 2007)

Truths Revealed, John Meyer (Everard Read 2007)

Karoo Revisited, John Meyer (Everard Read 2009)

SELECTED GROUP EXHIBITIONS

2015
Cape Town Art Fair, Everard Read Gallery Booth , Cape Town, South Africa
EMPIRE, Everard Read, Cape Town, South Africa

2014
Summer Season, Everard Read, Cape Town, South Africa

2013
4100, Everard Read, Cape Town, South Africa

2012
Winter Show, Everard Read, Cape Town, South Africa

2011
Everard Read, Cape Town 15th Anniversary Exhibition, Cape Town, South Africa
Horse, curated by Ricky Burnett, Everard Read, Johannesburg, South Africa

2010
View from the South, Everard Read, Cape Town, South Africa
Summer 10, Everard Read, Cape Town, South Africa

2009
The City, Everard Read, Cape Town, South Africa
Summer 09, Everard Read, Cape Town, South Africa

2008
Summer 08, Everard Read, Cape Town, South Africa
Group Show, Everard Read Gallery, Johannesburg, South Africa

 

AWARDS, SCHOLARSHIPS AND RESIDENCIES

2009
Contemporary Artist Award from the German Museum Schloss Gottorf , Germany.

COLLECTORS

Anglo American Corp., Johannesburg

ARA Services, Philadelphia

Barlow Rand, Johannesburg

Cargill Incorporated, Minneapolis

Certified Collated Corporation, Chicago

Deloitte, Haskins and Sells, New York

De Beers, Johannesburg

E F Hutton, New York

ExxonMobil, Dallas

Lehman Brothers, New York

Lloyds, London

Mass Financial, Boston

Mid-Atlantic Bank, New Jersey

Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund, Cape Town

NYNEX, Westchester, New York

Pacific Bell, California

Porsche Cars North America

Sack Properties, San Francisco

Sanlam, Cape Town

Sasol, Johannesburg

Standard Bank, Johannesburg

State Mutual Assurance Co. America, Denver

Steinway & Sons, New York

US West, Denver