Sculptures by Paul du Toit & Bruce Arnott

Paul du Toit Zanzibar installation view. (2022)

PAUL DU TOIT (1965 – 2014) was a contemporary artist based in Cape Town, South Africa who at times also maintained a studio in New York. He was self-taught, and became known for a style of painting which favoured black outlines and thick strokes of paint in vibrant, primary colours. Before becoming an artist in the 1990s, he was a computer programmer. He build himself a website which gave his art a global reach long before he was nationally known.

At the age of eleven he contracted juvenile rheumatoid arthritis that kept him in and out of hospital for three years. He learned to draw and paint during that time. He sculpted with the wax that was used in his treatment. His aunt brought him books on Miró and Picasso; these artists remained influential throughout his career. Confinement is strongly referenced in his work. Sanford Shaman (2006) notes that it was only after Du Toit’s Zanzibar series of sculptures, produced in 2002, that his painted figures appeared less confined within their painted frames.

He was an explorer, an adventurer, and an experimenter. A generous individual who willingly gave his time and participated in charity events, both nationally and internationally. He was a collector who loved books and music. Punk music was the light that illuminated his path. It made him who he was: independent, non-conformist and someone who did things his way. He created PlanetPaul, a phantasmic space way beyond our milky way, which he populated with colourful, playful and energetic comic strip-like shapes and figures. As Tim Leibbrandt (2016) notes, Du Toit was able to transfer the energy of the punk music that so inspired him into his passion for making art. 

While at a hospital in Tijuana, Mexico in 2012/2013, Du Toit describes in his diary how a session of hydrotherapy ignited an idea for new works. Despite a weakening physical body, he could not wait to get back into his studio. In 2013 he was awarded the prestigious Pollock-Krasner Grant and produced his final body of work. Ashraf Jamal (2016:11) writes that Du Toit ‘seemed unencumbered by gravity’ and unlike any other South African artist, he ‘celebrated the vim of life above all else’. It is so spot on. Du Toit loved living and at a blast beat. He achieved a great deal in a short time – his archive is the proof.

References: Jamal, A. (ed). 2016. Paul. Cape Town: PlanetPaul.

BRUCE ARNOTT (15 September 1938 – 19 July 2018) was a South African sculptor who mainly worked in cast bronze. His importance as an artist, his roles as educator, scholar and curator, and his own creative work, especially sculpture in South Africa, was, and is huge.

Arnott completed an MA in Fine Art at the Michaelis School of Art. He then worked at the South African National Gallery in Cape Town. He went on to research the influence of Western Central African sculpture on western art at the London University’s Courtauld Institute of Art (1964 – 1965). In 1970 he became the assistant director of SANG. He introduced African art in the gallery’s programme with exhibitions such as African Art in Metal (1970). In 1978 he joined the teaching staff at Michaelis School of Art and established the school’s bronze foundry. He retired from the school in 2003.

Read more about Bruce Arnott

Bruce Arnott installation. (2022)