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Indepth Arts News:

"Karel Nel: Unfathomable Depths"
2004-10-16 until 2004-11-06
Leslie Sacks Fine Art
Los Angeles, CA, USA United States of America

Karel Nel is one of the most consistently laureated South African artists of his generation. Based in Johannesburg, he is a Professor of Fine Arts at the University of Witwatersrand. As a former Fulbright Scholar to the University of California Berkley, he spent his time investigating the links between art and science. Nel has won numerous national and international awards, commissions and residencies. His work can be found in every museum and public collection in South Africa and, in 1999, a major work was acquired by the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art in Washington D.C. The Metropolitan Museum of Arts purchased a work in 2002.

He has also worked on curatorial projects associated with the early traditional art from southern Africa with Musee del Homme in Paris, the Metropolitan Museum of Artís Michael Rockefeller Wing and is currently involved on a long-term project with the British Museum involving their early Zulu holdings, dating back to the British-Zulu wars.

Karel Nel was born in South Africa in 1955 during incredibly divisive times. But the one single feature that best describes Nelís creative vision is connectedness. This connectedness encapsulates Nelís distinctive appreciation of the inseparability of sensory and metaphysical experience, the interdependence of humanity and nature, and the continuity of past and present, the here and the there. Nelís recent works, made from saturated color pigments, earth, dust and volcanic dust, particularly focuses on the use of site-specific pigments and our ability, in this forensic age, to be able to pinpoint their origins with uncanny accuracy. There is therefore a tension conceptually in his work between information that can be gleaned from visible clues and the knowledge, though invisible, that is present.

Nelís work entitled CULTURAL GROUND is made of earth collected from Central Park in New York, Hyde Park in London, and Joubert Park in Johannesburg. These samples of earth may look the same, yet by scientific analysis we are able to differentiate exactly where in the world they come from. These parks also represent the remnant of landscape isolated within the high rise and urban sprawl of these major cities. These sites too are cultural points reflecting the specificity of intellectual and creative endeavors of each nation.

CULTURAL GROUND also maps and reflects Nelís nomadic existence in that he divides his time between remote regions and highly urban ones in pursuit of his interest in sacred art. His particular fascination is with how the values of a society are so clearly reflected in its cultural production. And though attuned to his Western cultural ancestry, Nel also looks with care at the great traditions of African, Eastern and Pacific art and their particular means of representing those dimensions of perceived reality, embracing and transcending the objective world of sensory perception. Similarly, his encounters with contemporary theories of physics, under the tutelage of leading US scientists at Berkeley, have reinforced his own intuitive appreciation of the elasticity of space and time and the ceaseless dynamism of light and matter. Nel is on the threshold of working on a major three-year project with thirty of the worldís top radio-astronomers as they map two square degrees of the universe using Hubble and an array of land-based telescopes worldwide.

Karel Nel is deeply interested in how both science and art have questioned the nature of reality, each in their own way. He is fascinated by the fact that humans have developed technologies that enable us as a species to look as deeply into the complexities of matter as we look outwards into the far reaches of deep space. Nelís compositions may incorporate objective imagery, yet his art is not about material identity, visual appearance or purely abstract forms. Instead they illuminate a moment of intensely focused consciousness, in which past and present, inner and outer vision, physical and metaphysical reality are fused in an interrogative or meditative mode of visual thinking .

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