Paul du Toit


Paul du Toit (1965 – 2014) was a contemporary artist based in Cape Town, South Africa, who at times maintained a studio in New York. His output included painting, sculpture, works on paper and mixed media. He was self-taught and became known for a style of painting that favoured black outlines and thick strokes in vibrant, primary colours. Before becoming an artist in the 1990s he was a computer programmer who applied his knowledge to build a website that gave his work a global reach long before he was nationally known.

Du Toit was much more than just an artist; he was an explorer, an adventurer, and an experimenter. He was also a collector who loved books and music. He was able to transfer the energy of the punk music that so inspired him into his passion for making art. The ethos of punk  was the light that illuminated Du Toit’s path. It made him who he was: independent, non-conformist and someone who did things his way.

Paul created PlanetPaul, a phantasmic space way beyond our milky way, which he populated with colourful, playful and energetic comic strip-like shapes and figures.

At the age of eleven Paul contracted juvenile rheumatoid arthritis which kept him in and out of hospital for three years. He used this time of recuperation to learn how to draw and paint. 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, as did that experience of confinement, which is strongly referenced in his work. 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 to continue making art. That same year he was awarded the prestigious Pollock-Krasner grant.

Ashraf Jamal wrote that Paul du Toit “seemed unencumbered by gravity”, and “celebrated the vim of life above all else”. It is an apt observation because Du Toit lived his life at a blast beat. He was also a very generous individual, who willingly gave his time to numerous charity events, nationally and internationally. He achieved a great deal in a short space of time; his archive is our proof.

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