The initiation processes we experience throughout life are normally etched in our memory as milestones: sometimes pleasant, sometimes painful.
Like pieces in a puzzle, Meyer highlights specific initiation processes and rituals in the lives of young boys and men which find expression later on in life: life on the playground, military service or simple acceptance within a new circle of friends. It is a process that is both welcoming and unsettling in its departure from comfort zones.
In contrast to the notion of transitional processes as a necessary part of life, Meyer’s body of work highlights the tension between youthful innocence – individuality even – and the brutal transition towards a uniform group identity. One cannot help but lament the loss of innocence that is suffered during each ritual; like youthful feet being forced into rigid wooden clogs to impose uniformity.
Meyer’s work is however not entirely a tale of social suppression. He sits comfortably with the fact that individuals form part of groups, and that transitional phases such as “religious christening and catechism, the shaping of a toddler to become a scholar, the initiation of a child into adulthood, first sexual encounters, marriage, even student initiations all signify processes towards membership of a new subculture, gang, group or organization”.
Meyer’s new offering is further characterized by an interesting and significant shift in form. After years of exploring patterns and abstraction, he recently changed direction in pursuit of small monotone and almost photorealistic figure studies. Doop/Initiation seems to mark Meyer’s gradual movement towards a happy medium between these two poles; as is evident in his sparse but expressive and fearless use of paint, his opting for bigger canvasses and the use of largely non-local hues for visual impact. Detail is minimal, backgrounds dissolve into blurred layers of colour without compromising the photographic character of the immediately recognizable but hard to distinguish figures and compositions, which are little more than hazy shapes and features; an approach that works well with Meyer’s focus on loss of individuality.
Meyer’s play between detail and simplicity, brush stroke and camera lens colours his works – which often draw inspiration from photographic images from a bygone era – with a strong contemporary character. The use of these images as key reference is reminiscent of the visual language of the contemporary art produced by the so-called Cluj school of Romania; a movement which has been exhilarating the art world since the late eighties. He attributes his inspiration to contemporary Cluj heavyweight Adrian Ghenie but does not fail to mention the influence of Norwegian master Edvard Munch (1863-1944), who had to endure years’ of criticism about his work appearing incomplete at a time when it was not yet considered the viewer’s responsibility to complete a painting with his own story.
Currently resident in Porterville, his works are often mounted at exhibitions throughout the country and form part of the collections of Hollard, Rand Merchant Bank, Sasol and Didata amongst others.
In my mid-forties I noticed how the way in which I saw myself, my life and the world was changing. The resources which I had access to for most of my life, like optimism, enthusiasm, energy/health/strength etc, were no longer available on demand. I became very aware of my own mortality.
Although I had been studying eastern philosophy for a number of years, it became an even more important aspect of my life. In a Zen monastery in upstate New York I learnt how to use mark-making (art) as a valuable tool for self-investigation and contemplation. My work naturally changed from figurative to abstract as I became more interested in serialization and process rather than form.
The Mystery remains, but I have learnt a lot about my own consciousness over the past few years. I have a clearer understanding of how we create our personal ideology and how either limiting or enlightening that worldview can be.
A trip to Australia in 2009 and an encounter with aboriginal artists and their work convinced me to move back to the Karoo, after living in a Buddhist Hermitage for three years. The Karoo region of Southern Africa is one of the richest archaeological areas of the world. I have since become fascinated by the relationship that exists between landscape and humans; how each impacts on the other; how geology and paleontology can illuminate the mysteries of human evolution.
Art, in my opinion is a very effective vehicle for expression, narration, social commentary etc., but cannot dictate a given meaning. Meaning comes primarily through personal effort, involvement and experience. However, in an increasingly conceptual world, I feel that the mere act of seeing and looking can inspire an internal response that can have a profound effect on the viewer. I feel this when I see earth patterns and fractals taken from outer space, images under a microscope, the mosaics of the Alhambra, stone gardens of Japan, Rothko’s Seagram works….
After studying social work at the University of the Orange Free State, J P Meyer enrolled at the Foundation School of Art in Cape Town, where he obtained a Diploma in Fine Art in the late 1990’s. His earlier work was in the realist tradition, but, after extensive travels in India, Sri Lanka and Nepal, his work shifted to embrace the aesthetics of abstraction.
He is primarily concerned with the ritual of mark-making and the relationship between consciousness and the creative process. He is engrossed with the omnipresence of patterns, cycles, fractals and repetition in the natural world, and within his own person and within his own persona.
The floating grids and undulating thin parallel lines on the surface of his work are not what they seem: the underlying colour on which blocks and broad lines have been superimposed, creates this optical effect.
Consequently, each work is a labour-intensive and meditative process of patiently painting the small squares or bands of colour over a foundation colour to achieve a grid in reverse, or the negative of parallel lines. His work is a contemporary interpretation on the many variants of abstraction and Op-Art of the 1950s and 1960s that also focused on the medium and the making of art, rather than on naturalistic imagery.
2017 : Wrong Archive, Alex Hamilton Studio Gallery, Cape Town
2016 : Doop / Initiate, Woordfees, Stellenbosch
2014 : Simulacrum, Breytenbach Gallery, Wellington
2010 : Exchange, Prince Albert Gallery, Prince Albert
2008 : Constant movement, Artspace@Granitas, Pretoria
2006 : Repetition, Cultivaria, Paarl
2003 : Reflection, AVA, Cape Town
2017 : Up Your Sleave, Mok Gallery, Stellenbosch
2013 : SOIL, Grande Provence, Franschhoek with Katie Barnard-du Toit,
: Anthony Shapiro and Gregor Rohrig.
2005 : Stukkies, Artspace, JHB with Varenka Pascke and Cobus van Bosch
2004 : Drie Skilders, KKNK, Oudtshoorn with Adriaan van Zyl and Philip Badenhorst
2003 : Twee Skilders, KKNK, Oudtshoorn with Adriaan van Zyl
Selected Group Exhibitions
2018 : The Universe Next Door, Rossouw Modern, Hermanus
2018 : Kennis, Woordfees, Stellenbosch
2017 : Cruel Cruel Summer, Gallery @ Glen Carlou, Stellenbosch
2017 : Dead and Dreaming (Still life), Priest Gallery, Johannesburg
2017 : Bolero, Eos Gallery, Athens, Greece
2017 : Instrumente van Vrede, Breytenbach Gallery, Wellington
2017 : To see the forest for the trees, US Museum, Stellenbosch
2016 : Fear & Loss : Industrial Karoo, Khazimla, De Aar
2016 : Vernissage, MOOR Gallery, Franschhoek
2016 : The Salon, A.V.A., Cape Town
2016 : The Promise of Now, Gallery @ Glen Carlou, Stellenbosch
2015 : Daaglikse Dosis, Clover Aardklop, Potchefstroom
2015 : Alfabeter, Woordfees, Stellenbosch
2015 : Industrial Karoo : Fear + Loss, Pretoria Art Museum, Pretoria
2014 : Burger 100 Year Exhibition, Artscape, Cape Town
2014 : Industrial Karoo : Fear + Loss, Oliewenhuis Museum, Bloemfontein
2013/14 : Panorama, D-Street Gallery, Stellenbosch
2013 : Moleskin Art + Design Project, KKNK, Oudtshoorn
2013 : Velvet, KKNK, Oudtshoorn
2012 : I am an African, Grande Provence, Franschhoek
2011 : New Identity, Grande Provence, Franschhoek
2010 : Current Matters, Grande Provance, Franschhoek
2005 : Finding You, AVA, Cape Town
2004 : Brett Kebble Awards Exhibition, CTICC, Cape Town
2004 : Sasol New Signatures, PTA Art Gallery, Pretoria
2003 : Brett Kebble Awards Exhibition, CTICC, Cape Town
2003 : Krisp, Art.B, Bellville
Rand Merchant Bank