The Studio, 2005. belongs to Leigh

Jun 27 – Jul 20, 2019

Forty-eight years ago, my father, Everard Read and Gallery Director Ian Keogan introduced a new signature to the South African Art World – Harold Voigt.

A “new artist” in those days at Everard Read was a rare event and so inevitably there was intense interest in the first showing of Harry Voigt’s paintings.  The result of that first exhibition was a rapid sell-out.  Collectors loved the ethereal somewhat deconstructed landscapes which hinted at animal life, geology, plant forms and now and then perhaps a whiff of ancient humankind.  “Subject” I believe was always merely the coat hanger around which Harry’s delicious paint would be draped.  The “point” of his art is the paint not the subject.  The early landscapes dissolved into abstracts gently pulsing with light and colour.  Hard gritty surfaces emerged and then came the intimate interiors almost always referring to a familiar chair, quiet corner or doorway in Leigh and Harry’s home.  Always the landscapes have hovered on the edge being returned to time and again over the years.  What has never changed however from the first oils I saw is the unique Voigt painterly touch.  A fortuitous blend of a very rare intuitive painting skill and lots of time combine to produce some of the most simply gorgeous works of art that have been painted in our country.  I believe Harry’s paintings demand a close look as only then upon inspection of the paint and surface qualities does the sheer virtuosity and sincerity of the artist become apparent.  It also becomes obvious why Harold Voigt is one of the most respected South African painters of our era. 

Harry Voigt is a measured painter.  For decades he has immersed himself in a studio redolent with subtle aromas emanating from jars of beeswax, linseed oils and various colour drenched powders that all contribute to Voigt’s personal paint recipes that have evolved over decades.  The alchemist painter smears and massages this almost edible mixture onto the surface of the finest Belgium flax.  Inexorably images emerge and then mostly flicker out again as very few passages of paint survive the rigours of Voigt’s creative process.  Even a slow painter will create a large body of work over 48 years.  During that time perhaps twice a decade our gallery has hosted “Harold Voigt – recent work”.  What a magnificent and profoundly successful series of one person exhibitions they have been.  Each collection tracking the evolving eye and intellect of the artist.  Voigt has been fundamentally important to Everard Read not only because his work has been much sought after by collectors.  Just as importantly I believe is that Harry’s extraordinary painting skills and his steadfast refusal, dare I say disinterest in retreating from a lifelong search for artistic excellence in the face of an art world full of mediocrity has always been strongly aligned with what at its best Everard Read has stood for.  Certainly, working closely with Harry has been fundamental to my personal growth as a dealer.

Not one painting has ever emerged from Voigt’s studio that has escaped being fully interrogated over a long period by an artist with the meanest of spirit towards his own work.  Those that do survive this process have all graced the walls of Everard Read.  All have sold and become immersed in corporate and private collections both in South Africa and internationally with very few re-emerging onto the market.  This is obviously a pity for those who relish viewing truly fine painting.  Everard Read therefore decided to organize a retrospective of Harold Voigt’s paintings to celebrate his 80th year on this lovely planet and 48 brilliant years with the gallery.  We at Everard Read take profound pleasure in hosting this unique collection of major paintings on loan from private collections.  Our heartfelt thanks go to the collectors who agreed to make their paintings available.

There will be a small number of recent works from the artist’s studio available for sale.

Mark Read