The art of ideas

The debates and ideas that capture Hylton Nel's imagination all manifest in his work in some way.

South African artist and potter Hylton Nel’s work has strong references to life in South Africa. The ideas that interest Nel range from art, literature and politics to everything in between, and take on a new meaning when visualised as an African figure on a clay vase or erotic painting on a Greek vase.

A Curious World is a retrospective of Nel's work. In marking the occasion of his 70th birthday, it celebrates his ceramics while also providing some insight into the curiosities that have inspired his vast collection of work over the years.

The book, edited by Michael Stevenson and published by Jacana, has an almost journal-like look and feel to it. Alongside photographs of Nel’s work there are musings taken from the journals he kept over the years, and extracts from letters written to friends. The thoughts and ideas expressed in these writings are often indicative of the creative process or simply of the journey of life. A Curious World can also be described as a memoir of sorts, with photographs of Nel’s studio, his pets and garden.

Nel's distinct style makes his work instantly recognisable, with his imagery ranging from cats to angels, penises and mythical-like creatures. This book is a must for the collection of anybody that appreciates South African creativity, with a twist.