João Ferreira

Michael Pettit

08 Oct - 01 Nov 2008

© Michael Pettit
The sleeping shore, 2003
Oil on canvas
115 X 125 cm
two exhibitions

João Ferreira Gallery
8 October - 1 November 2008

AVA Gallery, 35 Church Street
6 - 24 October 2008

Michael Pettit's ambitiously broad range has long been a hallmark of his work, and these two contrasting parallel exhibitions take this journeying further, deepening the game.

Pettit's paintings at the AVA Gallery explore images and archetypes of theatre, opera, clown and magician. These characters are like traveling players, artists who creatively transform the absurdity, pain and brevity of life into wit, invention and transcendence. Sacred play, surreal leaps and poetic conjunctions abound. The Clown is an existential philosopher, an outsider who with invention and inversion can cut through our veneer. The Magician, an alchemist, changes straw to gold.

Opening two days later, the João Ferreira Gallery will show lyrical abstracts, a contrast with the image dense paintings at the AVA . Pettit's work has always been richly figurative, so his recent exploration of abstraction is an intriguing new departure. These large mysterious works are rich in paint and process, their shifting worlds, rhapsodic and timeless. They suggest the elemental processes of becoming and dissolving, the linked forces of life and death. This realm is both micro and macrocosm, sublime and intimate. These are contemplative works for the gaze, the senses, mind and spirit . They still the busy world.


Michael Pettit, an established professional artist, has exhibited widely over many years, receiving extensive recognition. Numerous major public, university and corporate collections include his distinctive paintings. Private collectors worldwide continue to acquire his work. His academic background provides an intellectual base to fully developed intuitive works of art.

Since his last solo exhibition in Cape Town Pettit has exhibited at the Art London fair in the UK.


Michael Pettit's work has always evaded neat categorization. An individual authentic voice, he has had the strength of purpose to sustain a vision that eludes simple branding or fashion. In fact, multiplicity, shifting identities and relative truths are at the heart of his endeavour.

The core themes of his work are serious and enduring ones, ever present under its ever changing nature. Recurring images and motifs, signs and symbols are transformed and renewed, and they network and reverberate from picture to picture across the years, gaining meaning and resonance as they do so.

Pettit's assured technical and conceptual skills give him a huge choice of idiom to draw on. His content is distilled, each work unique.

"People have often remarked that I seem to be able to fully assimilate very contrasting styles and idioms, make each my own, and produce a work that is its own distinct integrated world. I am beguiled by the "game" that's set and which evolves for each picture, and the challenge is to play it out with thoroughness."

In paintings that are unafraid of beauty or darkness, Michael Pettit aims to integrate sensation, feeling and concept into resolved dynamic works of art that are both personal and universal.