Walter Meyer (1965 - 2017)

The landscape – being continuously transformed by nature or human activity - has many faces, and many stories to tell. As the arena of life, it is a collection of innumerable tracks, a document of past and present occurrences from which we can often read what the future may hold. As we inhabit and transform the landscape, the terrain and its elements also impact on us – physically and emotionally. This interplay of forces has a major influence on the identity and condition of both the landscape and the people who inhabit it.

Although this is quite obvious, it does hold the key to why Walter Meyer’s paintings of the Southern African landscape so often leave a haunting and memorable impression on us.

On a technical level, his loaded brush, saturated colours and dramatic interplay of deep shadows and brilliant, shimmering light, do enough to elevate his painting well above those of many other accomplished painters. This allows him to render virtually any landscape into a beautiful and visually soothing vista.

But it is exactly here where the sting lies, because Meyer’s subject matter – especially its psychological subtexts – is a different story altogether. When he casually says he merely paints what visually strikes him, he is actually being very specific about it. And this in particular gives his art, although rooted in the centuries-old traditions of oil painting, a contemporary edge.

Instead of depicting beautiful and serene scenes – as so many decorative artists do - Meyer has become known for expressing at best the mundane and at worst the less desirable side of reality. He currently focuses particularly on the harsh semi-desert that constitutes most of the South African platteland – the Karoo and the Kalahari.

Meyer’s paintings speak little of the rural world as an exotic holiday destination where time stands still and life is free, easy and uncomplicated. Instead, through his eyes the remote countryside is for most part dotted with empty and lonely places. Here the relatively few human inhabitants are seldom seen, and very little seems to happen. But signs of human drama – of physical and mental struggle, shattered dreams and often complete failure in a virtually hostile landscape – are everywhere: in derelict old houses and bare and neglected backyards, rusted cars, empty town streets and deserted Kalahari plains where the struggle to survive is seen in the crumpled shapes of dry trees and shrubs.

These paintings grip the viewer on many levels. The glorifying effect of Meyer’s exceptional (however still traditional) brushwork versus his uncompromising and realistic depiction of mundane, sometimes sad and often melancholy contemporary rural landscapes already create a strong tension in his paintings. This in itself is enough to hold the attention.

But there is more. Meyer does not necessarily speak a new or innovative visual language, but his pictures illustrate a universal truth that we all secretly know. That the small moments in life, the trivialities in the world around us, the wear and tear of time, and the apparently insignificant happenings often speak more – and with more truth and authority – about the past (and particularly the present) than most monuments or official histories do.

These melancholy depictions of largely forgotten and deserted worlds furthermore linger in the memory because we not only distinctly recognise these landscapes as physical parts of Southern Africa, but are also reminded, as we have specifically realised in the last decade, that the old must eventually give way to the new.

We also see another side of ourselves in these works: that we are also drifters through time and space - sometimes accepted by the land, and often rejected by it. On both accounts, this leaves marks on us, as we leave our tracks on the landscape.

Cobus van Bosch
November 2005

Curriculum Vitae

1965 - 2017
Born Aliwal North - Deceased Upington
Matriculates with distinction in Art, Pretoria
1983 -1989
Obtains BA Degree in Fine Art (Painting), University of Pretoria.
Dissertation on ‘Contemporary trends in European paintings’ under Prof. Nico Roos.
Studies for 3 1/2 years at the “Staatliche Kunstakademie’ in Dusseldorf under prof. Michael Buthe.
Travelled extensively through Europe and the USA.


New Signatures Exhibition, SAAA, Pretoria
Solo exhibition, Pierneef Gallery, Pretoria
Group exhibition “Junger Westen”, Recklinghausen
Group exhibition “Perspectiven 3” Dusseldorf Kunsthalle, Germany
Two man exhibition with Ansger Piesche, Ratigen
Group exhibition “Mini Show” Gallerie Now, New York
Group exhibition “The Emerging Collector”, New York
Group exhibition “Michael Buthe und seine Klasse”, Bonn
New Signatures Exhibition, SAAA, Pretoria
Standard Bank National Drawing Exhibition
Three man exhibition, Gallery 21, Johannesburg
Solo exhibition, The Loft gallery, Windhoek, Namibia
Exhibits and works as resident artist, Dal Josafat Art Foundation, Paarl
Private solo exhibition, Johannesburg
Group exhibition, “Some Innocent Eyes”, Newtown Gallery, Jhb.
Four person exhibition, Newtown Gallery, Jhb
Volkskas Atelier travelling group exhibition
Group exhibition, Everard Read Gallery, Jhb.
‘New Signatures’ exhibition, SAAA, Pretoria
Solo exhibition, ‘Present in the Landscape’, Newtown Gallery, Jhb
Group exhibition “The Walls Sing”, Oliewenhuis Art Museum, Bloemfontein
“Groundswell”, Contemporary S A Art, Mermaid Theatre, London
Solo exhibition, Newtown Gallery, Jhb
Four man exhibition “Landscapes of SA”, Art First Gallery, Cork Street, London
Solo exhibition, NSA Gallery, Durban
Solo exhibition, Old Arts Gallery, University of Pretoria
Group exhibition “Lifetimes, an exhibition of SA Art”, Munchen
Group exhibition “Cyst: Works in paint”, The Castle, Cape Town
Group exhibition, Open Window Gallery, Pretoria
Private exhibition, Cape Town
Two-man exhibition with Guy de Toit at Knysna Fine Art
Solo exhibition at Oliewenhuis Art Museum, Bloemfontein.
Solo exhibition, South African Embassy, Paris, France.
Solo exhibition at Louise Hennings, Cape Town.
Solo exhibition, National Art Gallery of Namibia, Windhoek, Namibia.
Solo exhibition, ‘The Platteland’, Johans Borman Fine Art Gallery, Cape Town
Solo exhibition, Everard Read Gallery, Johannesburg
Three-man Exhibition with Jacobus Kloppers and Erik Laubscher, Johans Borman Fine Art Gallery, Cape Town
Solo exhibition, Everard Read Gallery, Cape Town
Solo exhibition, Upington
Solo exhibition, Johans Borman Fine Art Gallery
‘Art that inspires’ Anniversary exhibition at Johans Borman Fine Art Gallery, Cape Town.
‘-scape’ group exhibition at Johans Borman Fine Art, Cape Town.


New Signatures’ 1984 - First Prize for Painting
‘New Signatures’ 1987 - First Prize for Drawing
FNB ‘Vita Art Now’ Awards 1994 - Merit Award

Public Collections

BHP Billiton
City Coucil of Pretoria
Dal Josafat Arts Foundation
Durban Art Gallery
Gauteng Provincial Administration
Ogilvy & Mather
Power Corporation, Canada
Pretoria Art Museum
Pretoria Technikon
Reader’s Digest (N.Y.)
Rupert Art Foundation
SA National Gallery, Cape Town
SA Reserve Bank
University of Pretoria

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