A response to Chris Roper's review of Paul du Toit's exhibition in the Mail & Guardian (October 12-18 2001)
by Beezy Bailey
I was reluctant to use my name and not a fictional name until I realised that I have the support of a number of accomplished artists whom I and others respect. There was also the danger of my letter being construed as "sour grapes" until I acknowledged that I am satisfactorily successful and have no axe to grind from a commercial point of view.
With regards to the article 'Art on the thin line' by Chris Roper on so-called artist Paul du Toit, I am compelled by an "am I going crazy?" mood to make sense of how his work is so acclaimed. He says he can't imagine doing anything but art, yet tells of his qualifications as a computer programmer (no art degree or diploma). There is a marketing strategy here that is about using the name of "art" to peddle his repetitive computer programmer faces as a product. A well-paid PR gets him the interview with Chris Roper and others in the media and there is a strategy not unlike those pop singers who mouth words but cannot sing.
In an environment like ours where our best artists' work tends to leave the country, there is a vacuum that is created by absence of quality. Apathy nurtures mediocrity, and the mediocre becomes the celebrated, as in Paul du Toit's sell-out show in Cape Town.
We as a society are in trouble when we think that from the PR's blurb our eyes can see beauty, truth, balance - great art. The fact that Paul du Toit is up for the DaimlerChrysler award throws up serious questions about the people who nominated his work and their vision. Comparing him to Picasso is an insult to the great man's name. Picasso could draw before he started dissecting art and faces and art history. But hey, there are millions out there who will put anything on their walls - who am I to say they see with monovision?
Paul du Toit seems incapable of painting anything apart from the same formless, mindless head over and over again, marketing being the priority, and acting the artist part of the package. Show us the wheat from the chaff, Chris Roper.