Painting Mandela's Portrait - Cyril Coetzee talking with Keith Struthers

Listen to this insightful discussion with Cyril Coetzee , a highly accomplished painter, lecturer and curator who has exhibited widely in South Africa, Switzerland, Canada, India and the US.

After painting the portrait of Nelson Mandela, used on a South African stamp, he was later commissioned to paint a wedding portrait of Nelson Mandela and Graça Machel.

In this conversation Cyril distinguishes between realistic and expressionistic portraits. And how a visually accurate likeness is very different to a psychological likeness.

The one is more optically exact whereas the other touches imaginatively on the inner disposition and temperament of the individual.

There is of course a third kind of portrait, which bridges this difference, where both an outer physical and an inner Soul and Spiritual quality are integrated into one unified picture.

This approach produces a more complete portrayal of the individual, combining exactness with imaginative insight. The likeness and colourful clothing with a generous sense of benevolence for example.

This is what Cyril was edging towards in his iconic painting of Mandela.

It also became the underlying theme of a national exhibition he curated on botanically inspired art, titled ‘Exact Imagination”. Here the intention was to present artists works that bridge between scientific exactness and artistic imagination.

So next time you produce an inspired work it’s an opportunity to co-join the clarity of your observations and pragmatic understanding with the insightfulness of your imagination to create something which is neither one-sidedly rational nor phantasmagorical.

A work which is grounded in reality yet sets the wings of your imagination into flight.

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