(1950 – )

Michael Pettit
Contemporary
Overview

Michael Pettit is a South African painter born in Durban in 1950. Pettit received formal art education from the University of the Witwatersrand, where he studied under renowned names, such as Judith Mason, Cecily Sash, and Robert Hodgins. Michael graduated in 1971, earning a bachelor’s degree in Fine Arts.

 After his graduation, Michael gave art lessons as a teacher in the Department of Fine Arts at the University of Durban for four years. In 1977, he quit his position to focus on becoming a professional painter. However, Pettit still taught adult oil painting classes for over two decades after 1980. He also holds a Master’s degree in Fine Arts from the University of Witwatersrand.

 Pettit’s paintings are bold, incorporating both lightness and darkness. He aims to knit together perceptions and concepts into energetic pieces that appeal to the personal and the collective. Michael Pettit’s work challenges classification; his work embraces the multifarious and is ever-changing. He states,

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”.

Since his first solo exhibition at the Walsh-Marais Gallery and the Natal Society of Art in 1973, Pettit has participated in several solo and group exhibitions, all of which have been held in South African cities. Michael’s works hang in prestigious galleries and public collections in South Africa, such as the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan Art Museum, the Durban Art Gallery, the Pietersburg Art Gallery, and the S.A. National Gallery. Prominent universities and private collections have also acquired the artist’s artworks. Pettit currently lives and works in Cape Town.

Education

1968 – 71      
BA Fine Art, University of the Witwatersrand under Cecily Sash and Robert Hodgins.

1982              
MA Fine Art, University of the Witwatersrand.

Profile

1970              
Executed 15m long mural, “Green Abstract” for Barclays Bank, Pinetown.

1972              
Trip to Europe and USA to study works in galleries.

1973 – 77      
Lecturer in Fine Arts, University of Durban – Westville.

1974              
Part-time temporary lecturer at the University of the Witwatersrand.

1975              
Stage designs of “The Firebird”, for NAPAC in Durban and Pietermaritzburg.

1976              
Leave from University to work on dissertation for MA on the topic ‘Aspects of Spatial Ambiguity’. 

1978              
Moved to Cape Town.

1979              
Director of the Michael Pettit School of Art, Cape Town.
Stage designs and dance choreography of “Journey” for the Jazzart Company, Cape Town.

1981              
Designed a tapestry, woven by E. Holden, for the University of Zululand.
Resumed work on MA dissertation.

1982              
Submitted MA dissertation under revised title, ‘Aspects of Pictoral Ambiguity’.

Exhibitions

2023

Optimal Vibration, Group Exhibition Graham Contemporary, Johannesburg

Sunny Side Up, Group exhibition, Graham Contemporary, Johannesburg, South Africa

2022
New Day Spring Group Exhibition, Graham Contemporary, Johannesburg

2008
Friends of the National Gallery, S.A. National Gallery
Is there Still Life, Michaelis Art Collection and Sanlam Art Gallery

2005
Art London Fair, UK

2003
Brett Kebble Awards

1991 
Cape Town Triennial.

1987 
Vita Art Now, Johannesburg Art Gallery.

1981 
Cape Town Triennial.

1980 
‘Visions for 1980’, Prestige group exhibition, University of Stellenbosch.

1979 
Invited artist, Cape Town Biennial.

1978 – 79 
‘Art in SA’, touring exhibition in the USA.

1975 
South Africa Today exhibition

1973 
Durban – First of six solo exhibitions held throughout South Africa.

1973 
South Africa Today exhibition

1971 
South Africa Today exhibition
Participated in numerous group exhibitions in South Africa, West Germany, SWA/Namibia and the USA.

Publications
  • Esme Berman seminal (revised) ‘Art and Artists of South Africa’ – youngest artist to be accorded a full article in this publication.
  • Wits University: ‘Visual Century’ four volume publication.

Collections

Public Collections – South Africa

  • South African National Gallery, Cape Town
  • Hester Rupert Art Museum, Graaff-Reinet
  • National Museum, Bloemfontein
  • Pretoria Art Museum
  • Sandton Municipal Collection
  • University of the Orange Free State

Art Galleries & Museums

  • Durban Art Gallery
  • Nelson Mandela Metropolitan Art Gallery, Port Elizabeth
  • Pretoria Art Museum
  • IZIKO South African National Gallery, Cape Town
  • Roodepoort Museum
  • Oliewenhuis Art Museum
  • Tothem Art Gallery

Universities

  • Mangosuthu University of Technology
  • University of the Free State
  • University of Stellenbosch
  • University of Witwatersrand
  • University of Zululand

Public Collections

  • Pietersburg (Polokwane) Collection

South African Embassies

  • Brussels, Belgium
  • Washington DC, USA

Corporate Collections

  • Sanlam
  • JCI
  • Necbank
  • First National Bank
  • Sonnenberg Hoffmann Galombic
  • Investec
  • ABSA
  • Hollard
  • SASOL Art Collection
Awards

1973              
Cambridge Shirt Award, Art SA Today.

TV Art Programs

2001  
Kyknet ‘Kunskafee’

2001  
e-TV News

1996  
‘Arts Unlimited’

1995  
‘Arts Unlimited’

1992  
‘Arts on One’

1991  
‘Collage’

1989  
‘Collage’

1986  
‘Collage’

1983  
‘Portfolio’

Featured Artwork