Crystal Rain Sun

Christo Coetzee

Oil on Canvas
150.5 x 150.5cm
Signed: "Christo Coetzee" (Lower/Right)
Dated: 1971


Verso:       Signed, dated and titled by artist: "Christo Coetzee '71, 150 x 150cm, Crystal Rain Sun"

Provenance:       Property of the Estate Late Phil du Plessis

                             Private Collection

Exhibited:            The Safest Place is the Knife’s Edge, A Retrospective Exhibition of the Works of Christo Coetzee, Standard Bank Gallery, 5 October – 1 December 2018.

Illustrated:          Vorster, A. (Ed.) and Van Rensburg, W. (Ed.). 2018. The Safest Place is the Knife’s Edge, A Retrospective Exhibition of the Works of Christo Coetzee, Standard Bank Gallery. P. 101.




South African Christo Coetzee is an artist whose dynamic and diverse creative vocabulary has earned him an international reputation of rare repute. As Deon Viljoen and Micahel Stevenson assert in the book, Christo Coetzee: Paintings from London and Paris 1954-1964:

“Coetzee’s success in the international art world was a far cry from his humble origins in South Africa”. (2001:9)

Coetzee’s body of work is so varied that it is difficult to confine it to any one style. However, as art historian Esmé Berman notes, his most phenomenal pieces are often those that linger in the “realms of informal abstraction.” The work “Crystal Rain Sun” resonates with Berman’s claim and demonstrates the imagination and creativity by which Coetzee’s practice is defined.

“Crystal Rain Sun” sweeps its viewer into a whirlpool of movement, at the centre of which is a magnificent azure kaleidoscope. Whereas the blue background of this gem-like centre radiates smoothly outwards, the three circles which surround it are comprised of sharp black, brown and orange diagonals. The work is a constant interplay between harsh diagonals and soft curves. At times the work appears stilted, as with the diagonals. It has the appearance of a palimpsest of cut out and collaged forms— especially in the four outer circles of the sun, which are comprised of an array of circles with open triangular mouths. In contrast to the manner in which these open-mouthed circles are depicted in bold brick reds and startling sapphires, the cerulean vortex upon which they have been placed is speckled with certain areas that radiate in an angelic white.

The complexity of the work renders it difficult to articulate in words— instead, the viewer desires to remain caught up with the threads of colour and line that tangle together in a lattice of movement. The multitude of circles from which the whirlpool is constructed imbue the work with a sense of constant regeneration, much like the rebirth brought to nature by a heavy rain. French academic and artist, Dr Katja Gentric eloquently captures the intricacy of Coetzee’s 1970s works, reflecting that they are resonant of:

“…a longstanding engagement with a question, a journey, a rupture and a passageway, looking in two directions, letting the light come through.”

Perhaps, then, “Crystal Rain Sun” can be thought of as a journey, in which the viewer knows not the point of departure or that of arrival. Rather, the sheer magnificence of this piece lies in its ability to weave the viewer into a state of limitless entrancement in which each individual element of the work is testament to the entanglement of life itself.

You May Also Like