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 the psychological subtexts – is a different story altogether. When he casually says he merely paints whatever 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 has focused particularly on the harsh semi-desert that constitutes most of the South African platteland – the Karoo and the Kalahari.
Cobus van Bosch