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75 Year old painter belatedly 'valued'

John Meyer has reached that enviable place artists fantasise about: his paintings sell before he has created them. Before they are even a twinkle in his eye. He is a little annoyed about this outcome, because it has come so late in his life – he is seventy-five.

“I would have preferred for this to have happened 20 years ago. I was living a different life back then. At times I was very unhappy because I felt rejected, sidelined and ignored by the art world.”

He can’t fully account for his lack of popularity. He puts it down to being a figurative artist at a time when conceptualism was popular and now more recently when abstraction became the mode de jour. As a result he eschews both turns in art and the art world (they rejected him first). He is spirited and spritely. He keeps fit by standing in his cavernous Kenilworth studio painting all day.

He became aware that his work was in demand when he sold a number of the 15 planned canvases for a series of paintings dubbed Lost in the Dust for an eponymous exhibition in 2014 for Everard Read’s Circa gallery.

Dealing with the complicated notion of complicity during wartime, the Boer war, the Lost in the Dust series did not disappoint. Meyer’s gift for melding realism with theatrical devices with a cinematic quality had new purpose and value when it was combined with this pressing political theme. The series struck a chord. It would go on to be exhibited internationally, in London and Edinburgh (during the city’s annual arts festival) and Meyer found himself on a bit of a roll. He rarely exhibits; he has been too busy keeping up with the demand for his paintings.

“If someone called me up now and asked me to put on an exhibition, I couldn’t do it,” he says.

Unusually, one of Meyer’s paintings is due to come into the public realm before it gets sold. Odysseus as it is titled will go under the hammer at Strauss & Co’s October 16 Auction in Cape Town. It is a rare Meyer painting; it has never been seen (or sold) before.