Karel Nel (b.1955) is not only a respected artist, but is also well-recognised as an academic, curator and writer. Nel was born in Pietermaritzburg and raised in Johannesburg where he went on to study fine art at the University of the Witwatersrand. Nel also completed further studies abroad at the prestigious St Martin’s School of Art in London, and the University of California, Berkley.
Since 2004 Nel has worked as the artist-in-residence amongst a team of international astronomers at COSMOS, a ground-breaking project undertaking to map a two-degree field of the universe. As such, much of Nel’s work is centred on or inspired by images he’s been exposed to through his collaboration with these scientists and their research. Nel is very much interested in interrogating the relationship between science and art – his interest in vanishing points and how they are represented for example speaks to this specifically.
Nel’s works are typically presented on an impressive, large scale, and are often drawn in pastel and pigment alongside a selection of unconventional media such as ochre and volcanic glass. Stylistically, Nel’s depictions hover between the abstract and the representational.
Nel has exhibited widely throughout the globe including at the 1982 Cape Town Triennial; in the famous Tributaries exhibition which toured Europe in 1985; at the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam in 1994, as well as at the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art, Washington in 2012. His work is included in numerous important collections including the Iziko South African National Gallery, Cape Town and the Metropolitan Museum, New York.