Trevor Coleman

A Beloved South African Painter.

17/05/2024     General News, Timed-Online Auctions

Photograph of the artist courtesy of


Trevor Coleman, beloved abstract artist extraordinaire, was born in Johannesburg in 1936. In in 1960, at the age of 24, Coleman obtained his Diploma in Graphic Art and Design from the Witwatersrand Technical College (now part of the University of Johannesburg), after briefly studying Geology and Chemistry at the University of the Witwatersrand. It was also in the year 1960 that the artist left for London where he enrolled part-time at the Central School of Art and Crafts to study painting, lithography and textile design. The school would later be renamed the Central School of Arts and Design in 1966 and merged with Saint Martin's School of Art to form Central Saint Martin’s College of Arts and Design in 1989.

His first showing in London was in the 1961 Painting group exhibition at the Lincoln Gallery in Knightsbridge and in 1963, Coleman held his first London solo exhibition. Between 1961 and 1965, Coleman presented numerous solo exhibitions and took part in various group exhibitions in London, including the Young Commonwealth Artists 1964 exhibition at the Whitechapel Gallery. “[Coleman] returned six years later with something never seen before in South African art; hard edge painting. Before his self-imposed exile to London, as the 1950s became the 1960s SA lagged behind global trends of the avant-garde in Europe and America. Coleman’s only experience of abstraction was through tiny reproductions in books that could never compete with the visceral experience of standing in front of such modern masterpieces. Hard edge painting is in many ways a logical conclusion to the investigations into abstraction started by Jackson Pollock and the abstract expressionists. Yet there is something markedly different here; control and precision.”[1]



Lot 56: Positive Negative| R 8 000 - 12 000


In Aspire Art’s 20th/21st  Century Classics Timed-Online auction we are proud to present Positive Negative [Lot 56], made in 1966, which is a perfect example of Coleman’s earlier avant-garde edge. It was painted the year the artist returned from London and a year later, he would present this hard-edge abstraction to the South African public in an exhibition at Goodman Gallery in Johannesburg, in 1967. Between that exhibition and 1977, Coleman held ten solo exhibitions and various group exhibitions across South Africa. In 1969 the South African Association of Arts (Southern Transvaal Chapter) in Pretoria presented  a ten-year retrospective of his paintings.


Lot 52: Abstract figure | R 20 000 - 30 000


After 1977, his works, would coalesce his masterful precision and understanding of colour and work towards fragmented, organic abstraction and figurative abstract works. At this time Coleman was deeply influenced by his travels throughout Africa, the Mediterranean, and India and, incorporating flat fields of vibrant colours and moving between complete abstraction and figures in his works – as illustrated perfectly in Abstract composition (2004) [Lot 53] and Abstract figure (1982) [Lot 52].



Lot 53: Abstract Composition | R 10 000 - 15 000


Coleman’s artworks have been included in numerous historical review exhibitions including; 1910-2010: From Pierneef to Gugulective  at the Iziko South African National Gallery (2010), Baroque Meets Modern as part of the permanent exhibition of the Michaelis Collection at the Old Town House, Iziko South African National Gallery. Coleman has featured in SMAC Art Gallery’s three part series of exhibitions titled Abstract Art from the Isolation Years (2007, 2008, 2009). The gallery also included his work in DIVISIONS: Aspects of South African Art 1948-2010 in 2010, Abstract South African Art: Revisited (2011), and the contemporary resurrection thereof; BACK TO THE FUTURE: Abstract South African Art, Past and Present in 2013.



[1] Patridge, M. (2014). ‘The avant-garde painter SA shaped’, Business Day, 3 July 2014. [online] Available:





20th/21 Century Classics

9 - 21 May 2024


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