Contemporary Art

Live Auction, 16 February 2019

Contemporary Auction

Sold for

ZAR 170 700
Lot 68
  • Karel Nel; Shuttered Darkness

Lot Estimate
ZAR 200 000 - 300 000
Selling Price
Incl. Buyer's Premium & VAT
ZAR 170 700

About this Item

South African 1955-
Shuttered Darkness
signed, dated 2004 and inscribed with the title on the reverse
carboniferous material and salt on wooden base
50 by 180cm excluding frame


‘Shuttered Darkness is my response to the process of looking into the darkness to find light, and in finding light, to start looking at and understanding the galaxy formation alongside our capacity to map and grasp the vastness, and our place within it. Darkness is revelatory, clear, all encompassing and is the nurturing matrix of manifestation itself.’1

This work draws on images of the galaxies capturing pinpointed light, great swathes of stellar dust and the fluid gaseous processes evident in the formation of galaxies. The medium used is a ‘primordial substance’ (black carboniferous material formed on the Gondwanaland landmass before the splitting of the continents) with salt crystals from the Atlantic Ocean.

Much of Karel Nel’s work has been informed by vast, faint emanations from deep space; transient images of light, infrared, radio or x-ray that left their source millions of years ago. Telescopes capture these emanations as they approach Earth, and become forever lost to our gaze once they pass the planet. Nel’s involvement with astronomy as a subject began after his 2002 Status of Dust exhibition in New York, when he was approached by Nick Scoville to join a team of leading astronomers as their resident artist for the COSMOS Project, an ambitious project to map two square degrees of the universe.

  1. Karel Nel, pers. comm., interview with Marion Dixon, Johannesburg, 5 December 2018.


Standard Bank Gallery, Johannesburg, Lost Light: Fugitive Images from Deep Space, 12 April to 26 May 2007.

Art First, London, Karel Nel: The Brilliance of Darkness, 9 September to 9 October 2008.


Emile Maurice (ed.) (2007) Lost Light: Fugitive Images from Deep Space, Johannesburg: Standard Bank Gallery. Illustrated in colour on page 27.

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