An artist who was born in Johannesburg and who lived and worked in London

“Albert Adams was born June 23 1930 on or near the famous Crown Gold Mine near Johannesburg, South Africa. His father had come from India with Gandhi’s followers in 1911. His mother was ‘coloured’. The family moved to Cape Town when Albert was four; there his mother worked for white families and as Apartheid forbade coloured children to be with their parents in white households, Albert and his sister were brought up largely by their grandparents. They were extremely poor.
When he was eleven Albert opted to stay at school rather than seek work. It was at this time that his precocious artistic talent was noticed by local art collectors Rudolph von Frieling and Siegbert Eike who were to become life-long friends and supporters.

After leaving school Albert applied to Cape Town University to train as an art teacher but was refused because of his colour; the cost of teaching him separately from the other students was too much. So instead he went to the Hewat Teacher Training college where he became head of the National Union of South African Students and soon became actively involved in the Anti-Apartheid movement, being arrested twice.

Realising the political situation was deteriorating rapidly he applied to universities in England including Durham, Oxford and London, all of which accepted him. But he was advised by Oxford to go to the Slade, the best art school of the day. There he won the top prize in 1952 and a scholarship to Munich School of Art where he remained for the next two years. This was followed by a period working with Oscar Kokoshka who became a close friend.

Albert returned to South Africa in 1960 where he had his first exhibition in Cape Town, where a recorded message from Kokoshka opened the show. But the worsening political situation forced his friends to urge Albert to return to England in 1962 where reluctantly he entered a long exile.

In London he held several exhibitions. His work continued to reflect the events in South Africa including the Sharpville massacre and more recently the Truth and Reconciliation Hearings. But being a fastidious perfectionist Albert destroyed many of his paintings over the years, however some did find their way to South Africa where they entered many collections, including the National Collection. Following many years teaching at state schools and the history of modern painting at City University London Albert has now returned to full-time painting and drawing; he is currently enjoying a residence with Cape Town University preparing for a major exhibition at the National Gallery South Africa next year. His work has always been large format in size, the vibrant colours and vivid images telling a disturbing and moving story of his country. Today Albert is working with greater vigour and imagination than ever; his work deserves to reach a wider public.”

Tim Bruce-Dick
Director, The Alberti Gallery, London
April 2001

 

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