Deborah Poynton

Deborah Poynton

Poynton was born in 1970 in Durban and lives in Cape Town/South Africa, best known for her monumental, hyper-realistic, hyper-detailed, nude portraits, usually of friends and family. Poynton grew up in South Africa, England, Swaziland and the United States. She knew from the start that she wanted to be an artist.

Poynton's paintings are more about the act of looking, of exposing the "trickery" behind traditional artistic practices, than they are windows onto a surreal world. By constructing spaces, placing slightly discordant objects amongst seemingly natural landscapes, Poynton creates a tension within her work that is intended to make the viewer uncomfortably aware of the act of perception. While most of her work can be categorized as realism, few series depart from her usual aesthetic in a more abstract project. Her current exhibition, Scenes of a Romantic Nature, draws on her connection to Germany by referencing the landscape paintings of German artist Caspar David Friedrich.

Her work often conflates tropes from traditional art history, from compositional techniques to poses of her subjects, and the indices of contemporary life to create a sense of chaotic inscrutability; in this way, Poynton creates work which is aesthetically engaging and intellectually confounding.

She has held 13 solo exhibitions at Stevenson, Cape Town and Johannesburg, since 2004. Her first US solo exhibitions took place at the Savannah College of Art and Design’s galleries in Savannah and Atlanta in 2009. A survey of 25 years of her painting, titled Model for a World, showed at the New Church Museum, Cape Town, in 2014. Institutional shows have also taken place at the KZNSA in Durban (2010) and the Institute of Contemporary Art Indian Ocean in Port Louis, Mauritius (2018). A survey of the last decade’s work, Beyond Belief, took place at the Drents Museum in Assen, the Netherlands in 2021. Poynton presented her first solo in Germany at Haus am Lützowplatz in 2022.

Notable group exhibitions include Unlimited, Drents Museum, the Netherlands (2022); I have made a place, Norval Foundation, Cape Town (2021); Tamawuj, 13th Sharjah Biennial (2017); Home Truths: Domestic Interiors from South African Collections, Iziko South African National Gallery, Cape Town (2016); I Love You Sugar Kane, Institute of Contemporary Art Indian Ocean, Mauritius (2016); Eros and Thanatos, SOR Rusche Collection, Oelde/Berlin (2012); Von Liebeslust und Lebenslast - der inszenierte Alltagat, Corvey Castle, Germany (2009); and What lies beneath, Galerie Mikael Andersen, Copenhagen (2006).

Three monographs have been published on her paintings: Everything Matters (SCAD/Stevenson, 2009), Pictures (Stevenson, 2013) and Beyond Belief (W Books/Drents Museum, 2021).


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