Clifford Mpai

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Clifford Mpai - colourful drawings and a colourful life. Depending on whether you believe his mother or his grandfather, Clifford was born in 1937 or 1940 - near Pietersburg, now Polokwane. After leaving school at 14, he worked at the Modderfontein Dynamite Factory and at a dry-cleaner in Sasolburg before finding a job as a waiter at Little Brenthurst, the Oppenheimers' Parktown home. In 1984, his talent was recognised by Strilli Oppenheimer who enrolled him for weekly art classes at Bill Anslie's Johannesburg Art Foundation. Strilli's encouragement, together with the classes, gave Clifford the confidence to become an artist.

When other black artists in the 1980s and 1990s were producing political works, Clifford specialized in pencil and crayon drawings of garden landscapes and of the suburbs surrounding Brenthurst. His style was often to draw from an angled or aerial perspective and, according to Karen McKerron, to create a world of structured fantasy. His observation of light shadow, outline, flattened forms and detail created an almost soundless world, in which he combined his urban surroundings with those of his rural upbringing. He changed the scale too, rather than sticking to an accepted one-point view.

Notable exhibitions of Clifford's work have been held at the Karen McKerron Gallery in 1988, at the Standard Bank Gallery in 1997, at Tokara Winery (curated by Julia Meintjes) in 2007, and a retrospective called "Two Worlds in Four Decades" at the Liebrecht Gallery in Somerset West in 2014.

These days, while his work is represented in public, corporate and private collections, Clifford is happily retired. He's back where he started, in Phoffu Village just outside Polokwane, still recording the changing world around him in his rural home environment, in lead and coloured pencil.

Julia Meintjes, Clifford Mpai and GT Ferreira at Tokara Winery

Clifford Mpai and Karen McKerron meeting up again after some time

15 artworks - click the Title for full detailss

1: Clifford Mpai | Tlou High School
Reference ID: 00445

2: Clifford Mpai | Elliot Mabokela's Home
Reference ID: 00447

3: Clifford Mpai | Zion Christian Church
Reference ID: 00449

4: Clifford Mpai | Tloubatla's House
Reference ID: 00450

5: Clifford Mpai | Malope's Home 2
Reference ID: 00452

6: Clifford Mpai | Tau-Mpe General Dealer
Reference ID: 00453

7: Clifford Mpai | Matshweni's house
Reference ID: 00454

8: Clifford Mpai | Two rooms foundation
Reference ID: 00456

9: Clifford Mpai | Phoffu Village with tank
Reference ID: 00457

10: Clifford Mpai | Soccer pavilion
Reference ID: 00458

11: Clifford Mpai | Brenthurst staff tennis court
Reference ID: 00462

12: Clifford Mpai | Killarney freeway
Reference ID: 00465

13: Clifford Mpai | Matla A Kwahong
Reference ID: 00470

14: Clifford Mpai | Power houses
Reference ID: 00537

15: Clifford Mpai | Malope's Home 1
Reference ID: 01754

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