Creative genius and an affinity for being different are apt descriptors for Alexis Preller. This South African artist is remembered for his unique and counter cultural style. Similar to many artist of his time he spent a lot of time in Europe; travelling, exploring and learning the tricks of the trade.
The great South African artist, Pierneef, was partly responsible for Preller’s choice to study in Europe. A stroke of genius in many commentator’s books. It was in this time that he travelled large parts of Europe and even crossed the Mediterranean to set foot on North Africa. Visibly influenced by the works of Piero del la Francesca and the mystery of Egyptian pyramids, he came up with art works such as Hieratic Women (1956) during this time. Despite the European influence which may have been evident in his art, the African spirit had gripped him from a young age. This was after he went on a camping trip and safari to Swaziland and Congo. By his own admission, he was stirred by African customs, traditional rites, sculptures and fetishes of tribal Africa.
This combination of African heritage and European sophistication saw Alexis Preller’s own formulation of a primeval African art form, which resulted in the establishing of a compendium of iconographic imagery which would serve him well as his career progressed. The trajectory of his journey through the history of art became one of solitude. His worked seemed rather different and unfamiliar to the rest of society, but his brilliance was yet to be discovered.
Alexis Preller didn’t seem to care much about the status quo as he was focussed on expressing deep ideas through his art.