b. Jan Kempdorp, Northern Cape, 1953.
Ishmael Thyssen hails from Jan Kempdorp in the Northern Cape, and has lived in the southern outskirts of Cape Town since the early 1970s. Thyssen taught himself to carve wood at the Community Arts Project in the early 1980s. His often contemplative figures are influenced by modernist and African sources, as well as by social concerns.
From Against the Grain catalogue: “… Ishmael Thyssen’s works allude to broader social, political and cultural concerns… Cultural and political concerns are also evident in the theme of African identity that runs through Thyssen’s work. Classified ‘coloured’, Thyssen identifies wood as an African material, and it is through working with wood that he gives expression to his self-identity as an African… The synthesis between Western modernist and classical African sculpture can be seen in many of his works notably in the balance between naturalism (life-like representation) and abstraction … The expressiveness of the artists’ figures comes in part through levels of distortion that are defined by the material itself.”
1976-1977: Art Class, Methodist Church, Somerset West, South Africa.
1980-1984: Studied at Community Arts Project (under Cecil Skotnes), Woodstock, Cape Town.
2013 Return, The Framery Art Gallery, Sea Point, Cape Town.
2000 Association for Visual Arts, Cape Town.
2000 Winchester Hotel, Seapoint, Cape Town.
1991 Centre for African Studies, University of Cape Town.
1987 Riverside Centre, Rondebosch, Cape Town.
2014 ‘Against the Grain’, Sanlam Art Gallery, Bellville, South Africa.
2013 ‘Against the Grain’, Iziko South African National Gallery, Cape Town.
2006 Kalk Bay Modern (with Peter Clarke), Kalk Bay, Cape Town.
2002 ‘New directions’, The Framery Gallery, Sea Point, Cape Town.
2000 Greatmore Studios, Woodstock, Cape Town.
2000 Retreat Municipal library, Retreat, Cape Town.
1996 Galerie Knud Grothe, Charlttenlund, Denmark
1993 Manneberg Jazz Cafe’ (with Donovan Ward), Cape Town.
1992 Primordial Stirrings, Primart Gallery, Claremont, Cape Town.
1992 Village Studio, Constantia, Cape Town.
1992 ‘Made in Wood’, Iziko South African National Gallery, Cape Town.
1991 Gallery International (with Willie Bester and Isaac Makeleni), Cape Town.
1990/1991 ‘Art-on-the-box, [Primart], Cape Town.
1990 [Members exhibition], Dorp Street Gallery, Stellenbosch, South Africa.
1989 Centre for African Studies, University of Cape Town.
1989 Rahmen Galerie(with Peter Clarke and Tyrone Appolis), Langen, Germany.
1989 ‘Images of Wood’, Johannesburg Art Gallery.
1987 Cavendish Square, Claremont, Cape Town.
1987 African Treasures, National Touring exhibition, South Africa.
1986 South African National Gallery, Cape Town.
1984 Riverside Centre, Rondebosch, Cape Town. (organised by South African Institute of race relations)
1983 Gowlett gallery, Cape Town.
1982 Hugo Naude House, Worcester, South Africa.
Iziko South African National Gallery
Centre for African Studies (UCT) Collection
University of the Western Cape
Investec Bank Collection
2013 Mario Pissarra, 'Against the Grain’, Cape Town : Africa South Art Initiative.
1993 Martin, Marilyn; Proud, Hayden; et al, ‘Made in Wood: Work from the Western Cape’, South African National Gallery, Cape Town
?1989 Images of Wood