This cancer month, we profile Adriaan van Zyl, a South African artist who drew inspiration from various sources – physical and emotional – in the creative process while undergoing cancer treatment over a number of years.
In a series of precisely observed and meticulously executed paintings, he recorded and reinterpreted his experiences as a cancer patient at Tygerberg Hospital.
Weekly treatments, radiation and chemotherapy are exceptionally taxing on the body and the spirit. Yet this is precisely what inspired Adriaan to paint the very facilities where he suffered so much.
Hospital Triptych I (2004), currently on exhibition in the Sanlam Art Gallery, is one such painting in a series of works interpreting the interior and exterior of Tygerberg Hospital.
With his attention to detail, focusing on the sterility of the architecture, Adriaan conveys both his struggle for survival and the loneliness of his fight to overcome the cancer that eventually took his life in 2006.
Although he didn’t ultimately win this battle, Adriaan left a significant artistic legacy that is testament to his courage and the ability of art to transform pain and suffering into something exceedingly beautiful, powerful and engaging.
The Sanlam Art Gallery previously showcased a retrospective exhibition of Adriaan van Zyl’s paintings in 2007. His work can be viewed at Head Office.