'Mango Aquarius' signed and dated 1970 oil on canvas 40 x 53cm (15 3/4 x 20 7/8in).
Mangoes are a recurring motif in the work of Alexis Preller, who "spanned both his earlier and his most recent expression by returning to a favourite subject Mangoes". Harking back to early works, such as Mangoes on the Beach (1948), Preller places the humble fruit as the central focus, imbuing it with the exotic overtones of the tropical setting. Through the repetition of these everyday objects, Preller developed a technical mastery of their depiction. However, his reference to them as "household gods" also suggests a deeper significance. Merwe Scholtz, cited in Esme Berman and Karel Nel's monograph on the artist, suggests that Preller depicts these works "with the persistence of a dream inevitably recurring, groping towards yet another shape, one richer, clearer, more comprehensive than its previous manifestation".
Mango Aquarius recaptures the romantic vision and exotic appeal of Preller's earlier Seychelles works. Rendered in the rich, jewel-tone hues of an idealised island life, the work displays Preller's instinctual grasp for colour harmony. The cosmological reference to Aquarius plays into Preller's vision of "mystical symbolism" that lies in the intersection of "Greek mythology, Mapogga culture, [and] Hieratic emblematic signs" that "begin to represent another world an ancient African universe". Preller weaves together origin mythology and his personal iconography to create a new cosmology.
A similar work, Hieratic Mango, 1970, was included in the 1972 Alexis Preller Retrospective at the Pretoria Art Museum (cat. 166).
BIBLIOGRAPHY: E. Berman and K. Nel, Alexis Preller: Africa, the Sun and Shadows, (Johannesburg, 2009), p.131, 302 E. Berman and K. Nel, Alexis Preller: Collected Images, (Johannesburg, 2009), xiii