Man on a bicycle signed 'G SEKOTO' (lower right); bears inscription 'MAN ON A BICYCLE / ANTHONY' (verso) oil on canvas 64 x 91cm (25 3/16 x 35 13/16in).
The 1950s saw the adoption of abstract aesthetics by many artists, and while Sekoto chose to remain a social realist, the pressures towards abstraction and universal art were considerable throughout his career. Sekoto's artworks created during his self-imposed exile in Paris demonstrate his continuous commitment to South African concerns and subjects but also indicate his grasp The intimacy and empathy he felt with people and their situations in the urban slums of South Africa appeared to elude him in Paris and forced Sekoto to see himself as a permanent outsider. Described as reticent during the early fifties, Sekoto was reluctant to use the vibrant blues, reds, yellows and browns characteristic of his South African period.
Sekoto explored the theme of figures on a bicycle in his 1942 Cyclists in Sophiatown which possesses the same textural qualities as Man on a bicycle. However, the tonal qualities are much earthier in the early work. In Man on a bicycle, which was exhibited at Galerie Heyrene in 1952, Sekoto makes use of broad brush strokes using a blue colour palette, which is sufficiently strong to contrast with the warmer colours. The distinctive characteristics of people in his pre-exile paintings give way to anonymity and idealization seen in his later works. In this image, the anonymous cyclist is poised with his head straight, parallel to the viewer and pipe in his mouth; evidently he is preoccupied. The man on the bicycle appears to be stationary and grounded and the thick brush strokes emphasize his physical strain. The strict rigidity of the cyclist's arms and back mimics the shape of the roofs in the background, highlighting the stasis which the figure finds himself in. The cubist markings of the houses and people behind maintain the anonymity of the area.
Sekoto presented twenty pictures in March 1952 at the Galerie Heyrene together with acclaimed Parisian artists, Michel-Marie Poulain and Phillippe Marie-Picard. The image adjacent is Sekoto showing off his work at the exhibition opening in Paris in 1952.
BIBLIOGRAPHY N. Chabani Manganyi, A Black Man Called Sekoto, (Johannesburg, 1996), p.75