Hylton Nel is a conceptual artist. Perhaps not in the way contemporary art uses the phrase but in the sense that he is an artist who is interested in ideas. The ideas and debates that capture his imagination are idiosyncratic and touch on many spheres, ranging from the history of the decorative arts to literature, visual art and issues in our politicised world. Often the references may not be immediately apparent, especially if the debate on that day was about a particular blue glaze and its meaning in Chinese ceramics, the significance of pattern-and-design motifs on Islamic tiles, the symbolism and form of cats in Egyptian art, the stances in erotic painting on ancient Greek vases, the resonances of Buddhist sculpture or the expression on the face of an African figure, to mention but a few possibilities. For Nel the medium of clay is a means to give his ideas form. The actual making of the form is seldom a challenge; his concern always remains with the idea or impulse that prompted him to realise the form. Over the course of more than 50 years working with clay and glazes, he has invented a visual language that is distinctly his own.

He lives on the outskirts of Calitzdorp, a small town in the Klein Karoo.



‘Hylton Nel at 80’, Fine Art Society, London, UK
On the Surface: Contemporary Ceramics’, Rhode Island School of Design Museum, Providence, USA 


Hylton Nel: Plates and Bowls, Old and New’, Stevenson, Cape Town, South Africa


KKNK25’, Klein Karoo Nasionale Kunstefees, Oudtshoorn, South Africa


‘Twenty’, Ingleby Gallery, Edinburgh


‘Hylton Nel: For Use and Display’, The Fine Art Society, London


‘Unorthodox’, Jewish Museum, New York


‘The Magic of Clay’, gl Holtegaard, Denmark
‘Art is Clay’, IS Art, Franschhoek, South Africa


‘The Birthday Party’, Flow Gallery, London
Festival Artists at the Klein Karoo Nasionale Kunstefees, Oudtshoorn, South Africa


‘The Discerning Eye’, the Mall Galleries, London


‘Hylton Nel: Recent ceramics’, Michael Stevenson Contemporary, Cape Town
‘Table Manners: Contemporary international ceramics‘, the Crafts Council Gallery, London
‘To Hold’, Farmleigh Gallery, Dublin


‘Hylton Nel: Recent ceramics’, Michael Stevenson Contemporary, Cape Town


‘Hylton Nel: Recent ceramics’, Michael Stevenson Contemporary, Cape Town


Moves to Calitzdorp, Klein Karoo
‘Hylton Nel’, Knysna Fine Art Gallery, Knysna, South Africa
‘South African Art 1850-2002’, Goodman Gallery, Johannesburg


'Hylton Nel: Retrospective Exhibition', Standard Bank National Festival of the Arts, Grahamstown; Tatham Art Gallery, Pietermaritzburg; Johannes Stegmann Art Gallery, University of the Free State; King George VI Art Gallery, Port Elizabeth
‘South African Art 1850-2002’, Goodman Gallery, Johannesburg


'Seduced by Colour: The New Maiolica', George R. Gardiner Museum of Ceramic Art, Toronto
Klein Karoo Nationale Kunstefees, Oudtshoorn, South Africa
‘Hylton Nel’, Knysna Fine Art Gallery, Knysna, South Africa


Long House, East Hampton, New York
Ingleby Gallery, Edinburgh


'New Ceramics by Hylton Nel', The Fine Art Society, London
Gallery on the Tyrone, Johannesburg


‘Hylton Nel: a prayer for good governance’, Fine Art Society, London
'Gay Rights Re-Writes', Gertrude Posel Gallery, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg


Moves to Bethulie, Free State


‘Hylton Nel’, Dominicus, Rosebank, Johannesburg


‘Hylton Nel’, Christopher Farr, London


Moves back to Cape Town and becomes a Lecturer at the Michaelis School of Fine Art, University of Cape Town and Stellenbosch University

South African Association of the Arts, Cape Town


Cape Town Triennale, Cape Town


APSA Regional Exhibition, King George VI Gallery, Port Elizabeth
Corobrik APSA National Exhibition, Durban Art Gallery, Durban


Exhibition, artist’s studio, Port Elizabeth


Moves to Port Elizabeth and becomes a lecturer in ceramics at the Technikon Art School


Moves to Kent in England, where he works as an artist, art dealer, and antiques and collectibles consultant. Member of the Crafts Centre of Great Britain


Moves back to Cape Town
Exhibition, Dorp Street Gallery, Cape Town


Completes a Diploma in Ceramics, the Royal Academy of Fine Arts, Antwerp


Lives and works in Cape Town (First exhibition held in 1965)


Graduates with a B.A. (FA) at Rhodes University, Grahamstown


Born in N'Kana, Zambia. Grows up in the Northern Cape, South Africa
Attends school in Kimberley where he first works with clay