Ngqanda nanga ‘manzi engena endlini with Ka Zenzile

Mawande Ka Zenzile “Usango olumxinwa” circa 2022

South African artist Mawande Ka Zenzile had an exhibition showing at Stevenson Johannesburg that closed on the 24th of June. The article will examine how the borders between art work and the title have dissolved. That this is a result of the artist realising a relationship between what is symbolic and literal is determined by the oscillation between intellectual inundation and what is cathartic about artistic expression. Ka Zenzile work explores a relationship between what is intangible and its palpable disintegration about what is symbolic and literal. The artist has developed a sensibility related to expressing what is frail as palpable and what is concrete as disintegrating. It will be demonstrated that in Ka Zenzile work what is fleeting is symbolic and what is literal is diffused by a conscious expression of what is cathartic about creative expression.
This is articulated in this show by the piece titled “Isango elimxinwa”, this not only marks a representational evolution in the work through the arch doorway in the middle of the piece but also how the image is subsumed by the canvas. His characteristic strategy is to create a measure of immediate depth between the background and foreground of the piece. A pattern characterizes the top left hand curve of the arch. The piece is finished with the same deep and tangible colours that suggest movement and sometimes formlessness.
The same progressive strategy of representation can also be discerned in “Iziduli zethafa” a piece in which what is literal is both symbolised by what is diffused -landscape- and figurative -the horizontal line. In order for the function of the horizontal line in the collection of his work to be demonstrated has an operation related to depth on the canvas. It also symbolizes how limits in relation to what is diffused function with the ambiguity of the mark and continuity. This is emphasized by the three small humps that are the images in the piece, they mark depth and foreground rather than expressing representational images as a manifestation of intellectual inundation. They also operate to demonstrate what is symbolic about fleeting disintegration. His world is not just his canvas rather he has a relationship with the landscape that is as expandsive as it is intuitive. He creates a space where he is conscious he is the medium through which this relationship is concretized.
The piece “Ukuhamba kukubona” articulates the deliberate nature of a being who is conscious of a diffused energy and establishing a relationship with it. Vertical multi coloured lines characterise the piece in the palpable cow dung. The piece expresses a searching energy unlike the sense of discovery that the horizontal line can represent. It suggests movement that is linear, but also an energy that is bound or controlled. The piece is a culmination of diffused energy having found direction in careful but various intellectual energies.
The work “Kiss my ass” is a play on the cultural space that iconography occupies in the western cannon. Soldiers dressed in medieval regalia characterise this dark piece. A sense of the dark characterise this price with white figures contrasting the dark gesso finished piece, that unifies them with the figures in black like static. What is literal assumes transformative connotations in the sense that what is historic has already imbued a mark of stasis and the measure of personal impact in relation to what is historic. In this piece it is symbolically unified with the past and what is indistinct about the contemporary.
Instillation plays a strong role in Ka Zenzile work. In this exhibition one of the pieces titled “The Golden Goose(An Autobiography of an Artist)” is a piece characterized by a coffin with a goose on top of it. A small tree is planted next to the coffin. Ka Zenzile is conscious of a measure of creative and personal development, in that the coffin represents a form of catharsis and culmination. The tree in the context provides a symbolic function in terms of representing spiritual and intellectual growth. This piece articulates an arch of evolved creative expression and spiritual growth. What is significant is the symbolic function of time, it is incorporated in the work as an arch of internal and external accretion, expressing how time and growth operate in tandem in the intellectual space. The coffin is symbolic of disintegration while the tree depicts the ambiguity of stasis and development.
Ka Zenzile creativity is evolving and speaks to a measure of becoming. This might not be only about creativity, it could be about a holistic approach in different facets of his intellectial life. The show discourses an artist who is conscious of his creative development but also his relationship with history, contemporary and past. It is becmong clear through instillation where historic influences are relinquished. Through painting we can discerned where influences have fused and assumed measures of becoming.

Mary Sibande’s fear of history’s heart

Mary Sibande, “The manifestation” 2022

South African artist Mary Sibande had an exhibition at the Smac Gallery that opened in February 2022. The show featured works that comprise the artist repertoire human size sculptors that depict the character that motifs her oeuvre, Sophie. In this exhibition titled “A Red Flight of Fancy” the artists presented Sophie’s different avatars. It will be demonstrated the exhibition articulated how individuality and the body function as a signpost that marks the accretion of history. This impact enables the artist the Sibande to stage and photograph sculptural tableaus that induce notions of history as contemporary and symbolized by what is creative about the feminine body.
When the character Sophie first appeared in her cannon she was portrayed as a domestic worker. In subsequent exhibitions that were executed with the same sculptural pantomimes, different avatars emerged. These included soldiers with overtly buxom physiques typical of a domestic worker, characters from the past and in “A Red Flight of Fancy” a cards wielding fortune teller. The character that anchors this show is a red Shepherd that herds emaciated spectral hounds. This is the first time that an ominous aspect is overtly portrayed in her work. In previous incarnations of her works it was an aspect that has been subtle, operating to anchor the show with historical connotations of past violence in a latent measure. With this show the sherperd a woman who carries a staff and on the inkjet on Hahnemuhle photograph titled “The Locus” carries a heart. The image is poetic and haunting, Sibande reveals an aspect of historic violence that has relevance with the spiritual world. By displaying with such theatricality she renders it benign instead of being grotesque. This way what is past about historic violence can be discerned to be located in history or in a world beyond. Since a heart is hidden, the artist articulated a measure of delicacy about how history functions and how it is expressed. This difference with the piece “The Locus” Sibande pointed to the extent to which the historical function of past violence in the contemporary context is conjured. The image of the heart speaks to a culmination of power and powerlessness, the feminine figure being the ideal form to articulate this sense of ambiguity.
The work titled “Wielding” features the fortune teller figure brandishing cards. She is depicted with the ethereal and quality of one, her long dress is purple and her hair is dark. A fortune teller occupies the location of a signpost both as conjurer and a visionary. She sees the culminated accretion of signs both as historic and spiritual, she is the locus that navigates meaning and disintegrated meaning. For her articulation is a means to disintegrate and to assemble. She is a medium of history, an embodiment of the body as a signpost as history. Relying on the image of the heart, the exhibition expressed historic disintegration, relying on the image of the feminine body it speaks to a sense of conjuring that terminates this disintegration. This way what is spectral and macabre is not just related to the past, it is also related to the contemporary.
The function of a signpost is not just germination, it also functions as a mechanism of release. In the context of “A Red Flight of Fancy” this release has spiritual connotations. This is reflected in the piece titled “Casting a Spell”, a feminine figure carrying a long staff with a cross bound by a circle, her disposition is ambivalent, bare and uncharacteristic. She wears an aquamarine domestic worker’s dress. Sibande depicts her characters in long dresses emphasising an uninhibited femininity. The figure in the work “Casting a Spell” embodies this, she also wields the ambiguity between power and powerlessness. She is depicted in a gesture of conjuring and disintegration, the feminine figure in this exhibition is not just a repository, she is an example of manifestation.
Sibande works with black women figures to demonstrate social signpost related to history are contingent on how she is represented. Occupying the location of being an expression of colonised and previously colonised body and the apex example of the black body’s measure of emancipation. The artist recognised how the feminine speaks to multiple facets of society, the spiritual, the historic and the social for example. At the heart of “A Red Flight of Fancy” is an expression of what is macabre operating to affect beauty, both in latent and overt symbolic measures. Sibande went back to creating individual pantomimes, this way each avatar is bound by her own narrative, unlike the traditional representation of black women being bound to narrate the oppression other their own bodies. The black feminine body is demonstrated to be the embodiment of her own accrued historic narrative. The palpability or lack of disintegration of her body is demonstrated to be related to the spiritual world.

The substance of dust with Igshaan Adams

South African artist Igshaan Adams had his “Kicking Dust” exhibition showing at the Kunsthalle Zurich. The show was shown at the Hayward gallery in London last year, this is his first exhibition in continental Europe. It will be shown that the show utilises space as a concept to create an immersive environment that plays on the ambiguity of absence and presence to affect meaning and the relations of communal or collective history. That this implies a notion of ubiquity and shared experience that has been historically inevitable. The show relies on the aspect of shared experience to impact the measure of abstraction inherent in the function of transience in domestic and communal spaces. Through the delicate tangibility aesthetic utilising painstaking beading techniques and the dust from walk ways as a blueprint from movements inspired by indeginous Nama and Khoi Riel dance to affect a sense of what is concrete and transient about desire lines. It will be demonstrated that this is how a shared historic experience is rendered both ubiquitous and static.
Sculptors made from wire and beads suspended over linoleum to create the impression of how they function in domestic spaces. The effect is an abstract combination of the two spaces, domestic and communal. The desire line in the exhibition is inspired by the crossing of historically imposed boundaries during apartheid’s separate development policies between coloured and black communities. The similar socio economic contexts imbue the strategy with universal undertones that infuse the historic paradigm of separation with tenuous connotations. The artist relies on organic transactions to discourse spiritual undercurrents within a frail conceptions of separation. The comparison with domestic spaces not only creates markers of meaning with a sense of ambiguous meaning between transience and permanence. It also enables the exhibition to create a correlation between the spaces that is symbolic in the operation of movement the show is anchored by.
Spirituality plays a significant role in Adam’s work, in “Kicking Dust” he incorporates indeginous conceptions and understandings. Nama dance is said to inspire the suspended sculptors, the inherent delicate tangibility of Adam’s aesthetic is discernible, in the gallery space it functions to concretize the measure of presence and transience ‘wish lines’ are characterized by in townships. The serenity of the gallery space inverts the implied and necessary urgency that people occupy these spaces with. It infuses a poetic weight that is historic by contrasting it with the domestic space. The domestically marked spaces are placed on the walls, this strategy creates an impression of what is immersive. Latent in the curatorial choice is the role of time, it seeks to demonstrate that the cumulative collective steps depletes the notion or paradigm of boundaries through a historic collective dance. The collective movement of an organic desire line echoed the collective execution of his work. Ubiquity assumes an abstract operation that renders the intimacy and implied serenity of the domestic space translated to the implied urgency of the desire line. This way the gallery space is demonstrated to be immersed with the symbolic function of both spaces, the domestic as static and the communal as transient.
The implications afforded by spirituality enable a discourse of what is cumulative and collective in both spaces. Mark making connoted by the spiritual dance and the breaking of historically imposed boundaries palpable in the winding desire line articulate how ubiquity in the exhibition is symbolic of connection between what is domestic and communal.
The film produced in collaboration with the Hayward Gallery and Kunsthalle Zurich the artist’s inference about the tenuous role of historic boundaries imposed in the past by the previous regime in South Africa. Executed like some of the pieces on the wall of the gallery through flashes of different colour tints through the film, provides a broader perspective on the cumulative and frail nature mark making on spaces and the tenuous nature of the function of boundaries in the context of Cape Town. He relates about the materials and techniques he utilises, relating their socially organic origin. Wire utilised as washing lines, indeginous beading techniques, beads, glass, twine and being immersed in a collective creative environment. Adams is able to translate the socially inspired concepts to the gallery space, this way he immerses the audience into his world, to experience the scope and detail he is able affect.
The writer being from Cape Town, he is familiar with the particular desire line that forms part of the inspiration for the exhibition. Settled between the M7 behind a car service station in Bontehuewel where Adams is from, it literary connects with the highway. There is an informal settlement on the black side, the line provides an easy access to a train station. Adams notion of presence is collective in the sense that he not only decides to invite the audience to imagine the narratives that unfold in this intermediary space. He imbues the notion of it with an operational desire, this could be for anything, social change, communal change, this way latent in the narrative of the space is inherent connection. At the heart of “Kicking Dust” is the narrative related to social and political change, he suggests that there has been a measure of inevitability. This inevitability is not just inherent in communal spaces, it also emanates from domestic spaces. The urgency of the desire line and the sedentary undertones of the domestic space are combined in a discourse of a shared experience and the cumulative steps making historic marks like a collective spiritual dance.
Ubiquity and shared experience are facilities in the exhibition that imbue the show with a discourse of cumulative change imbedded in the desire lines. They are not only symbolic they are also indicative of how the historic paradigm concretize by the notion of boundaries dissipates through organic transactions. Spirituality and mark making connoted in the context of desire lines are also symbolically compared to affect the aspect of ubiquity and transience latent in the exhibition. This strategy was how a shared experience between what is domestic and communal were abstractly combined. What is cumulative, time and shared space were articulated through the delicate tangibility of his aesthetic, discoursing presence and absence as the essence of ubiquity and organic collectivism.

Thinking Painting, daydreaming music with Jennie C. Jones at the Guggenheim

Jennie C. Jones “Fractured Crescendo” 2019. Courtesy of Bomb Magazine

American artist Jennie C. Jones had an exhibition that showed at the Guggenheim Museum. The show featured sonic based and abstract painting based works that articulate the visual representation of sonic or musical composition. Relying on bright and light colours to express the opaque source of composition the exhibition articulates how what is internal is foundational to what is external both as light and multisensory. In this article it will be demonstrated that this is reflected in the utilisation of the Guggenheim building as inspiration, and the expression and realisation of the curt and elliptical objectives and concretization of the canvas form in the show. It will be demonstrated that painting and music occupy similar insouciant implications in the cerebral space in the moment of creation. That this is an impulse that requires the rigidity of architecture to subject non sequential cerebral forms to the curt and elliptical functional pieces.
Titled “Dynamic” the titles connotes the inherent insouciance in the process of composition, it also unearths the cerebral function of sequestered images and sounds through a multisensory experience. Some of the works are a combination of paint and sound panels, the effect is to attach painting to inspired sound. The goal being that sound and visual forms in the cerebral space are subject to a compact insouciant operation that is divided in the realised piece. This is reflected in the piece titled “Split Bar, End Note” a diptych piece with identical canvases, the equal sizes of the elements articulates what is quantifiable and what the artist chooses to contract in interacting with the cerebral induced images. Some canvases are finished with slanted angles further pronouncing the impact of an insouciant encounter but also the measure of non sequential limitations. This is articulated in the detail of the piece titled “Fractured Extension/Broken Time”. Both “…End Time” and “…..Broken Time” rely on the rigid lines on the Guggenheim building circular form. Lines in the cerebral space echo the measure of insouciance and compact equanimity that circular forms are impulsively formed as.
“Red Tone Burst #2” is a piece that demonstrates the artist intervention in relation to the cerebral impulse, it articulates the inevitability of sequence, and compact nature of composition. In music time and size are symbiotic elements. The period of execution and its structure are embryonic, the strategy to utilise triptych and diptych, renders pieces like “Red Tone #2” imbued with an internal structure. The relationship between what is sonic and visual becomes realised outside the cerebral space, where it is also not contradictory or even ambiguous.
This can be discerned in the piece titled “Neutral (clef)Structure 1st and 2nd”, this piece also features the rigidity of architectural lines contracted. Diptych pieces equal in size with sound panels in the middle. This strategy emphasize the necessity to intervene by this artist, but also to demonstrate that what is moulded assumes archetypal connotations. This has implications mostly for what is sonic, in that the latent relationship between sound and the opaque nature of the cerebral implicates the division, choreography and form that the diptych strategy affords.
“Dynamics” is an exhibition about the power of creativity and the organic relationship the artist has developed with the environment. It is about the tangibility of experience and the collapse and concretization of creating in the cerebral space. Jennie C. Jones creates work that is established in her extrasensory experience and she shares with the audience. Being inspired by music, and Black musicians like John Coltrane is a cosmic and aesthetic coincidence rooted in an artist invested in environment and her experience of it.
Jennie C. Jones is an American artist.

Lwando Dlamini’s brave fear at Ebony Curated

Lwando Dlamini “FAITH”, circa 2021. Courtesy of Ebony Curated.

South African artist Lwando Dlamini had an exhibitionon that ran at the Ebony Curated. The exhibition featured multimedia works executed with material like oil paint, charcoal, wood, brick among other elements. These elements include instillation and canvasses that are exposed, he showed his experimental and bold stance, consistent with the title of the exhibition. Its goals are rooted in stretching the surface of the canvas, the gallery space and themes the artist chose for the show. With the works anchored by macabre visages it will be demonstrated that this motif enabled this artist to show the malleability and stability of the canvas. The effect is that he crated an exhibition that accommodated a variety of themes while being overtly experimental with the surfaces he works with like the symbolic connotations of ecological and emotional themes. It will also be demonstrated that this impacted the extension of the canvas to incorporate the gallery wall, a strategy that renders the pieces three dimensional.
An example of an extended canvas is the piece tilted “City Girl I” a brown faced melancholy figure with a tilted head, her hair executed with charcoal lines characterise this piece. Seemingly on a highway, the white traffic lines exposed the wall behind the canvas. The artist combines ecological themes with emotional elements, the face dominates the piece, the expansive nature of the landscape and the open canvas operate in tandem to symbolically expose the vulnerability of the figure.
Extending and contracting the canvas in this manner captures a nuanced conversation between subject and surface. The ambiguity of a compact and cut open canvas enabled the artist to express not just depth, it also rendered the sense depth part of the themes that make the subject of the piece. The piece titled “Faith” is a prime manifestation of this. A yellow faced feminine visage with a prominent eye whose white part relies on the extension of the latent impact and aesthetic incorporation of the wall behind it. The strategy is dramatic and poetic, it extends how the subject is limited to the canvas, it is connected to the subject by articulating the limits of sight or vision. The visage like in the piece “City Girl I” is macabre, while being demure.
This sense of characterisation can be discerned throughout the works in the exhibition, it forms part of the themes, there is a latent macabre effect resounding in the pieces as well. What this does it enables the artist to express a callow and elementary aspect in the aesthetic that is disquieting, the thick oil paint affecting an abraded quality. The piece titled “Kathleho Mafelane” is executed with this effect prominently, the pastel pink face and quirky characterisation express a vulnerability that resembles beauty, it is a piece that celebrates what is raw about beauty, how it is on the brink of disintegration. The motif of a contracted subject is also discernible in this piece with another use of a single eye in a character. The black brown arms of this character also communicate this chafed beauty, a beauty that is not crumbling, but relies on a sense of the organic and this abraded effect.
The piece titled “Ndigqwesile(Outstanding)” is another work that features a highway with carved out canvas traffic lines and a mountain range. This piece also features a single eye characters on the highway. The artworks in the exhibition with their chafed and raw effect are imbued with a sentiment that is callow, this piece expresses an emotional landscape, symbolised by the distance between the limited vision of the two characters and the divided path between them. Both characters are finished with the motif of the single eye, with slanted and distorted dispositions. The abraded effect of this piece necessitates the three dimensional impact of the carved out canvas, the emotional landscape the two characters occupy also express a symbolic chasm that is rendered compact or contracted by the propensity of the canvas to be extended to the wall of the gallery.
The exhibition was an exercise in experimentation of surfaces. Combining, contracting and stretching canvases to directly communicate with the wall. This not only extends the function of depth in the artworks, it also enables the symbolic emotional landscape that anchors that was the primary theme of the show to be pronounced. The overt and bold choice to execute his characters spoke not only to how delicate and nuanced his themes were, but also how a relationship between the form of the canvas and the effect of the characters is symbiotic and relational.
The exhibition closed in late March.

The waters are in with Mongezi Ncaphayi

Mongezi Ncaphayi, “Roof over my heart. Circa 2022

South African visual artist had an exhibition at the Smac Gallery that closed on the 22nd of January. Ncaphayi’s work is abstract, large canvas based and finished with entoptic images. He is an artist whose starting point is his emotions, their fluidity, movement and stasis. This exhibition titled “Let the Waters Settle” was an exploration of emotions through visual language that has relevance for how images operated both inside and outside the working surface. It will be demonstrated that Ncaphayi’s visual vocabulary is personal, and relies on the immensity of the canvas to provide a metaphor for the emotional landscape his works are articulated in. The show was characterized by an evolution of his usual works. Instead of the tangible and abstract backgrounds in “Let the waters settle” the background was a veil of transparent colours and emotions. The impact was a collection that is anchored by movement, fluidity and the unfiltered measure that intuitive executions rely on. The exhibition relied on water colour blotches to affect a bound boundlessness in relation between the working surface and outside the working surface.
This was reflected in the piece titled “The journey is the Destination I”, the characteristic monochromatic background can be discerned, rather in “Let the Waters in” the background is finished with a blotch of colour. The grey black background stains the surface, providing a sense of depth and a topographical landscape of colour and images. There also the tangible images, a flat purple surface with intersecting white lines over it and a red cloud with a pink pin and yellow handle. In Ncaphayi, there is no anchoring narrative, this way the abstract function of tangible images articulate the multiple meanings of emotions that the artist dealt with. Images were strategically placed all over the canvas, this way their intuitive function is not just about the depth and foreground of the surface, this way they operate as a metaphor for ubiquity and immensity.
Tangible images also anchor pieces, operating as entoptic signposts, navigating the viewer through the emotional topography. The piece titled “Weaving Movement” is a panoramic rendition on a white background, haphazard lines interact with images like blue triangles for example and scattered with grey black blotches. The overt linear visual orientation is a departure from the insouciant orientation Ncaphayi usually finishes his works with. This strategy emphasises fluidity, since the canvas is panoramic, it also imbued the discourse of stasis with foundational connotations that render the background, the images and what is or not in between connected. The metaphor of boundlessness in the piece titled “Weaving Movement” was contingent on the structure of the canvas being bound as panoramic and the suggested continuation beyond the canvas.
The emphasis on movement was pronounced by the use of water colour in the show. The strategy to utilise light colours not only emphasized fluidity, it also pronounced the symbolic emotional landscape that Ncaphayi expressed. The sense of bound boundlessness in the collection is overt in the piece titled “I Forget To Remember”. Water colour blotches in pink and orange with entoptic and tangible images characterise this piece, it is also where the impact of fluidity between elements affects a measure of merger. The outer ridges of the blotches pronounce boundaries, they also place emphasis on the propensity of intense detail to connect different elements.
The colour orange had a motif role in the exhibition, it is present in the piece titled “The Lost and Found” it operated like a tear in the landscape cutting a couple of vertical lines on a moss green water colour background. With this work, the measure of traversing boundaries was related to the layers on depth of the canvas. Random lines created a measure of depth, they also created a sense of background that was rooted in extending the impact of boundlessness to a vertical structure. This piece felt like an experimental work, utilising the form of the working surface to re-orientate the eye from within the canvas, this way affecting boundlessness through depth.

The piece titled “Roof Over My Heart” was an elegantly executed on a canvas divided into two. It was characterised by a lime green motif, a flat surface with a foot jutting out that traverses both canvases and the cluster of lines that were a theme throughout the collection. Here they start at the bottom, extending inward and shell like image painted black and red. The measure of nostalgia expressed in the title infuses the discourse of stasis with a measure of the boundless. The strategy to divide the canvas, concretizes the discourse regarding boundlessness. In order for images to build a relationship outside their working surface they have to embody the ambiguity between what is static and about movement, like a heart. This was the most topographical piece, operating with the green and the strategy of the water colours to affect boundaries.
“Let The Waters In” was Mongezi Ncaphayi’s work unbounded, it affected me the same way as his previous exhibitions, filling me with objective warmth and impersonal but poetic images. While the works resound with intuitive implications, they also resound with deliberate strategies. Space is not an issue for the artist, this was discerned through how it could be subject to metaphor that has implications for inside and outside the canvas. Since he worked with what is intangible about space one would expect a measure of duality between the two elements. Rather by creating intense and inundated canvases he created works whose dual nature is internal and extended from within.

Mboma’s digital drum at 99 Loop Gallery

Mboma”Mr.” (Circa 2022). Courtesy of 99Loop Gallery.

South African artist Mboma had an exhibition that ran at the 99 Loop Gallery titled “Drum Boys and Pondo”. This, his first solo exhibition with the gallery, an architecture graduate from University of Cape Town, his work comprises of digitally based visual representations that deal with the angst and trauma of addiction. It deals with two themes, the section of the exhibition titled ‘Pondo’ deals with the social and physical effects of addiction on young people and their communities. His two pronged exhibition also pays homage to the Drum literary scene from 1940’s to early 1960’s South Africa, giving respect to figures like Can Themba and Henry Nxumalo writers from that era. The “Pondo” collection deals with how addiction as social scourge subjects black bodies in township culture to a subtle resignation about their psychological circumstances. It will also demonstrate how forms of creativity in the past sustained young black people in South African townships. It will be demonstrated that figures like the “Drum Boys” function to discourse how organic and creative forms of expression were available to young black people. The sentimental measure about what is past and memory, will be dealt with as that which highlights existential issues that were implicitly about the availability of the forms of creative expression for black people in townships. It will also be demonstrated that dependence and resignation are affects that give rise to this ambivalence. Both in the past and for contemporary youth. That the artist created an exhibition that creates consciousness about even digital forms of addiction through the use of electronic means to make work.
Through an abstract strategy Mboma created works that induce images about isolation and loneliness. The use of limbs, arms, hands, achieved a minimalist effect by reducing the perceptions of the body to isolated elements. The artist captured the ability of the impact of addiction to render the body intangible, and thoughts about recovery as fragmented. This is acutely expressed in the work titled “Pondo 3”, a hand with a sign gesturing some group complicity rendered red, with grey duct tape, capsules and a large needle. The hand articulated the arbitrary nature of the ethics that compel people to join in the use of drugs. The needle induced images of benign violence, but also a sense of encroaching demise. The tape over the wrist speaks of a vulnerability and dependence that renders people who are addicted resigned.
Dependence and resignation also permeated the work titled “Pondo 5”, referencing Michaelangelo’s “Creation of Adam” a famous classical painting, Mboma created a piece in which the body, the mind and shared relationships are demonstrated to rely on what is external to be part of the bigger picture of the collective. The spiritual undertones of the reference, the cigarette, the item being exchanged, combine to relate consciousness about addiction, where its societal contribution can emanate from. A finger on a fishing hook and a melted clock also characterise this piece on a blue background. The finger on the hook pronounced the conversation about isolation and resignation, it also pronounced the implicit stance that personal choices are distant and isolated.
The “Drum Boys” collection brims with affection and sentiments, placing them next to a context that deals with a poignant theme like addiction, highlights how intertwined the collections were and how resignation and dependency has an existential history in South African townships. Creativity was a tool that young black men and women sustained themselves with in townships under apartheid. Figures like the Drum writers who interacted with musicians, photographers and painters, extended the conversation about what is available for the black body during apartheid to sustain themselves creatively. It is a conversation that resonates with the contemporary youth, who seek outlets of expression, instead are resigned to existential captivity. Mboma articulated these sentiments by depicting a bruised Henry Nxumalo, he recreated a famous image of the writer, where in the original he resonates contentment. His image is of a blue and bruised man, a distorted face in the tradition of surrealism. The piece titled “Drum Boys 1” captured in a surrealist effect, surrealism an approach to art that sought to reveal the unconscious, resonates with Mboma’s sentiments and his representations that lament the past. History and memory are intangible like the unconscious, they intertwine in Mboma to express voids just like in surrealism, that are only closed by remembering, lamenting in loneliness and addiction.
Mboma has utilized the iconic image of the melting clock to affect discourse about the impact of time, it functions as a symbol for resignation, it also operates as a mechanism to imbue both collections with a cumbersome effect and implicitly about hope. Working with digital elements the artist does not have to dive into the unconscious, the artist is conscious about the digital archive and the aspect of existential and social life that can be addicted to digital media. The exhibition is a surrealist invocation to venerate what is organic about creative expression and about the existential relationships one builds.

Presence personality and power with Zanele Muholi

Zanele Muholi “Phiwokuhle” 2021

South African visual artist Zanele Muholi’s currently body of work was exhibited at the Stevenson Gallery in Cape Town late 2021. The show title “Nize nani” which is phrase with a double meaning when it is translated to English as ‘come join us’ or ‘what did you bring’. Was an exercise in possibilities of portraiture, painting, instillation and sculptor, featuring works that deal with intimacy, isolation, identity and abstraction. Muholi worked with media other than photography, extending her repertoire and her range, working with oil, acrylic and corporeal elements like menstrual blood. The article dealt with how themes like intimacy and identity discourse socially invented boundaries through the abstraction based works, dealing with feelings as a form of activism and narratives based on privacy and isolation in the photography in the show. Themes related to privacy and activism will be demonstrated to be inextricably linked in Muholi’s currently exhibition.
Abstraction in the exhibition is articulated in relation to measures of presence and absence, in that this way the body as a means to express and carry feelings is demonstrated to be intrinsic. Muholi created an intellectual and visceral arena for her emotions, giving them form, while being conscious of their temporal and intangible nature. This is reflected in the piece titled “Abstract III”, a blue painted surface that is broken with open spaces, the brush strikes are bold and tangible. Giving substance to what is fleeting requires a structure less form and a monochromatic colour. This way the artist symbolises a moment, a single feeling or measure of catharsis.
Photography is a medium Muholi mostly works with, executed in a black and white guise. This form is executed featuring the artist herself Muholi, in black and white images her dark skin creates a stark contrast with the background of her photos. When the backgrounds are white the sense of privacy and intimacy becomes pronounced. In some of images she is pictured with her partner, the discourse regarding activism in Muholi becomes imbued with the double layer of public and privacy. Just like the double pun imbedded in the title of the exhibition “Baku Room, 1414 Sheraton Hotel, New York” intimacy and presence are inextricable, as in the part of the translation that is inviting or “come join us”. It renders activism personal while being shared, filled with the sentiments of portraiture. The photography piece titled “Massah and Minah, Amu” features Muholi and young child wrapped in a cloth with text on it. She holds the child who is sitting on a bed in gesture of comfort. Dressed in a domestic worker’s uniform the piece expresses what is fundamental about safety and homemaking, a statement that furthers her activism and the meaning of reality regarding home, as a public and private space that accommodates social boundaries.
The bronze sculptor is another departure from her photography. The sculptor adds a mystique and a persona to her repertoire. It embodies the persona in her “Somnyama Ngonyama” collection, it is three dimensional, adorned with elementary material, the sense of repose and sense of what is personal about activism are imbued with what is symbolic about its relational nature. The visage of the piece titled “Muholi” expresses a measure of realised complacency through long standing conviction.
The painted piece titled “Ingoduso” a Zulu phrase for a couple who are engaged to be married is comprised of two people dressed as a man and a woman, the woman standing in front. Part of the personal victory about activism is realising how romance can be a manifestation of conviction and values. With this image Muholi is making the statement that public activism lacks conviction if it is not manifested in intimate measures.
The title of to exhibition “Nize nani” expressed an ethic in African tradition that concerns presence as a gift. It is one part an invite and the other part is an invocation to bring a gift. The proverbial pun surrounds the adage that states ‘presence is a gift’. For the exhibition it is a phrase that articulated a personal philosophy regarding activism, privacy, identity and the creative or intellectual implications of portraiture. The exhibition discoursed how intimacy and privacy are inextricably linked to the power of activism, that intimacy forms part of the victory behind public perceptions of what is private.

Jazzy and blue with Hlengethwa at the Goodman


South African artist Sam Hlengethwa had an exhibition that ran at Goodman in Cape Town. Hlengethwa is an artist whose voice was developed by mid century South African modernist styles of painting. His work entails sociological elements, political and historic elements that true to the modernist approach discourses the narrative of the South African city and people interact that with it. This show featured pieces that were executed with with different mediums like lithograph, collage and traditional painting. Hlengethwa’s themes capture what is iconic about city life, telling the stories of prominent individuals and the collective body of the city. Through this show he paid homage to iconic images from mid century South Africa, reproducing images from early Drum magazine and depicting famous jazz performances. The article will demonstrate that through the strategy of expressing intimate spaces Hlengethwa has created works that continue his modernist themes, capturing city life and prominent individuals. It will demonstrate that intimacy in artistic choices echoed through exhibition to articulate small and confined spaces. He utilised dark hues of blue and dark blue to create atmospheric pieces that are unified by their backgrounds in order to create an impression of coalescence. This strategy invoked notions of the dangers of fading memories of significant historic events, individuals and demonstrate that to interact with the city concerns history. The effect was an exhibition where close elements and representation strategies coalesce and are symbolic of the social details of city life. This was an exhibition that demonstrated that even small spaces that the collective occupy and interact through are historic.
This is reflected in the piece titled “Forced Removals”, it features the insignia of the original Drum magazine, it expresses the controversial issues of early forms of gentrification. The work expressed the mystique around lithograph, a strategy whose painstaking attention to detail resonates with the theme of the exhibition. Intimacy was symbolised through the artistic choice of the lithograph. This piece was no exception, dealing with an issue that would be controversial in early issues of Drum magazine, the artist rendered close a peripheral issue whose metaphoric distance is compensated for by the operation of elements in the piece. This strategy relies on short and curt line to create detailed and large bodies of work. The artist subverted the iconic location Drum magazine occupies as a glamorous magazine in the contemporary context, rather he renders the theme contemporary and historic by telling a narrative that is neglected by Drum since it is still relevant today and from the past.
The “John Coltrane” piece is a lithograph dominated by the colours blue and grey, with a dash of red. Lithograph are pieces that reveal detail while encompassing an entire narrative, with this piece Hlengethwa revealed the emotion the colour blue evokes and emotion around the mystique surrounding the figure of John Coltrane. The black and white image of a Coltrane in the throes of saxophone solo speaks of the man’s quality and reason for his celebration, but also the element of intimacy and closeness of a jazz performance is in symbolic relation to his work, resonates in the contemporary context of city life. Since jazz and John Coltrane occupy a place related to intimacy in the historic expression of city life.
The strategy to create works that coalesce in the canvas lays the foundation for macrocosm of the exhibition and the themes that anchor it. Hlengethwa’s work has the finished effect of collage, it is imbued with the depth of the canvas and prominence of its foreground like the piece titled “My daughter’s grand piano”. This piece depicted two rooms, a piano in one and the other a couch with a painting on the wall. This is a mixed media piece, in the form of collage, the metaphor of coalescence in this work become a discourse about proximity, between a subtle generational discourse and the two forms of expression music and painting. Hlengethwa was able to demonstrate the discourse around proximity between what is past and what is contemporary. In his work they are symbiotic instead of divided by the metaphor distance and proximity.
This is also reflected in the work titled “Inspired by Romero Bearden and Ernst Cole”. The city scape is articulated from the ground emphasising the skyline. The piece depicts the ecological evolution of the city, the proximity and intimacy of the buildings is a metaphoric coalescing evolution of the city. The artist has captured the people of this city from a wide frontal angle, this way the piece demonstrates that the city is still growing or it is in a process of historic accretion.
At the heart of the exhibition is the matter of the contemporary and what is past being scattered not defined or organically combined. The collage effect speaks to deliberate strategies the artist utilises that are metaphoric of the necessity of discoursing and changing debates surrounding the proximity between what is past and what is contemporary. Hlengethwa seems to want his audience to think about how what is iconic is constructed and diffused in the culture. That the measure of intimacy is only relevant for the collective body in moments of transition. The impact of mixed media works infuses the exhibition with a measure of reciprocity between what is past and the contemporary.
“(Waiting)….to be rescued II” is a piece that where the operation of the coalescence of themes and the form of the piece is realised. Miners beyond the safety fence about to enter metal elevator to take them down are captured from behind standing in a line, each character given his personality. A black brown background characterizes this piece, the image of the history of mining is evident in the line the men stand in and the title of the piece. Monochrome in the exhibition functions to invoke what is metaphoric, the artist is astute enough to understand how colours evoke emotions, understanding that colours are also subject to a measure of coalesced accretion that is not only operational on its contemporary definition. The colour black plays an ambivalent role in this piece, the danger and necessary stability and economic meaning for the miners. Hlengethwa understands that colours are also subject to symbolic definitions that were contingent on how they were defined in a particular era. “(Waiting…..” is a piece expressed the grit and mire of contemporary and historic phenomenon that is mining.
The impact of South African modernism art is that it renders the context imbued with consciousness in that narratives are not individualized, rather they articulate a collective narrative. This way the artist can create works that overtly reflects his voice. “Jazzy and Blue at Night” was an exhibition about waning memories that are held together by the invisible thread of history. In Hlengethwa they coalesce and concretize, they are symbolically held together by the necessity of their evolution. In Hlengethwa they bring the past and what is contemporary closer, this is also reflected in the discursive structure of the titles of the works.

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