The FNB Joburg Art Fair is an international art fair in Johannesburg focused on contemporary art from the African continent and the diaspora. Now in its tenth year, the Fair represents the only sustainable art fair on the African continent open to the international art scene. We have hosted top international curators and directors from institutions around the globe but more importantly the Fair has helped to build a solid base of buyers from South Africa and the continent. Without such a base, there is little chance of building a sustainable industry.
Curtesy of ARTLOGIC
8 -10 September 2017 marks the tenth consecutive Joburg Art fair hosted at the Sandton Convention Centre. Everard Read and CIRCA galleries are pleased to announce there will be a curated exhibition of works by Deborah Bell, Angus Taylor, Brett Murray, Norman Catherine, Michael MacGarry, Phillemon Hlungwani, Liberty Battson, Nelson Makamo, Colbert Mashile, Tamlin Blake, Bronwyn Lace, Nic Bladen, Nigel Mullins, Gary Stephens and more. In addition, we will be exhibiting a retrospective show by Mmakgabo Mmapula Helen Sebidi, as well a solo section showcasing new paintings and sculptures by Blessing Ngobeni.
BLESSING NGOBENI AND MMAKGABO HELEN SEBIDI
AT THE 2017 JOBURG ART FAIR
The theme for the 2017 Joburg Art Fair is ‘looking back and looking forward’ and this year the Everard Read and CIRCA galleries in Johannesburg will be concentrating predominantly on the work of two major artists: one legendary and iconic, the other contemporary and increasingly hailed as one of the leading young artists of his generation.
Mmakgabo Helen Sebidi is the first female black South African artist to have established a reputation as a major international artist. Her work draws on the iconography and values she learned through her grandmother in rural Hammanskraal and she has developed her own unique content, style and painting technique over the last several decades. She is a healer, a visionary, who aims to restore some of the older rural values to the modern urban world. She sees her people as fallen and corrupted and proposes a vision that knits together past and present, rural and urban, western and African, the physical and spiritual – and her work and personae as an artist are characterized by her determination against the odds, her dignity and her humour.
Blessing Ngobeni has also come from a troubled rural context and has had to face great odds to become an artist. While Sebidi’s story is about overcoming the challenges of apartheid, Ngobeni’s has been one of overcoming the challenges of the post-apartheid era. Ngobeni has also developed a content, style and technique that is uniquely his own; he also sees his people as fallen and corrupted and he too sees himself as a healing visionary – guided by robust values and dark humour.
These two artists speak to each other, their work enters into an urgent dialogue, and what emerges is the beginning of a conversation between the older generation and the emerging generation – the long perspective of the one and the impatience and determination for change in the other.
For this year’s Johannesburg Art Fair, Ngobeni will be producing a series of large-scale painted collage works, a figurative metal sculpture, an animation in which his figures are brought to life and a performance piece by the artist himself. The works each draw inspiration from each other, and develop each other’s different possibilities. For example, Ngobeni has revisited his 2013 painting ‘Democratic Slave Master’ and created a sculpture from this work. In his own words, he has gone ‘right down to the bone’ in order to find what is at the ‘heart and truth’ of these characters – these dramatis personae of his own devising:
‘I wanted to get under the body, under the black body, and try to find what makes us human. Because when I look around, I don’t see it. I see people pretending to be human but serving only themselves … When we eat a chicken, we get right down to the bone, we suck at the marrow … I wanted to do that – to suck at the marrow, draw out the human.’
He then used these drawings for the sculptures as outlines for new works, which can be seen as separated pieces or part of one large work – and from these images have arisen other painted collages, and an animation and a performance piece in which the artist uses his own body to enact the drama and plight of the contemporary African.
Through his previous exhibitions, Ngobeni has developed his own method of collage, carefully selecting imagery and text from the most prolific by-products of consumerism. He then applies layers of paint and gel to create a larger image, where boldly articulated figures enact scenes that evoke shock, discomfort and often humour. Ngobeni takes clippings from magazines and excerpts from online articles in order to create complex composite images bristling with social and political commentary. Here, he extends his unique voice and style into sculpture for the first time, as well as animation, which he first started getting involved with through William Kentridge’s ‘Centre for the Less Good Idea’, and performance, which he has done memorably before at the 2014 Art Fair, where he performed wearing prisoner’s clothes and a severed cow’s head that dripped blood.
While Ngobeni’s work is fiercely aware of the enduring legacies of colonialism and apartheid, he is also fiercely critical of the contemporary ruling elite, who, is his view, have lost all touch with the people whose lives they are supposed to uplift. He also points to infighting and xenophobia between different cultures and nations within Africa and is angered and outraged by the patterns of neo-colonialism that endure in Africa’s so-called independent states.
‘My search is not over, it is only beginning,’ he states. ‘I am looking for the future, a future where we can work together and make each other strong … But before we can be free, we must name our tyrants, our corrupted ones. We must see these thieves for who they are.’ Yet he also tries to chase away the darkness through his work – through a courageous vision, humour and a humanity that has only asserted itself through his work in recent years. He attributes his recent use of bolder designs and brighter colours to a strong emerging life force that is gaining ground on the darkness that is inside and around him.