Blessing Ngobeni’s Chaotic Pleasure speaks truth to historical and present-day systems of power and oppression
Standard Bank and the National Arts Festival are proud to present a new solo exhibition by the 2020 Standard Bank Young Artist award winner for visual art, Blessing Ngobeni. Titled, Chaotic Pleasure, the much-anticipated body of work was first exhibited as part of the virtual National Arts Festival and is presented in association with the Everard Read.
This new multimedia exhibition, Chaotic Pleasure, serves as both an observation and a form of confronting complex issues of power and abuse in postcolonial Africa. The paradoxical title of Ngobeni’s exhibition represents a quintessential feature of the artist’s work – his ability to harness and manipulate seemingly incongruous words in order to intrigue, challenge, and inspire the viewer.
“The works in this exhibition are made in response to everything we are seeing in Africa today,” explains Ngobeni. “The chaotic pleasure I talk about is the excitement and hope for a better future, and it’s the protests and the riots that take place when those elected into power fail to deliver. It’s the result of labouring and producing African resources, but never being able to enjoy those resources ourselves. It’s the beauty of the African landscape and the lingering effects of colonisation. When the coloniser walked into Africa, he did not think about the people living here, he got too excited and simply took over without concern for those people. It’s the pleasure of that excitement and the subsequent chaos it caused, and still causes today.”
Winning the 2020 Standard Bank Young Artist Award for visual art marks a significant moment in Ngobeni’s career. Since his first solo exhibition at Everard Read’s CIRCA gallery in 2016, titled Song of Chicotte, Ngobeni has continued to strengthen his oeuvre by consistently delivering projects that, seemingly effortlessly, present a combination of aesthetic and socio-political critical dialogues. His artistry across the mediums of collage on canvas, stainless-steel sculptures, and animated videos, as well as his efforts to help train and provide opportunities for young South African artists through the Blessing Ngobeni Art Prize played a significant role in both his nomination and winning of this award.
As Standard Bank Gallery manager Dr. Same Mdluli explains in her introductory text for Ngobeni’s exhibition:“Chaotic Pleasure is a body of work that solidly positions Ngobeni within his own praxis of working with multiple and complex ideas. It is a bold testament and confident display of a sense of ownership of his artistic language. As the winner of the Standard Bank Young Artist award for visual art for the year 2020, this work will remain a marker of an important moment in his career and artistic practice.”
The hosting of this exhibition sees Ngobeni join a long line of trailblazers who have been awarded the Standard Bank Young Artist Award for visual art over the years, including Gabrielle Goliath, Helen Sebidi, Kemang Wa Lehulere, Berni Searle, Tommy Motswai, William Kentridge and more.
Reaching wider audiences via virtual platforms
The Standard Bank Gallery has established itself as one of the few non-commercial public spaces for major exhibitions and, through its extensive educational programme, plays an increasingly important role in facilitating the continued development of a truly South African culture, and its location also ensures that art remains accessible to everyone.
For public safety, we can’t gather or welcome visitors to the gallery, but we see our current circumstances as an opportunity to innovate by combining art and technology. It’s within this landscape that we #ReimagineArt and present Blessing Ngobeni’s virtual exhibition as a dynamic online experience.
“This is a great opportunity for me to show the world what I do and I’m excited to share these works,” says Ngobeni. “I thank Standard Bank, the National Arts Festival, and Everard Read Gallery for giving me this opportunity, and also for working to make all of this happen on a digital platform.”
ABOUT BLESSING NGOBENI:
Blessing Ngobeni is a Tzaneen-born fine artist known for his innovative work across the mediums of painting, sculpture, video, audio installations, and live performance, as well as his ability to tackle hefty subject matter, frequently calling into question disparity, corruption, and structures of power and domination throughout history. Ngobeni also mentors and provides support for young artists through the Blessing Ngobeni Art Prize which is currently in its fourth year. In 2012, Ngobeni was awarded the Reinhold Cassirer Art Award, and in 2013 was awarded an ImpACT Art Award for Young Professionals, as well as being included in the Mail&Guardian‘s 200 Young South Africans. He is currently represented by Everard Read Gallery. Recent solo exhibitions include Song of Chicotte (2016), Enemy of Foe (2018), and A Note from Error (2018).
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