Waiting is an exhibition of new work by Sam Nhlengethwa exploring the myriad ways in which we find ourselves occupied by this state of being.
What are we waiting for? In certain works, the answer appears self-evident: an empty stage of instruments on stands overlooking a packed audience, a person loitering beside a pole, a group of commuters on the side of the road. But upon closer inspection of these quotidian scenes, more questions arise. Who is doing the waiting? What qualities do these people share?
For Nhlengethwa this theme emerges from universal experience. ‘We all see people waiting and sometimes we become victims of waiting,’ says Nhlengethwa. By depicting these scenarios through the rich figurative mediums of lithographic prints, mixed media collage and tapestry, Nhlengethwa vividly draws our attention to this distinction, making us acutely aware of the stories of waiting experienced in the everyday lives of South Africans. And through his ongoing depiction of mineworkers, also reflecting the harsh lived realities more hidden from view.
As one of South Africa’s preeminent artists, Nhlengethwa has established himself by conveying this sort of nuance through his work. Over his several-decade career he has employed a signature style of collage that brings together archival material and painting to tackle subjects ranging from cityscapes to jazz musicians, artists and political figures.
This latter subject matter features on Waiting in the form of a collaged sepia photo of a young Winnie Madikizela-Mandela seated in a brightly painted living room. ‘When black and white creeps into the paintings it recalls the past. It is a form of worlds colliding,’ says Nhlengethwa. By incorporating this poignant historic reference into this exhibition, Nhlengethwa reminds us that our past needs to be constantly reevaluated. In this sense we are all waiting for our present history to unfold.all images © the gallery and the artist(s)