Arts and culture


Nicholas Hlobo: art as dialogue

10 November 2008

Nicholas Hlobo, winner of the Standard Bank Young Artist Award for Visual Arts 2009, is gaining an international reputation for his experimental use of materials to "create conversations" around issues of masculinity, gender, race and ethnicity.

Hlobo is showcased on the Michael Stevenson Gallery website, where he explains his relationship with the material he uses: "I always find that the material tends to dominate the entire process. My ideas evolve in unexpected ways as the material helps me discover new things.

"The start usually seems like trying to roll a rock as large as a double-decker bus, and by the completion of the work I go, 'Wow, I can't believe I went through that and came back sane'."

In 2007 Hlobo exhibited Umdodo at the Aardklop National Arts Festival in Potchefstroom. During the same year he took Umakadenethwa engenadyasi to the Galeria Extraspazio in Rome and idiom[s] to the Savannah College of Art Design in Georgia, USA.

In 2008, he exhibited at the Boston ICA as part of the Momentum Series, and his work is included in the third Guangzhou Triennial in China, which runs until 9 November. His exhibition Flow was on at the Studio Museum in Harlem, New York, and Home Lands - Land Marks was on at Haunch of Venison in London. Kwatsityw'iziko was also on at the Michael Stevenson Gallery in Cape Town.

Hlobo has also exhibited with various other artists, some of his more recent group exhibitions being Skin-to-skin at the Standard Bank Gallery in Johannesburg and .za: giovane arte dal Sudafrica at the Palazzo delle Papesse in Siena, Italy.

In 2006 he won the Tollman Award for Visual Art.

Hlobo chooses his material strategically, and often challenges stereotypes of sexual identity through his work.

In an interview with Sue Williamson, he explained: "Through my works I attempt to create conversations that explore certain issues within my culture as a South African.

"The conversations become a way of questioning people's perceptions around issues of masculinity, gender, race and ethnicity."

The annual Standard bank Young Artist Awards were started in 1981 by the National Arts Festival, Grahamstown, with Standard Bank coming on board as a sponsor in 1984.

The awards, seen as one of the most prestigious of their kind in the country, honour young South African artists who have not yet gained widespread national exposure or acclaim, but who are making a significant mark in their field.

The awards recognize and actively promote the talent of these young artists, providing them with financial support and a platform for experimentation. Winners receive a cash prize and financial support for their participation on the main programme of the National Arts Festival, Grahamstown.

Source: National Arts Festival, Grahamstown

Mult-layered art at the National Arts Festival

Nicholas Hlobo, winner of the Standard Bank Young Artist Award for Visual Arts 2009 (Photo: Suzy Bernstein, National Arts Festival, Grahamstown)

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