BLESSING NGOBENI

BIOGRAPHY

BLESSING NGOBENI

(b.1985 Tzaneen, South Africa)

 

“I’m working to find the inner part of the human being. So I am stripping that person out...taking the clothes, the skin, the bones. I’m trying to see what can come out of this person. Then I rebuild. I call it the lust of the heart.It is never satisfied.” – Blessing Ngobeni, 2019


Blessing Ngobeni was born in the small town of Tzaneen, located in the largely rural Limpopo province of South Africa. He moved to the Johannesburg metropolis at a very young age, where he experienced many hardships, from living on the streets to serving time in prison – which he describes as “the usual South African story”. He has since then built an exceptional and unique career in the South African art industry.

Ngobeni is known for his distinctive style, created with layers of acrylic washes, exaggerated figures and collage, accompanied by unapologetic titles such as ‘Democracy is a Dust Bin’, or ‘A Study of Corruption’. He uses his expressionist paintings not only to overtly critique the current status quo, but to ask uncomfortable questions about the African’s experience of the world. His languages also draw inspiration from various movements, including Surrealism and Neo-Expressionism. He re-examines and re-imagines working ideas by artists including Jean-Michel Basquiat, David Koloane and Pablo Picasso.

Ngobeni confronts his own experiences, and challenges them in the often violent scenes of his paintings. These scenes, though brutal and honest, are also a display of the artist’s visual sensitivities to line, image and the power of colour.


In his current body of work, Ngobeni engages with the idea of a haunting past – specifically with regards to African history, in a scathing condemnation of the continent’s current political and socio-economic status resulting from our colonial past. This engagement does not lie only in his conceptual foundations, but in his process of making, of carefully and laboriously constructing artworks from extant imagery as well as his own imagination. His distorted figures are often pregnant, their bulging bellies heavy with collected collage pieces which are sourced from local and international press, newspaper clippings, glossy magazines and social media.

For Ngobeni the past, or history, never left us; it defines our everyday lives.

 

Ngobeni is the recipient of a number of awards, including the prestigious Standard Bank Young Artist Award (for Visual Art) in 2020; the Reinhold Cassirer Art Award by Nadine Gordimer (2012), the Mail and Guardian ‘200 Young South Africans’ and the Arts & Culture Trust Young Professional ImpACT award (2013). His work has been included in the most recent Phaidon publication in the P series, 'Vitamin P3: New Perspectives in Painting' (2016).

It is of importance to note that Ngobeni is an artist focusing on more than his own evolving career. His efforts in mentoring young artists have lead him to form two projects which support young artists who are transitioning into their careers as full-time practitioners. The first is the ‘Blessing Ngobeni Art Prize’ established in 2017. The second is called ‘Initiative’ and introduces young artists to the industry through a series of workshops, culminating in an opportunity for them to participate in a group show. This empowering work attests to Ngobeni’s personal and professional contribution to the art world and society at large.

 

EDUCATION

Artist Proof Studio in Newtown, Johannesburg, South Africa

 

SELECTED EXHIBITIONS

 

2020 Replica Ever Sang, solo, Everard Read, Cape Town, South Africa

2019 CONTEXT Art Miami, with Everard Read, Miami, USA

Art X Lagos, with Everard Read, Lagos, Nigeria

‘Personal Structures: Identities’, Legate Lithography Editions, Venice Art Biennale, Venice, Italy

Southern Aspect, group exhibition, Everard Read, London, UK

Investec Cape Town Art Fair, Everard Read, Cape Town, South Africa

2018 A Note from Error, solo, Everard Read, Johannesburg, South Africa; A Note from Error, Everard Read, London, UK

Enemy of Foe, solo, CIRCA Gallery, Cape Town, South Africa

EXPO CHICAGO 2018, Jenkins Johnson Gallery, Chicago, USA

The Photography Show 2018, presented by AIPAD, Jenkins Johnson Gallery, New York, USA

Investec Cape Town Art Fair 2018, Everard Read, Cape Town, South Africa

FNB Joburg Art Fair 2018, Everard Read, Johannesburg, South Africa

In the Forests of the Night, Everard Read, Johannesburg, South Africa

2017 Masked Reality, solo exhibition, CIRCA Gallery, Johannesburg, South Africa

PULSE Miami Beach, Jenkins Johnson Gallery, Miami, USA

EXPO CHICAGO, Jenkins Johnson Gallery, Chicago, USA

Investec Cape Town Art Fair, Everard Read, Cape Town, South Africa

FNB Joburg Art Fair, Everard Read, Johannesburg, South Africa

Viewpoints, group exhibition, Jenkins Johnson Gallery, San Francisco, USA

Art Miami, Jenkins Johnson Gallery, Miami, FL, USA

Off the wall: A Group Sculpture Show, Everard Read, Johannesburg, South Africa

2016 Song of the Chicotte, solo, CIRCA, Johannesburg, South Africa

In Unknown Space, Cleveland Print Room in conjunction with Hedge Gallery Cleveland, United States

Summer Exhibition, group exhibition, Everard Read, London, UK

Art Miami, Jenkins Johnson Gallery, Miami, USA

2015   As If You Care, Gallery MOMO, Cape Town, South Africa; Gallery MOMO, Johannesburg, South Africa

 2014 In His State of Madness, Gallery MOMO, Johannesburg, South Africa

2013 FNB Joburg Art Fair, Johannesburg, South Africa

2012 Gallery MOMO, Johannesburg, South Africa

On This Earth, Gallery MOMO, Johannesburg, South Africa

Made In Africa, group exhibition,, Africa Day, Sandton Gallery, Johannesburg, South Africa

Exit Emergency, Reinhold Cassirer Award, Bag Factory, Johannesburg, South Africa

2011 SANNA Africa Festival, Group Show, Zoo Lake, Johannesburg, South Africa

Wasted, Unity Art Gallery, Johannesburg, South Africa

2010 Collaboration, Unity Art Gallery, Johannesburg, South Africa

2009 Unity Art Gallery, Johannesburg, South Africa

2007 Museum Africa, Johannesburg, South Africa

2006 Taxi Outreach Project, David Krut Johannesburg, South Africa; Michaelis Central Library Johannesburg, South Africa; Diepkloof Library Johannesburg, South Africa

 

RESIDENCIES:

Cleveland Creative Fusion, Ohio, U.S.A.

Headlands Centre For Art, San Francisco, U.S.A.

Reinhold Cassirer Award, Bag factory, Johannesburg, South Africa

 

ARTICLES:

– Mongezeleli Joja A., “Art and politics: Blessing Ngobeni brings us back to the reality”, August 2015, in Mail & Guardian

– Hunkin J. “Layered with Meaning: Blessing Ngobeni’s Mixed Media Collages”, July 2015, in Between 10 and 5

– Jolly L., “Testament of an Afro-Picasso”, July 2015, in Cape Times

–  Nkuna K. “Blessing Ngobeni explores power and destruction”, April 2014, in The Citizen

–  “Blessing Ngobeni, 200 Young South Africans Archive”, 2013, in Mail & Guardian

–  “Blessing’s beasts of our nation”, November 2012, in News 24

–  “Blessed by dreams”, June 2012, in News 24

–  De Waal M. “No disguise in Blessing’s work”, April 2012, in Daily Maverick

– Sassen R. “Artist forged by pain”, April 2012, in Sunday Times

– “ Painting Joburt in Art”, March 2012, in Joburg.org.za

 

–  Taylor D., “Traumatic Past Fuels Work of South African Artist Blessing Ngobeni”, September 2013, in Voice of America

 

FILM:

– “Blessing’s Art Fair Performance”, 2014, 11:39 minutes, Blessing Ngobeni

–  “Bless Footage 2”, 2014, 5:46 minutes, Blessing Ngobeni

– “100% Youth: Blessing Ngobeni”, 2014, 6:14 minutes, Gallery MOMO, The Bag Factory, Rena Le Lona Creative Center, for SABC 1

– “Born prepared: Blessing Ngobeni for the 2013 FNB JoburgArtFair”, 2013, 4:44 minutes, producer: Nicola Hellmann, for FNB TV

 

AWARDS:

2019

Standard Bank Young Artist Award (2020) for Visual Art

2013

Mail & Guardian as one of the 200 Top South Africans

Art & Culture Trust, Johannesburg, South Africas, ACT Lifetime Achievement Awards and ImpACT Awards for Young Professionals: Blessing Ngobeni for Visual Arts

2012

Reinhold Cassirer Art Award