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Isango: A new multidisciplinary exhibition by Nicholas Hlobo

Nicholas Hlobo’s latest solo show, Isango, is an exhibition of sculpture, painting and installation. Currently showing until 26 January 2019 at STEVENSON in Johannesburg, this is his seventh exhibition with the gallery, and his second in the Johannesburg space, following Tyaphaka and other works in 2013.

Nicholas Hlobo Isango Absa
Nicholas Hlobo, Iqhawe elingenagama IV, 2018. Copper, brass. Dimensions variable

Nicholas Hlobo’s previous gallery exhibition, Sewing Saw, reflected on the necessity of destruction in creation as the artist underwent a form of self-inventory, remarking, ‘this work is to deconstruct whatever it is I have constructed so that I get to understand the layers that I might have missed in the process of building that edifice’. Isango, which translates as ‘portal’, ‘passageway’ or ‘gate’, pictorialises a new gestative moment in Hlobo’s practice, with the artist pointing to the words of Major Tom, David Bowie’s fictional narrator in ‘Space Oddity’: ‘I’m stepping through the door / And I’m floating in a most peculiar way…’
     Copper, lauded as an element with highly conductive properties, is integrated into Hlobo’s lexicon as a material key to exploring the passage between states of being. Sculptures constructed from this metal feature heavily as Hlobo delves deeper into terrain first explored in Umthamo at the Maitland Institute in Cape Town and elaborated in Unyukelo, his forthcoming exhibition at the SCAD Museum of Art in Savannah, Georgia. He now posits, ‘Perhaps we’ve ascended to this doorway. Perhaps now I’m about to move, I’m about to alight. We’re stepping through a door.’
     The artist foregrounds the potential of vessels and entryways as conduits for experiences with water, fire, air and earth. The sculptural works in Isango incorporate religious paraphernalia, plumbing implements, candleholders, wind instruments and door handles among various objects that act as mediators between the spiritual, elemental and somatic.
     The curvilinear forms described by Hlobo as ‘frayed hula hoops’ and ‘imperfect crowns’ echo the paintings in Isango. ‘This is a continuation of those energy lines that I explore in flat surfaces,’ states Hlobo. ‘I’m still stitching, but the material I’m using is an alloy that you heat, so I’m stitching with metal rather than stitching with ribbon.’
     Isango is on at STEVENSON until 26 January 2019. The gallery will close for the summer holidays on 14 December 2018 and reopen on 7 January 2019.

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