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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 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.’

Blessing Ngobeni Chaotic Pleasure Standard Bank Gallery virtual exhibition 2020

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.

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